Ashington Cricket Club had their title credentials put to the test on Saturday before sweeping Consett aside and collecting their 15th victory of the season.
With six games remaining and despite continuing to hold a 46 points cushion at the top of the Go North East Northumberland & Tyneside Senior League, the Mighty Acorns skipper Greg Williams refuses to mention the possibility of his side claiming the championship.
But how the Wansbeck outfit had to dig deep at Hope Street – the ground where they have been on the wrong end of back to back defeats over the past two seasons.
Preparations did not exactly run smoothly in the build-up. Opener Neil Wood was ruled out with Jack McCarthy deputising, then Williams lost the toss and saw McCarthy back in the pavilion as early as the second over as the youngster tried to hit Gary Hunter over the top of mid-off but only succeeded in presenting a simple catch to Andrew Foster.
On what proved to be a difficult and testing wicket, Ani Singh and Jack Jessop consolidated with a stand of 77, with the former claiming the lion’s share.
He reached his half century in the 19th over with a cover drive out of an Ashington total of 73.
However, after drinks on a sultry afternoon, Jessop was caught behind by wicketkeeper John Chapman off Milligan for 19.
Ben O’Brien followed shortly afterwards, caught at gully by Hunter off Pyke, before Singh and Ben Harmison held the innings together as they added 41.
Harmison got a feather touch to a delivery from Mark Dixon and was caught behind for 18, then after a dashing 20, Sean McCafferty was caught in the deep from the last ball of the 37th over.
Singh was trapped lbw in the 41st for 88 – an innings which included 12 fours and one six – and following his departure, Ashington struggled for runs.
When Paul Rutherford lofted Abhiram Joshi from the second ball of the last over and was caught by Simon Wilkinson, it brought the curtain down on their innings at 174 – the first time this season the Colliers had been bowled out.
The visitors knew Kamran Mansoor was the Consett dangerman, and the home professional fell to a preconceived trap which was set in the ninth over. Callum Storey asked for Jessop to be posted on the boundary at deep point, and the pace bowler sent down a wider delivery which the opener clipped straight down Jessop’s throat.
It was just the start Ashington wanted, and things got even better for the Colliers. Williams brought Singh on for the tenth over and four balls in he had Foster caught behind by Daniel Grant.
In Singh’s next over, Joshi clipped straight to Jessop at short leg, then Robbie Winn was given a reprieve from a no ball after being pocketed at slip by Harmison.
Hunter and Winn grafted but when Williams again shuffled his pack and brought Harmison back into the attack, Hunter (28) edged behind from the second delivery and was caught by Grant.
As the rate crept up towards six an over, Winn, Chapman and Milligan all succumbed, the latter on 80-7.
Ringer was bowled by Ian Sharkey then Storey was left on a hat-trick as he polished the innings off by removing Wilkinson, caught by Grant, and flattening Dixon’s leg stump with consecutive deliveries with the hosts all out for 100 after exactly 43 overs.
Williams rotated his bowlers superbly with the wickets being spread around. Storey took 3-21; Singh 2-19; Rutherford 2-26; Sharkey 2-13 and Ben Harmison 1-19.
On Saturday, Ashington are away to Leadgate.
Consett 6 points
Ashington 20 points