With a majestic 15th win of the season, Richmondshire were crowned champions for a second successive year, underlining their dominance as the new all-powerful successors to Middlesbrough who were last to win the title twice without a break.
They, like Boro back in 2007 and 2008, retained the championship trophy in great style and have now won it three times in 19 years. But their latest success was achieved with extra splendour having totted up a record breaking number of points, 436 compared to 428 when the previous highest was set in 1993.
The Dalesmen travelled to Stokesley for the final test in a 26 match season knowing they needed five points to make certain no-one else could overtake them even if they were to lose. They jumped this hurdle with the game just half way complete and then went on to show, once again, that their batting power is just as impressive as their wicket taking supremacy.
With Richmond’s last day formalities completed – they went on to win by an impressive ten wicket margin – the second of the two clubs to be promoted to play against them next season was being decided at venues as far apart as Bishop Auckland and Seaton Carew. And it turned out to be a case of the unexpected as Seaton carried off the golden prize.
They’ll join Marske, who were already promoted a week ago and, on this final weekend, not only clinched the Division One championship but killed off Bishops’ chance of returning to the top division with them.
It was a close-run contest with the Seasiders winning as the result of a last wicket stand between Josh Carroll and Sam Harvey. Carroll (5-34 in nine overs) had already been his side’s bowling star as Bishop Auckland were dismissed for just 123 with Carl McGregor (35) as top scorer.
Marske looked like losing on 112 for nine and Bishops were just about back in the premier division after a two year absence until Carroll (12 not out) broke their hearts.
At the same time at Seaton Carew, players and fans were facing mixed emotions as the scores came from Kingsway. But they didn’t lose concentration and overcame the challenge of rivals’ Maltby who were all out for 163. Their five-star performer was home grown junior Paul Braithwaite (80 not out) who rushed them to a six wicket victory and an historic place in the league’s top division.
It’s the first time they’ve reached this standard but skipper Gareth Spence says he believes they have deserved their chance.
He explained jubilantly: “It isn’t something we had expected but everyone is over the moon. We have come close a couple of times and before promotion was introduced we were runners-up at least twice.’’
He added proudly: “This has been achieved with a team which has come entirely through our junior ranks.”
Seaton will now face the challenges of players like Gary Pratt (80 not out) and Shani Dissanayake (4-14 from 13 overs) who starred in Richmond’s final day victory at Stokesley (110 all out) where Craig Marshall (3-33 from 15) took his seasonal wicket tally to 48 wickets as Shani finished on 58. Pratt’s 50-ball finale, with seven fours and three sixes, took him beyond 2,000 runs in all competitions, including 1,589 in the league.
Runners-up Darlington stuttered to a narrow win over an in-form but weaker than usual Guisborough who they bowled out for 135. Matty Brown (5-11 from 4.5 overs) started the visitors’ collapse which saw their last six wickets fall for 12 runs. Liam Coates was standing by to bat with a dislocated finger but Jon Barnes (33 not out) got Quakers over the line with two wickets to spare.
Marton, who finished third, claimed the final two Redcar wickets for nine runs to win with just three balls of the final over of the match remaining. Marton (194 fgor eight) were held up by a half century from Mohammed Zahid before a 41-run success was celebrated.
Saltburn ended their first season back at premier level with their seventh win which was their third in their last five games. They defeated Barnard Castle by five wickets despite a last wicket stand by their hosts, largely through Ben Usher (57 not out), making their score look respectable on 130 for nine.
Hartlepool surprised Middlesbrough with a seven wicket drubbing and Thornaby’s last game before returning to Division One saw them suffer a 19th defeat at Great Ayton.