Sporting history was made yesterday as the first Ashes Test ever to be held in the region got under way.
Thousands of cricket fans descended on the Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground in Chester-le-Street for the first day of the five-day event which, if England win, would mean outright victory in the series.
Securing the Test is a major coup for the North East, as more than 70,000 spectators are due to visit, bringing with them an expected ï¿½20m boost to the region’s economy.
But as the first ball was bowled all attention was on the players, who are currently leading the series after reigning victorious over Australia at Trent Bridge and Lord’s.
The sun continued to shine throughout the day, which added to the sense of pride local cricket fans felt hosting an international sporting event of this kind.
Jack Saunders, from Durham, brought his son Joe along to enjoy the monumental occasion of the Ashes coming to his home town.
The 32-year-old said: “It’s been really exciting having the Ashes here. It’s a massive event and great for the area.
“The atmosphere was brilliant.”
Even those travelling from further afield were keen to sing the praises of the region for clinching the fourth Test. Avid cricket fan David Merton came from Lancashire to see his beloved team take on Australia and he praised the atmosphere in the Riverside as on a par, if not better than some of the other major grounds around the country.
The 56-year-old said: “I’ve been all over the place and I have to say the feeling and spirit of the people here has been really, really good.”
It wasn’t just in the Riverside that visitors were made to feel welcome, as residents of Chester-le-Street embraced cricket fever with businesses and locals doing their bit to add to the occasion.
Town crier Marjorie Dodds enjoyed the festivities with Aaron Kingswood and Garry Gifford, of the Bread and Butter Theatre Company, as they paraded through the town centre donning umpire outfits.
Children were kept entertained at the man-made beach and umpire stilt walkers on the Front Street among other things. Further activities are expected to continue until the Test comes to a close on Tuesday.
Sports report: Pages 94&95