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Darlington losing grip on title

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The championship race is back in the melting pot after early season favourites Richmondshire completed a humiliating double over league leaders Darlington who will now need to summon up a new fighting spirit to stay in the hunt in the final run-in to the season.

The Dalesmen blasted away 20 of the 28 point lead the Quakers had held before this crunch game in which they took a perfect strangehold by first exposing the batting frailties of their visitors and then made sure their bowlers, the league’s top three wicket takers, had no chance to hit back.

Darlington collapsed to an all-out score of just 53 with James Clarkson bowling superbly for 17 overs to concede just ten runs and take six wickets, his best of the season.

Shani Dissanayake (3-17) was again in form with 11.5 economical overs. Just three of the Quakers got into double figures with Simon Lee, Peter Armstrong and Danny Morgans each making ten runs apiece in a lack lustre batting display spread over 37.5 overs.

There was no time for Jon Barnes, Doug Mulholland or Armstrong to work magic with the ball as Richmond took just 19.4 overs to get the runs, and in losing only the wicket of Gary Pratt they didn’t allow Darlington any bonus points. Clarkson (31 not out) showed his opponents how to bat without fear.

It was the second time Darlington had suffered a nine wicket defeat at Richmondshire’s hands, and the second occasion they have been deprived of a single point. When they were beaten in May they were bowled out for 95.

Two other clubs benefitted indirectly from Darlington’s loss – Guisborough and Marton both won to move above third-placed Great Ayton and are waiting in the wings for any further slip-ups.

Guisborough scored just short of 200 to beat struggling Normanby Hall despite a maiden century for Brett Roberts and wickets and runs for Leigh Beaumont (53 not out and 4-48).

The Priory duo of Mosharraf Hossain (59) and Martin Hood (42) featured in an opening stand of 110 but Guisborough had just three balls remaining when they won by three wickets 88 runs later.

Unlucky to be on the losing side, Roberts made his first premier hundred from 120 balls with nine fours and four sixes after recovering from injury.

Marton’s Neil Russell and Chris Simpson each scored half centuries and featured in an opening partnership of 115 as their side reached a 180-run target to defeat Billingham Synthonia by six wickets.

Craig Symington (63) was the Synners top scorer before there was a late collapse as the home captain, Mattie Brown, took five wickets for eight runs in five mesmerising overs.

Middlesbrough moved up a place to sixth after Great Ayton lost the game they needed to win to stay on the fringe of the championship fight. Newly signed teenager Andy Oliver just missed out on a hat-trick as he took four wickets with his leg spin, and along with Zaheer Shahbaz (4-35) earned star rating.

Boro made 204 for eight despite losing a wicket from the opening ball of the game before Adil Ditta made 92. Ayton, in contrast, never recovered from a bad start and were all out for 115.

Alarm bells are still ringing for seven clubs including Marske and Thornaby who are still in the bottom two relegation places after their crunch meeting came to an abrupt end as more heavy rain again left surface water on the outfield at Mandale Bottoms.

The game was abandoned with Marske on 128 for nine with two overs left to bat and professional Indika de Seram taking five wickets on his final appearance.

Sedgefield had a vital win at Stokesley which could save them from returning to the lower division. It was also a personal triumph for Steve Naylor who hit a superb unbeaten century with 60 in boundaries.

Fellow ‘pro’, Mo Zahid (6-33) was also in form but Stokesley might have thought 194 for seven was enough to win the match when James Beaumont made his season’s best of 83.

Barnard Castle, who only got bonuses from a draw at Hartlepool, are still among the clubs in danger and they’re now starting to be caught.