South Northumberland claimed their record eighth North East Premier League title in dramatic fashion on Saturday.
Five wickets by Lee Crozier helped the Gosforth-based outfit beat South Shields by 122-runs, and overtake Blaydon in the standings on a dramatic final day of the season.
Long time leaders Blaydon went into the final round of matches knowing a victory would see them crowned champions for the first time in their history, but they suffered an unexpected loss at home to Tynemouth by six wickets to fall desperately short, allowing South North to overtake them by six points via a victory over South Shields.
In one of the closest NEPL finishes in recent years, Blaydon were looking to break the monopoly held by South North and Chester-le-Street in recent seasons – not since Benwell Hill in 2002 have another team won the league.
Blaydon went into their match with Tynemouth with their fate in their own hands, but after captain and former Durham bowler Graeme Bridge won the toss and elected to bat, his side could only manage 7-233 declared inside their 6o overs. New Zealander Cole McConchie top scored for the home side with a run-a-ball 56 but no one else could go past fifty, with a string of batsmen making starts before getting themselves out as David Hymers and Joshua Koen took two wickets apiece.
In reply Tynemouth got off to a fast start, opener Philip Morse scored 68 before being run out, but South African Patrick Botha steadied the ship with a superb 76. Despite Botha falling to Ben Raine (3-53) with 30 still required, Mark Wood and Sam Robson eased their side home with over 10 overs to spare, leaving all eyes on South North’s result.
Over in Gosforth, South North skipper John Graham also won the toss and elected to bat first in their must win match, but his decision looked a poor one as both he and Sam Jobson fell with the score only on six, at this point the title seemed a long way off and things soon got worst, 6-2 became 47-5 and South North appeared to be in serious trouble.
Enter Adam Cragg (60) and Paul Coughlin (27), who added 49 for the sixth wicket, before Cragg was joined by Stephen Humble (89) and the pair added a title defying 104 for the seventh wicket – to see the home side to 8-258, before they declared. Chris Watson (3-23) was the pick of the Shields’ bowlers.
Chasing 259 in reply, Shields’ lost Andrew Elliot early before Watson (24) and Gareth Dunn (20) took the score to 67, veteran spinner Crozier then dismissed Dunn and Coughlin (2-21) claimed the prize scalp of Durham batsman Gordon Muchall, bowled for just seven. Crozier then ran through the rest of the order to take excellent figures of 5-36 from his 14 overs as Shields’ were all out for just 136, leaving South North to turn their attention to the events at Blaydon.
Elsewhere Chester-le-Street thrashed Stockton by 194-runs to claim third place in the league whilst Sunderland beat Hetton Lyons by six wickets to claim fourth spot – a staggering 50 points ahead of fifth place Durham Academy, who beat bottom-side Gateshead Fell by seven wickets.
Stockton’s Richard Waite finished the division’s leading run scorer for the season with 523 runs at 34.87 and Matthew Muchall of South Shields took the bowling honours with 55 wickets at 11.57.