A fifth change in the league leadership in as many weeks again proved just how close the title race is likely to remain with the top five clubs now separated by just 11 points, four closer than Saturday’s pre-match position.
Marton went back to the top for a second time, again taking over the mantle from Darlington who they bowled out for just 77 runs to drop them down to fourth place while, after another equally exceptional bowling performance, Great Ayton battered fellow championship favourites Guisborough to move into second place. Just two points separates these top two.
Six wickets for Neil Russell shaped Marton’s success as they returned to top form following three poor weekends at the crease which cost them the leadership. Only Ben Wicling (28) showed any Quakers resistance as Russell produced 15 searching overs for just 30 runs and Danny Wade (4-15) played the perfect support role. Darlington lost their last five wickets for just seven runs.
Any Quaker hopes that the most productive bowling trio in the league would grab back the game perished when Wally Ghauri smashed 41 runs in typical free and easy style, and with Upul Indrasiri holding up an end with an unbeaten 25 the hosts won handsomely by six wickets.
Guisborough’s defeat, and especially the momentous batting collapse they suffered, was perhaps even more unexpected, but Great Ayton were worthy winners.
After being bowled out themselves for just 118 they skittled the Priory side for a paltry 69 with Lewis Harper (5-33) and Ian West (4-31 in 17 overs) combining in deadly fashion.
Ayton’s New Zealander, Jaedyn Bartosh-Short (37), defied last weekend’s man-of-the-moment Chris Nicholls (5-35) to top score. The Priory skipper did his best to inspire his side to another victory which would have taken them back to the top of the table, but there was nothing he could do to stop his side being bowled out so cheaply.
Martin Hood (26) got them off to a good start but nine wickets fell for 40 runs as Harper and West ran through the unusually shaky batting line-up.
Richmondshire would have gone second had they seen off the last two Normanby Hall batsmen, Martin Rose and Leigh Beaumont, who defied their bowlers for seven overs. The hosts made 228 for seven with another century for the brilliant Shani Dissanayake which included nine fours and four sixes.
It proved to be one of the fastest of the season as he faced just 87 balls and along with Andy Fleming (29) he shared a fifth wicket partnership of 120.
Dan Hodgson top scored with 47 as Normanby replied with 153-9. Dissanayake (4-32) and Craig Swainston (4-45) each bowled 17 overs as did Beaumont (4-91) for the visitors.
A sensational catch by Stokesley’s James Beaumont not only prevented a likely Middlesbrough victory, but gained his side more points than their visitors in an enthralling drawn finish.
With Boro needing four runs to win Jamie Burke went for a big hit but skied the ball behind the bowler Beaumont, who ran fully 30 yards back towards the boundary to hold the chance. Boro finished three runs short of Stokesley’s 172 for nine.
After two surprise defeats, Hartlepool got back to winning ways when hosting Saltburn. It was the Seasiders fourth defeat and dropped them into the bottom two for the first time. Chris Hooker (41 and 4-37) tried his best to rally the side but Pool’s Marc Symington (5-54) and Neil Coverdale (51 not out) combined to force the victory. Saltburn were restricted to 131 for nine and Pool won by three wickets.
Sedgefield’s fortunes took a turn for the better with a second successive victory lifting them out of the bottom two and up three places. But their opponents, Thornaby, are in more danger than ever, 13 points adrift at the foot of the table.
Sedgefield’s batting strengths at last shone brightly with 60 from Richie Hawthorne, an unbeaten 52 from Steve Naylor, and 48 from David Cross. But Martin Cull was man-of-the-match with six wickets as Thornaby were dismissed for 101. Cull conceded just 33 runs and with Naylor (4-40) produced his best of the season.
Barnard Castle ended a worrying run of three defeats after Aamer Sajjad hit 79 from 85 balls in a draw at Redcar. Half centuries for Tom Urwin and Muhammed Saad took the Seasiders to 204 for three. Barney finished 21 runs short.