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Brandon scrape victory
8:00am Monday 1st August 2011 in Durham County League
Championship-chasing Brandon hung on to their lead by the skin of their teeth as the pressures of a hard season got to them again.
Beaten for the first time last weekend, they restored their pride with a 12th victory, but it was a last-gasp effort against Ushaw Moor, one of the clubs struggling to make any impression and now beaten ten times in 14 games.
With three wickets apiece Steven Parnaby and Scott Hopson did their job brilliantly as the Moor were dismissed for what might normally have been considered an unchallenging 94 runs.
Parnaby conceded just 16 runs and Hopson 33 from their spells.
Opener Eric Stark, who top-scored with 36, stayed firm as Ushaw lost two of their top batsmen without a run being scored between them, while Martinus Oosthuizen and Stephen Milburn battled hard to each contribute 24 runs to rally the cause.
Thoughts of an easy victory for Brandon disappeared early in their reply as four wickets tumbled cheaply, with Oosthuizen (5-42) and Milburn (4-36) again the inspiration.
It needed a last-wicket stand between Scott Nattrass (21no) and Dean Crampton, who was unbeaten with seven invaluable runs, to earn the leaders what could be the most valuable 20 points of the season.
Second-placed Esh Winning remain 14 points behind Brandon with a game in hand.
They kept up the pressure with an eight-wicket win at Mainsforth, who they dismissed for 75 in 36.4 overs.
Yasim Murtaza was Esh's match winner as he took 6-24 in 12 overs, which included five maidens. Then he hit an unbeaten 38 with all but six of the runs in boundaries. Esh needed just 18.4 overs to wrap up the game.
Third-placed Willington suffered a setback as they lost to Tudhoe by three runs in another dramatic finish.
Tudhoe openers Ross Hodgson (64) and Simon Davies (55) laid the foundation for a challenging scoreline of 240, even though Calvin Stephenson (5-49) and Stephen Alderson (4-63) kept the winning hopes of their side alive.
Willington's Neil Pratt (48) looking impressive before Umer Rashid (4-40) and Ian Grainger (3-56) struck vital blows for the hosts.
Phil Stephenson looked set to emulate his father, Calvin, with 47, but although Steven Bradwell (39no) stayed put, he ran out of partners with victory in sight.