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South North hoping to complete comeback at Chester’s expense
12:15am Saturday 3rd September 2011 in Cricket: ECB North-East Premier League
After clawing back 81 points on Chester-le-Street in the last eight games to draw level with them at the top of the table, South North are primed for a final assault on the NEPL title they last won in 2008.
Durham Academy stand in the way of both teams, playing the Bulls today before taking a crack at the Cestrians in next week's final matches.
And the youngsters warmed up for the twin challenge by helping out the England ODI squad in the nets at the ICG yesterday.
The Academy are back to full strength, with Jonny Killeen (ankle) and Callum Harding (back) fit again, but the Bulls are also firing on all cylinders. And Chester are able to select from a full squad for their home game against a South Shields side missing Paul Muchall.
It looks like a straight two-way fight for the Durham Senior League crown, with Kimblesworth holding a 12-point lead over Boldon.
Kimblesworth are boosted by the unexpected return from injury of Michael Fishwick for their game at Felling, where the home club have to reckon without Phil Taylor. Mike Malthouse deputises.
Boldon's hopes that all-rounder Nick Sampson-Barnes would be available for their last two matches have evaporated following his return to Navy duty, so in-form Gareth Smith earns a call-up for the home match against full strength South Hetton.
With the Durham County League finishing last Monday, Esh Winning are celebrating after winning the championship for the third time in seven years. And they achieved a notable double with their second string also winning the B Division title - the first time both sides have succeeded in the same year since they joined the league.
But they won't be following the lead of last year's champions, Kimblesworth, in applying for promotion, one of the primary reasons being that they are happy with the format of cricket they play in the DCL.
Boldon CA revived their Durham Coast League chances with a maximum points victory in last week's rain-hit programme, and they are now just three points behind leaders Seaham Park with two games to play.
CA skipper Gary Hewitt is back in harness for the final fling, starting today at Bill Quay. Both teams are at full strength.
The Park also have everyone available as they go in search of their first ever title, and they entertain a Silksworth team still missing several players but boosted by the surprise return after injury of Michael Nicholson.
And three points is also the wafer-thin margin separating the top two in the NTSL, although they have three matches left.
Both have home advanatage today, with leaders Swalwell taking on lowly Chopwell, and Sacriston entertaining an Ashington team who look doomed to relegation barring a miracle.
Michael Armstrong replaces Richard Shotton in the Swalwell side against unchanged opponents, while Melvyn Betts returns from suspension to lead Sacriston who will be missing Ben Hall because of work commitments. Jack Hardy steps up.
The desperate Colliers have to reckon without all-rounder Scott Thornton, but Jack Jessop returns.