AS the North East Premier League season entered its fifth week, many were hoping that poor weather that had plagued the season thus far would lift, and that we might be blessed with more suitable conditions.

However, players and spectators alike would once again have to wrap up well and brave the cold and rain across the region if they wanted to see games at the weekend.

Matthew Muchall had the exciting prospect of taking his South Shields team through to play Durham Cricket Academy at the Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground in Chester-le-Street.

Shields going into the game on the back of two good wins against Benwell Hill and Hetton Lyons would need to continue their good form if they were to compete against the counties best young talent.

The weather looked like it might spoil the occasion for the club side whose players were all looking forward to play at the international venue, when the early morning rain delayed the start of the game until after lunch.

Shields won the toss and put the home side into bat first, and visitors did not have long to wait before claiming their first wicket, Graham Clark offering a sharp catch to Kris McShane in the gully off the bowling of Muchall with the score on 10.

Shields were made to work hard in the field, and chances from then on were few as Durham batsmen Jack Clark and Cole Pearce piled on the runs on a wicket that was hard and true and offered little to the bowlers. With the score on 136 Clark, two short of his 50, fell lbw off the bowling of Rameez Shahzad.

Pearce saw two further partners fall, as he continued to compile a superb innings consisting of nine fours and two sixes, which would see him go on to reach an unbeaten 109, when the home team declared on 195 off 50 overs. The Sapphire Engineering sponsored side were left with 48 overs in which to try to overhaul the home team’s total, and Chris Watson and James Hill looked to be going along nicely when Hill clipped one off his legs straight to square leg off the bowling of Ryan Buckley, with the score on 26. Watson was joined in the middle by Rameez Shahzad, who was looking to get his season going, having had two disappointing knocks for his new club. He again would be caught off the bowling of Buckley, playing hard too early in his innings, having faced only 12 balls.

When Buckley then had trapped Chris Dorothy lbw without the score having advanced, Shields looked to be in a bit of trouble at 48-3.

Chris Rainbow came to the middle, and he and Watson played some excellent and intelligent cricket to steady the ship.

The pair had added a further 68 when Watson on 66 was caught and bowled by Buckley.

Michael Dunn became Buckley’s fifth victim of the afternoon, and he would finish with impressive figures of 5-52 off his 17 overs.

Adam Shaw and Nathan Watson also fell cheaply but Rainbow, never looking troubled for his 47, was able to bat out the overs with Kris McShane.

Shields ended up on 153-7 for a very creditable draw, which sees them remain in the top half of the league table.

Skipper Muchall added: “I am delighted at the way we played. It was a very competitive game, and we were in with a chance of winning up until the last 10 or so overs, when we lost a couple of quick wickets and fell behind the rate.”

“We still need one or two of the players to put their games together, and then we will be hopefully in a position to push teams even harder.

“It has been a great experience for our lads to play at the Riverside, and I am delighted that they have performed so well.”

On Sunday, Shields were back on home soil when they entertained Newcastle in the first round of the NEPL Banks Salver competition, and the Wood Terrace ground was bathed in sunshine.

The Shieldsmen were forced to make two changes to the side that had performed so admirably at the Riverside the day before, James Hill (hand injury) was replaced by Gareth Dunn, and Nathan Watson having work commitments was replaced by Sam Embleton. Newcastle, batting first, posted a total of 199 all out, with their Durham professional Michael Richardson hitting 64.

All of the Shields bowlers performed well and shared the wickets, McShane 3-32, Chris Stewart 2-34, Dorothy 2-39 and Watson 2-49.

The home side suffered an early setback in their run chase when Dorothy was caught with the scoreboard still showing single figures, which brought Shahzad to the middle to join Watson.

The Dubai-based player, after offering an early chance, then proceeded to take the Newcastle bowling apart, producing a classy and entertaining knock, which saw him record his first century in Shields colours.

His ton came in 110-minute batting masterclass off 93 balls with 13 fours. With great support to the Shahzad innings coming from Watson (33), and Michael Dunn (36 not out), Shields comfortably passed their visitors’ total for a seven-wicket victory.