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Darlington title dreams in tatters

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Darlington’s dreams of their first championship success in 22 years are in tatters after losing for the second time in successive games.

The defeat conceded the leadership they had held for all but the early weeks of the season to a resilient Richmondshire side who have overcome the effects of the weather more than most.

The Quakers, who at one stage held a lead of 31 points, now trail by four points as the Dalesmen look to make up for last weekend’s defeat in the Kerridge Cup by heading for only their second ever title win.

Darlington lost to Middlesbrough at Acklam Park, but even though Richmond were thwarted of victory against Marske when the game on their own ground was abandoned with 17 balls remaining, they took enough points in a winning draw to take over as league leaders.

Gary Pratt’s first league century of the season set Richmond on the way to a declaration on 256 for four after 46 overs, even though their first wicket fell cheaply.

In reaching an undefeated 109 from 120 balls, with seven fours and a six, he shared a stand of 134 with fellow professional Shani Dissanayake who hit 82 from just 67 deliveries.

Marske had Gary Lynch (82 not out) to thank for defying the Richmond bowlers as he led a fightback from 72 for five to 158 for nine when the thunder storm arrived.

He had faced 143 balls and hit 70 in boundaries. But it couldn’t stop the new leaders taking 17 points, which was significantly more than Darlington whose batting again let them down.

They were bowled out for 124 but it would have been much less if Sam Hardy (35) and Andrew Sturgeon, the stand-in stumper, hadn’t figured in a defiant last

wicket partnership. They added 41 after coming together on 83 for nine. Boro’s Dan Hodgson (79 not out) made sure his side overcame the loss of two early wickets to reach 178 for eight.

Andy Oliver (4-28) was, for the second week, the home side’s best strike bowler.

Stokesley, one of those involved in the relegation fight, took a massive stride towards safety when they gained their first win in seven games. But it left second bottom Thornaby, who they defeated by four wickets, one of the clubs in most danger.

Danny Clarke (61 not out) and Mike Muldowney (50) gave Thornaby a decent chance with 185 for seven but the home side’s big hitter, Will Brown, with an undefeated 87 from 86 balls including 13 boundaries, had other thoughts.

Stokesley leap frogged Sedgefield, who had beaten them in the previous match but could only manage second best in a draw at Hartlepool for whom Neil Coverdale hit a superb century, the ninth of the season in the league.

He shared a stand of 164 with Kasun Bodhisha (74) as Pool posted 183-5. In reply Sedgefield made 141 for six in the 43 overs available to them, with Steve Naylor (56 from 60 balls) again in great form.

Normanby Hall and Barnard Castle, who met in a rain reduced game, were able to each take enough points to ease their worries at the wrong end of the table.

Graham Shaw (5-17) bowled 15 overs with seven maidens to keep Barney (123 for nine) in defensive mood. The rain robbed Normanby of 26 overs in their reply and the game petered out with the hosts on 71 for five.

Billingham Synthonia (104 for six) stay in the bottom three after their visit to Guisborough lasted just 30 overs, while the Marton-Great Ayton clash managed just 18 overs before it was abandoned when the random storms struck a second time.