9:00am Monday 25th July 2011
THE championship race is set for a grandstand finish after Brandon's first defeat of the season left their main challengers, Esh Winning, ready to swoop.
Two washed out weekends hit Brandon's cause just as they enjoyed a commanding 39-point advantage at the top, but after losing to Crook while Esh beat Marsden, the lead has been cut to 14 points, with the challengers having a game in hand.
Brandon became under achievers as Steve Chapman made the most of his best day of the season with an excellent all-round display.
He took five wickets cheaply to send the leaders packing for a disappointing all-out 151.
Then, as Danny Thexton hit a half-century, the former Durham man dug in for a stubborn unbeaten 35 which proved invaluable for the six-wicket win.
Joe Ashdown, 41, and Stephen Ball, who took three of the Crook wickets, did their utmost for Brandon, who suffered defeat for the first time in their 15th game.
Esh are now in control of their own destiny with the championship door open. Saturday's success was their tenth win in 14 games and with strong displays with both bat and ball it augurs well.
Yasim Murtaza was again their main inspiration as he grabbed four wickets and was second top scorer.
His 32, including two fours and two sixes, became solid backing for an entertaining knock by David Watson, whose 40 runs featured 34 in boundaries.
Esh posted 208 despite five wickets for Marsden's Gary Malcolm which put the late brakes on the innings.
James Sneller (36) and John Leslie (30) did their best to chase down the runs for the visitors but Murtaza (4-63 from 12 overs) and Jonathan Hodgson, who took three wickets in an over, ended Marsden's resistance. They were bowled out for 137, beaten by a crushing 72 runs.
Shildon's hopes of escaping from the bottom of the league were shattered by an explosive performance from Evenwood batsmen James Alderson (70no) and Chandra Kumara (53no). They featured in a century-plus stand to outclass the Railwaymen who had been bowled out for 133 with Kumara (4-22).
Langley Park beat Mainsforth, while Ushaw Moor pulled off a shock win over Willington, chasing down a 254 for victory, Eric Stark (81) and Stephen Hancock (58no) their match-winning heroes.
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