The alarm bells are starting to sound for Thornaby who, unless they can stage a Houdini-style escape, look destined to be relegated for the second time in four seasons and for the fourth time overall.
Battered to such an extent by neighbours Middlesbrough that they couldn’t merit a single point, they are now 53 points away from safety and although still having 12 games to play four of them are against the teams fighting for championship glory.
This latest defeat by nine wickets was their tenth of the season and the seventh in a row, and came as Sedgefield moved further clear of danger and Redcar, also in the bottom four, picked up valuable points too.
The championship dogfight also took another exciting turn with Richmondshire boosting their hopes of retaining the silverware by beating Guisborough to retake the leadership from Darlington.
The Quakers, four points clear before the weekend’s programme, were held by Barnard Castle but managed to collect 15 points, one short of sharing the top spot. Significantly these two giants meet next Saturday at Richmond!
Guisborough’s flirtation with the championship looks to be over as the Dalesmen smashed a sensational 322 runs from their bowling, losing just two wickets in the process, before shooting the Priory batsmen down for a paltry 139.
Gary Pratt took a big step towards becoming the first this season to reach 1,000 league runs as he smashed an unbeaten 140 from 160 balls with 20 fours, sharing in partnerships with Mike Layfield (81 at a run-a-ball) and Shani Dissanayake (83 not out from just 40 balls).
Pratt put on 181 with Layfield (15 boundaries) and 141 with Dissanayake (6 fours and 5 sixes). Guisborough fell under the spell of Shawn Charlton (3-20), Dissanayake (3-32) and Craig Marshall (2-9) with Stu Lobb (38) offering late resistance.
Darlington’s run of six wins in the last seven came to an end when Barney came to Feethams looking for revenge for their early season defeat when they were bowled out for 31. They were good value for their draw finishing on 176-8 in reply to Quakers’ 207 for seven.
In-form Matty Brown, with an unbeaten 72, and Liam Coates (59) shared a stand of 86 before Darlington suffered a collapse to lose five wickets for 40.
Simon Tennant (5-84) and James Finch (3-49) kept Barney in the reckoning before Aamer Sajjad (68 from 105 balls) gave them a fighting response. Tennant hit 43 to enjoy a fine all-round day. Peter Armstrong (5-55) and Doug Mulholland (3-53) shared the wickets.
Marton stayed in third place 17 points behind the Dalesmen after hitting, like the new leaders, their highest score of the season. The 293 for six posted at Hartlepool included 99 for Whalid Ghauri from 93 balls with 13 fours and three sixes, a superb innings which came to an end unluckily.
He was run out, backing up at the bowler’s end – seeing his chance of a century disappear when the ball hit down the wicket by his batting partner was diverted by the bowler’s fingertips onto the stumps!
Stands of 124 and 86 were features of the Marton innings with Upul Indrasiri (82), Neil Russell (48) and Ghauri all involved. Marton picked up 14 draw points as Pool replied with 156 for three with a stand worth 100 between the Symington’s, Craig (65 not out) and Marc (51).
Great Ayton lost ground in the championship race when collecting just three points in a hard earned draw at Sedgefield.
The hosts hit an excellent 213 for three and kept Ayton frustrated on 137 for seven with Steve Naylor once again star of the show with 60 and four wickets for 37 from 17 overs. Nisal Randika (49no) and Richie Hawthorne (48) were also in good form.
Saltburn moved up a place to eighth after enjoying a fourth win thanks largely to their two ‘pros’, Umesh Karunaratne (44 and 4-32) and Chris Hooker (42 and 2-16) headlining against struggling Normanby Hall (136 all out). Henry Blackett (58) and Alex Deuchar (4-39) gave Hall hope.
Redcar (179 for eight) had the best of a draw with Stokesley (154 for six) for whom Andrew Weighell (63 and 3-21) enjoyed a skipper’s role, while Muhammad Saad (51) and Tyler Easton (43) shone for the Seasiders.
A half century from James Lowe inspired Middlesbrough to their first win in six against hapless Thornaby (94 all out) with Andy Oliver (4-17), Brett Roberts (4-24) and Matt Bell (2-27) sharing the winning spoils.
In Sunday’s Premier game held at Thornaby the ‘host’ team Normanby Hall suffered in the sun as Barnard Castle piled on 219 for two, with Aamer Sajjad undefeated on exactly 100 at the close having shared in a second wicket stand of 157 with Simon Tennant (92).
The Hall looked set to get something positive from the game when they reached 136 for one with Shahid Khan (64) and Dan Hodgson (50) going well, but then the introduction of Tennant to the attack changed the course of the match as he bowled both run makers to start a collapse that saw nine wickets go down for 21 runs.
Tennant ended with 5-33, and skipper James Finch 5-28 as Barney won by 62 runs.