CHAMPIONS Stockton have the ideal opportunity to re-assert their authority on the Premier Division title race when they entertain Chester-le-Street at Grangefield today.

It has been a roller coaster of a start to the season with South North the early pacesetters after toppling the Teessiders last weekend, that coming just one week after the Bulls were humbled themselves by Chester who, despite that emphatic win then went on to lose at Whitburn to give the newly promoted club their first ever top flight success.

This would all seem to suggest that nothing is certain, and Stockton should have every chance of putting that defeat behind them and bouncing back to winning ways. That said, the Cestrians will no doubt be of a similar mind, and they have one advantage over their hosts in that they are near to full strength, with their only continued doubt being over the fitness of Max Morley. Stockton are unlikely to see Keaton Jennings and Jamie Harrison as they will almost certainly be travelling with the Durham team down to Hove, however Tom Coulthard does return to the side.

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It’s third versus first when the league leaders go to Hetton Lyons whose own challenge for honours was temporarily derailed at Blaydon last week when they lost out by a single wicket in a low scoring game. The Bulls enter the Lyons den with a full strength side at their disposal, and the hosts also expect to be unchanged for a game that could well prove a useful guide as to how the rest of the season is likely to pan out.

Whitburn’s win over the Cestrians demonstrated they can compete with the very best, and also gave Scott Condy the opportunity to showcase his skills. Overseas amateur Condy, who is 21-years-old, plays second grade cricket in his home state of Victoria and came to the country as one third of a trio of Australian youngsters who are holidaying in the north east this summer, the other two playing in the Durham Cricket League.

The medium fast bowler, who claimed impressive bowling figures of 3-14 from ten overs to go with his crucial runs against Chester, will take his place in the line-up to face Sunderland today, and there is a welcome return to action of leading batsman Neil Ayre to put the hosts at full strength. The Wearsiders

are one of just three teams still clinging to an unbeaten record, although their relatively modest points return sees them in the bottom half of the table. They have to reckon without the services of Greg Applegarth, Simon Brown and Imran Shah this week.

Washington and Brandon are level on points at the top of the First Division Mini-League, which draws to a conclusion with today’s fixtures. If they both win then net run rate comes into play, and as Washington currently enjoy a distinct advantage on that measure a home victory over winless Eppleton should see them crowned as the mini marvels.