DESPITE the disappointment of losing their opening game of the season to the weather, Esh Winning bounced back with a bank holiday double that suggests they could once again be the main threat to Burnmoor’s title ambitions.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing with Saturday’s victory over Marsden coming by just 20 runs, while on Monday Esh Winning looked like being Esh losing when they stood at 55-6 in their home game against Tudhoe before a seventh wicket stand of 58 rescued them. Suitably emboldened by the recovery Esh declared after 44 overs on 127-9, but once again they looked in peril when Tudhoe reached 50 without loss in the run chase. Enter Jalat Khan, the ‘pro’s’ spell of 4-10 setting in chain a gigantic collapse which saw all ten wickets fall for the addition of just 26 more runs.

Esh finished runners-up to Burnmoor last season, and Monday’s phoenix-like performance against strong opposition took them into second place in the table, just seven points adrift of the champions. Today they entertain Dawdon, whose brief flirtation with the leadership was ended by the champions on the same afternoon, and Esh have to reckon without Michael Oughton for this one so hand young batsman Stephen Jackson an opportunity. They show one additional change with Shaun Walker in for Brian Gott.

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Another club who were in the title mix for most of last season were Castle Eden, and despite losing their first game they also bounced back with a brace of victories over the weekend.

New skipper, Keith Bailey, was delighted with the results and outlined a number of changes at the Club during the close-season: ‘With last year’s captain John Spellman deciding to take a break from cricket due to family commitments, I’ve taken over the reins and I’m very pleased with the start we’ve made.

‘John will be a big miss as he was one of our most reliable batsmen. We are also without Jude Dinushan, who opened the bowling last season, as his university course has now finished and he has moved away. And whilst Richard Ede is still a very important part of our set up, a change in his work commitments means he will probably miss approximately half the games throughout this campaign.

‘With all those factors in mind we decided to go for an opening bowling professional this year and signed Prateek Dabholkar, a seamer who plays for Mumbai back in India, and he seems to have settled in nicely taking three and four wickets respectively in the games he’s played in. Hopefully he can continue that form and also chip in with some valuable runs down the order.’

Castle go to Evenwood today but Richard Ede misses out and experienced all-rounder Alan Unsworth is also unavailable - they are replaced by brothers Robbie and Richie McGlasham. Their hosts need to get over the shock of losing by 12 runs at Crook on Monday after being set a paltry target of 57, but they have several players out, notably keeper Matthew Raine and Paul and John Maughan.

The star man for Crook in that bowler-dominated game was Andrew Robinson with 6-24, but he is absent from their game at Burnmoor today, although Andy and Liam Burgess, along with Chris Elmes, all return. The Moor have tried to solve a bowling crisis by persuading Paul Davidson to play again. His services are needed with Owen Lancaster working, MartinThursfield on the long term injured list and Stephen Meek unable to bowl because of a shoulder problem.

In Division Two Durham City lead the way with Bill Quay second, and the two early season pacesetters clash head on at the Quay this afternoon with the hosts unchanged for the third week running. Danni Hazell has Yorkshire duties so Paul Parker comes into the City line-up to replace her.

Challenging that game for the match-of-the-day tag is Seaham Park versus Whiteleas with the hosts almost back to full strength after being six men down last week, and ‘same again’ Leas bristling with confidence after securing a maximum points haul from their only game to date.