The see-saw battle at the top of the table shows no signs of relenting and Benwell Hill are the new leaders following their crushing defeat of Stockton.

The home batsmen simply had no answer to the twin attack of David Rutherford and Lee Crozier and although they courageously battled through 31.3 overs, they were back in the pavilion with just 61 runs on the board. Rutherford claimed four wickets for just 17 runs in ten overs and spinner Crozier did even better, his four wickets costing just eight runs in 8.3 overs, six of which were maidens.

Not that Benwell Hill had things all their own way when they batted first.

They did not find it at all easy against Alan Walker whose 18 overs produced the magnificent figures of 6-25. Dan Lewis assisted with 3-30 from 16 overs and it took a half century from captain Phil Nicholson to enable the Hill to make a respectable 149 from 53 overs.

Chester- le- Street returned to winning form, defeating Tynemouth by five wickets at Ropery Lane. Their batsmen rose to the occasion when a target in excess of 200 was set down by the Seasiders for whom Wayne Falla scored 37 before Karl Spratt (35 not out) and captain Russell Perry, with an unbeaten 52 added valuable runs in an unbroken partnership for the eighth wicket.

Allan Worthy (71), Ashley Thorpe (50) and Quentin Hughes with 40 not out led the Cestrians' assault and victory was achieved with five overs remaining.

South Northumberland were toppled from pole position when they lost by 31 runs to Gateshead Fell. Phil Taylor was just nine runs short of a century when he was trapped leg before but by then, he had laid the foundations for the Fell's 151-9 total.

Imran Shah, returning for the visitors, bowled tidily in claiming four wickets for just 27 runs.

Former Durham County player Martin Speight, who went in at number four, remained unbeaten and although professional Dewalt Pretorus, batting at number nine, added 32, South North were all out for just 120.

Marcus North for once failed with the bat, but he was the match-winner in the Gateshead Fell with figures of 6-35. Chris Nichols also bowled a good end and he was well worth his figures of 4-24.

Norton perished at Blaydon where they failed to make it into three figures. Tim MacDonald top-scored with 32 but the innings disappointed and closed on 99 as Nehemiah Perry claimed four wickets for a meagre 11 runs.

Skipper Mark Drake was in super form for the Tynesiders, finishing unbeaten on 89 which together with 60 by Paul Underwood and an unbeaten 45 from Geoff Stewart, meant that Norton were chasing a target of 228.

No play was possible in the games between Newcastle and Philadelphia and Sunderland and Durham Academy