South North serve notice
On a day when five of the six top flight matches survived the worst the weather could throw at them champions South North put down a very clear marker that they will be the team to watch again by toppling fierce rivals Chester-le-Street.
At the same time Blaydon, who were the only other winners, served notice that they are likely to feature at the top end of the table once more, and Stockton provided evidence that they will be a much tougher proposition than in recent seasons.
The Bulls began the defence of their title with a hard fought victory after being made to fight for their score of 183 in 63.5 overs.
Adam Heather’s half century gave the home team the solid start they were looking for, and he joined with Joe Coyne (37) in a second wicket partnership of 57 that took their side up to 82 for one before the visitors started to drag themselves back into the reckoning.
Liam Simpson toiled hard through 20 overs to claim figures of 5-55, and with skipper Quentin Hughes bagging 3-38 it took a bright 31 from Stephen Humble, who hit four fours and a six, to ease the home team up to their total.
Humble then struck lethal early blows with the ball as Chester’s first five batsmen made just 26 runs between them, and even though Simpson (64no) did his best to rally his team he eventually ran out of partners, the Cestrians bowled out for 143 with 3.5 overs remaining. Humble closed with 3-39 and spinner Lee Crozier grabbed 4-32 in 19 overs.
Blaydon were another team in early batting trouble, slipping to 17 for three in their match at South Shields. But the redoubtable Allan Worthy stoked the embers of resistance with a 97-ball 48, and with Graeme Bridge cracking eight boundaries in 41 the pair put on 88 for the fourth wicket.
With the ball generally on top it’s just as well they did as once they were gone the innings quickly folded, the last seven wickets falling for just 44 runs.
But with just 150 needed Shields never really got out of the starting blocks, and from the relative tranquillity of 28 for one they slid to 70 all out as Ben Raine (4-16) and Craig Simpson (3-23) ran through them, the innings done and dusted inside 38 overs.
The long awaited Stockton homecoming of Richard Waite was put on further hold as the saturated Grangefield ground was given time to dry out, but despite an almost four hour delay it proved well worth the Waite as the all-rounder stamped his indelible mark on his team’s tussle with Benwell Hill.
After being inserted the Teessiders found life tough at the crease, slipping to 56 for five at one stage. But Waite’s 78-ball innings of 59, which included five fours and four sixes, gave his team the lifeline they needed to scrape together 124 in 35.2 overs.
That was a score that the Hill (106-9 in 38 overs) found beyond them as Jamie Harrison (3-24) and Waite (5-34) took their team to the brink of victory, only to be thwarted by a stubborn last wicket pairing who survived 25 balls.
The only game to fail to beat the elements was Newcastle’s home match with the Academy, while the other two matches ended in draws.
Sunderland recovered some composure after their opening day batting horrors, Mark Dale (76) leading the way as the Wearsiders put on 218 for nine at Gateshead Fell (140-7), while Tynemouth’s Rory Cox became the season’s first centurion, making exactly 100 from 183 balls as he spearheaded a run chase that saw his team reach 154 for four before ending on 163 for eight in reply to Hetton Lyons’ 182.