South Shields have the chance to make a real statement in the NEPL Premier Division title race this weekend when they entertain the new leaders Newcastle.
Newcastle are now the only unbeaten team in the division, and moved to the top of the table following a 10-run success against local rivals Benwell Hill in a game described as an ‘outstanding spectacle’.
Over 600 runs were scored in that match at Jesmond with the final wicket falling in the last over of the day, and it was Newcastle skipper Jacques du Toit making all the headlines as he plundered 167 from the Hill attack, and then took the winning wicket amongst a haul of five.
He currently stands third in the league run scorers list with 412 at an average of 103, and second in the wicket taking stakes with 21.
Newcastle Director of Cricket Doug Hudson was full of praise for an innings in which 13 sixes were scored.
“He didn’t give a single chance,” recalled Hudson. “He was in total control and it was just one of his outstanding knocks. He actually put six balls into the cemetery, and also smashed Callum Harding’s windscreen in the car park!”
But whilst Shields will be wary of du Toit, they have their own key players with Gordon Muchall leading the run-making charts with 480 at an average of 240, and Tim David fourth on 379 at an average of 63, so it is almost certain this match will feature the first man in the league to reach the 500-run milestone for the season.
Shields are just 20 points behind their opponents, and have lost just once so far themselves, so the scene is set for a great contest.
The Shieldsmen have Ollie Stedman back in their ranks now, although Connor Brydon misses out after suffering a broken jaw whilst batting against the Academy in the last league game. Newcastle expect to be unchanged.
Whitburn are not so much interested in the top of the table as the opposite end. Their only win of the season seems a long time ago now – it was back in April in the opening programme, and recent defeats have left them dangling over the danger zone, just 23 points above Gateshead Fell.
They go to Stockton tomorrow but won’t be able to call on Jack Burnham because of his Durham commitments.