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Darlington back on top after rain in Pool

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Darlington are back as leaders of the North Yorkshire and South Durham ECB Premier League with a great deal of help from the weather and their own ability to fend off defeat.

The Quakers had to keep their nerve as Normanby Hall, battling to avoid relegation, came within six runs of pulling off one of the season’s biggest surprises – a win at Feethams – knowing that Richmondshire, who had started the day as table- toppers by a single point, had become victims yet again of the weather.

The Dalesmen, bedevilled by rain so many times this season, only got in half a game before the heavens opened and their match with Hartlepool was abandoned – the ninth time in the 22 games that their championship hopes have been dashed by the elements. They trail Darlington by two points going into today’s second round of bank holiday games.

They were in a good position despite their home game starting 90 minutes late due to the wet conditions. They had posted 172 for eight from a reduced 37 overs with Andrew Fleming (53) and Mike Layfield (42) overcoming a mini-slump at 48 for three, but they weren’t able to bowl a single ball at Pool as the rain returned during the interval.

Darlington had a roller-coaster day, looking initially like enjoying their second successive win but then having to fight off an unexpected defeat. Their batting looked in better shape as they hit 183 for six with a half century from James Dobson in a stand of 87 with Danny Morgans (35) for the first wicket. Leigh Beaumont (4-43) slowed up the run rate to keep Hall in the frame.

But Doug Mulholland hit back with three early wickets to put Normanby in trouble on 33 for four only for Graham Shaw to stop the collapse and then, with typical defiance, put his team on course for an unlikely victory.

He hit 73 from 93 balls to share in a stand of 92 for the fifth wicket with Nasar Hussain (38) before departing in the penultimate over. Earlier Beaumont had hit 21 from 19 balls to help Shaw put them so close to victory. Mulholland (4-51) and Jon Barnes took six of the eight wickets to fall but Hall reached 178, just five runs behind the new leaders.

There was joy and despair among the teams fighting against relegation with Sedgefield, Stokesley and Barnard Castle enjoying victories to lift some of the gloom. But defeat for Marske sent them back into the bottom two with heavily beaten Thornaby.

The other endangered club, Billingham Synthonia, changed places with the Seasiders with a last wicket fight back doing the trick.

This season’s newcomers Sedgefield showed their determination to avoid the drop with their biggest win so far. They bowled out Guisborough for 101 with Richard Hawthorne (6-31) getting his season’s best and Mohammed Zahid (3-18) giving superb support. Dave Cross faced 93 balls for his 45 runs, laying the foundation for their impressive eight wicket win.

Stokesley defeated Middlesbrough from the very last ball of the game with three wickets falling in the final over as the visitors chased extra draw points.

Boro totalled 162 in response to Stokesley’s 218 for five, one of their best batting displays, with Andrew Weighell (58), brother Jonny (48), and James Beaumont (45) boosting the home team. Boro surprisingly slumped to 91 for five in reply, but Adil Ditta (51) rallied the troops.

Andrew Weighell (4-27) helped keep Boro on the back foot until the dramatic finale in which two run outs from the last two balls produced the most sensational of finishes.

Thornaby had a bad batting day against Marton as they were bowled out for just 63 in response to 205 for eight. Lee Hodgson hit a magnificent unbeaten century, which included 13 fours and a six, and then took two wickets for just six runs.

Upul Indrasiri (4-19) had the home side in all sorts of difficulty in his 12 overs helped by Neil Russell (3-19 from 17 overs), but Thornaby’s Dale Metcalfe (5-69) was also impressive despite Marton’s big total.

Marske dipped back into the doldrums after fellow strugglers Barnard Castle’s trio of bowlers, David Stanwick (4-21), James Finch (3-34) and Liam Prosser (3-44), turned up the heat to bowl them out for just 108. Bret Upton top scored with 47 for Barney to win by five wickets.

Billingham Synthonia (176 for nine) had to defend for the last five overs to get vital draw points at Great Ayton (212 for nine) where Lewis Harper (90) hit his season’s highest. Tariq Aziz made 60 in reply.