Sunderland's lead eroded

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South North’s bid to retain the championship was given a massive boost as their fourth win in the rain hit season moved them to within eight points of leaders Sunderland.

On the day they actually gained 18 points on the Wearsiders who, although maintaining their unbeaten run, came close to defeat against Hetton Lyons and as a result took only 11 points in a drawn finish.

The Bulls produced one of their best performances to beat the improving South Shields with Paul Coughlin taking the batting honours and Johnny Wightman, Michael Craigs and Stephen Humble sharing the wicket-taking.

Coughlin featured in a superb innings of 84 with seven fours and three sixes as the champions reached 212 for nine from 54 overs.

Opener Adam Heather was also in the form, his 68 runs were vital as three of the other four top order batsmen found Mattie Muchall (5-26) exploiting a helpful track.

In the Shields reply Craigs (3-22), Wightman (3-32) and Humble (2-19) left their mark and only Michael Dunn, who made 59 with ten fours, held up the successful trio.

Shields were only able to muster 122, beaten by 95 runs in just 38 overs for the Bulls to move up a place to third.

Sunderland kept their heads – and top spot – in a game in which they lost wickets chasing a sixth victory in 11 games.

Mid-table Hetton Lyons found it hard as they posted 126 for eight with Kieran Waterson (3-26), Ruel Brathwaite (3-24) and Chris Rushworth (2-21) all making important strikes.

With his father John having just announced his retirement from the game, youngster Sean Tindale couldn’t have picked a better time to show his batting ability.

He hit an unbeaten 22 to share the glory with Anthony Watson (23 not out) as the Lyons recovered from a poor start.

But it was an excessive number of extras – 43 in all – that cost Sunderland dearly. They almost cost them the game as they reached 115 for nine, 12 runs short of victory but at the same time on the verge of defeat.

Kamran Shah picked up five wickets and Watson grabbed the other four to fall as the Wearsiders came under pressure. Only Mark Dale, who hit 38, kept his cool.

Durham Academy made up for the season’s first defeat the previous weekend with a win over bottom club Gateshead Fell which moved them up two places to fifth.

A trio of youngsters, James Weighell (66 not out), Adam Hickey (34) and Ryan Buckley (4-64) shared the honours as Fell looked even more isolated at the foot of the table. The Academy made 157 to win by 20 runs.

The championship hopes of both Blaydon and Chester-le-Street became waterlogged. Blaydon were thwarted by Friday’s ‘monsoon’ as the Tynemouth ground where they were due to play was flooded, while the Cestrians were washed out by rain at Stockton.

They managed just 37 overs and had reached 126-8 when the return of stormy conditions put an early end to the match.

Before it was called off teenager Chris Martin had, for a second successive league match, rescued Chester after they lost their first five wickets for just 43 runs.

He hit a half century in a face saving partnership with Quentin Hughes who was unbeaten on 34. Martin hit 3 sixes and a four while Hughes had three fours and a six. James Ward (3 -42) led the Stockton assault.

The derby between Benwell Hill and Newcastle was another game to suffer at the hands of the weather – called off with the Hill on 169-9 thanks to 81 from Zohaib Khan.