The championship trophy will be waiting in the wings when Richmondshire step out at Stokesley this weekend needing just five more points to snatch the title from under the noses of Darlington for a second successive year.
The Quakers kept up the pursuit on Saturday when they won a low scoring game at Saltburn by five wickets, but with Marton unable to do them any favours when they went to Richmond and became the 14th victims of awesome opponents, the race appears all over – bar the shouting!
It will be the Dalesmen’s third title success in 19 years if, as expected, they make it, and the magnificent form of their professionals Gary Pratt and the inspirational Shani Dissanayake, was once again all important in their win by eight wickets against rivals who, until just a few weeks ago, were themselves the league leaders and seemingly heading for glory.
Pratt hit his sixth century of a season in which he has now scored over 1,500 league runs and needs just 68 more to reach 2,000 in all competitions, a rare achievement. Dissanayake gave away less than three runs an over as he bagged four wickets to finish as the day’s top bowler and took three great catches, two from his own bowling.
Marton were restricted to 195 for eight despite a flying start from Whalid Ghauri, who made 73, his first 50 from 60 balls, and Lee Hodgson (33 from 42 balls).
Ghauri hit nine fours and two sixes and faced 105 balls altogether. Upul Indrasiri (32) took the role of anchorman. Richmond’s reply featured a second wicket partnership worth 150 runs between Pratt, who hit 17 boundaries in his unbeaten 104, and Mike Layfield (42).
Darlington needed just 26.4 overs – and two bowlers – to have Saltburn back in the pavilion for 53 runs. Doug Mulholland (7-13) and Jon Barnes (3-32) put them on the rack and even Umesh Karunaratne, who is sixth in the league averages, could only manage 21 as his side’s top scorer. They were Mulholland’s best figures of the season and took him further in front as the league’s top wicket taker with 67. Barnes, who has 50, is tenth.
But the Quakers made heavy weather of scoring the runs needed, losing five wickets for 33, including four for three runs, with Karunaratne (3-18) and Jack Almond (2-15) exploiting their nervy opponents. Henry Linton and Barnes stopped the slide.
The clash between the two already relegated clubs was all over quickly with Thornaby skittled out for just 35, but Normanby Hall lost four wickets in completing a double which was only their third win all season.
Leigh Beaumont (7-19) and Dale Marshall (3-16) were too good for everyone except Danny Burns who batted throughout the Thornaby innings to finish unbeaten on ten!
Stokesley’s worst run of the season ended with their tenth defeat and fourth in succession at Guisborough where they scored at a snail’s pace making just 83-9 from the 50 overs.
But even the in-form home side lost six wickets as they grabbed their sixth win in ten games with James Beaumont (4-36) fighting back. Stuart Lobb (4-26 from 17 overs), Ranil Dhammika (2-14 from eight) and Chris Nicholls (2-20 from 17) restricted Stokesley whose first 25 overs brought just 25 runs as five wickets fell.
A century opening partnership between Paul Johnston (71) and James Lowe (50) gave Middlesbrough victory by seven wickets at Redcar (152 for nine). Johnston’s knock was his best this season and came at a run a ball, hitting ten fours and two sixes.
Lowe, one of the first three to reach the 1,000 runs landmark, was joined by Chris Batchelor who’s 64 for Great Ayton at Hartlepool got him into the all-star category. His 119-run opening partnership with Jaedyn Bartosh-Short (78) took Ayton to 233 for eight, but they couldn’t bowl out their hosts and had to settle for a winning draw.
Lewis Harper (3-45) and Michael Croft (3-28) kept Pool at bay on 153 for eight. A good win at Sedgefield for Barnard Castle was their third in four games.
Marske celebrated winning promotion and will be back in the premier division after missing just one season, but who joins them will be decided on the season’s final day with Bishop Auckland and Seaton Carew still separated by a single point after wins at Darlington and Great Ayton.