Richmondshire or Darlington to be champions?
Richmondshire and Darlington made sure there is unlikely to be a third-party challenge for the 2012 Darlington Building Society North Yorkshire and South Durham ECB Premier League title when between them, they killed off the hopes of the two opponents making a last ditch bid.
Both Marton, who lost to the Quakers, and Middlesbrough, who could only manage relatively few points in a draw with the Dalesmen, needed to individually beat the high flying pair, but they missed their big chance.
Boro, however, by virtue of preventing a Richmond win helped Darlington to cut down the lead of their rivals from four to a single point and it looks more likely than ever that the battle for the silverware will go down to the wire.
Just as enthralling is the fight for survival with only 23 points separating the bottom seven after victories for three of them. Marske, despite a second successive win against lowly opponents, still remain close to the relegation trapdoor while Thornaby, even after a massive win at Hartlepool – their first in nine games – remain in bottom place.
New professional Nadeem Malik paved the way for the win at Park Drive but broke down with a leg strain in his ninth over after taking four wickets for just 16 runs. He had Pool on the rack with half their side gone for just 63 when he suffered the injury.
But Shaz Mahmood (4-11 from 6.4 overs) produced a devastating burst to have the hosts all out 20 runs later.
Marske, having defeated second from bottom Billingham Synthonia in their previous game, added the scalp of fellow strugglers Stokesley. Professional Richie Evans, with five wickets and 60 runs, was the match winner after Stokesley needed a ninth wicket partnership of 49 to post 144 runs.
Despite a five wicket haul for Brandon Viret Marske won by five wickets.
Normanby Hall came out on top in the other clash between relegation candidates. They beat Sedgefield in a remarkable finish in which the last five wickets fell for just ten runs, three in the final four balls of the game. Sedgefield needed just 21 runs for victory when the batting collapse began and subsequently lost by ten runs.
Leigh Beaumont (7-55 from 17 overs) led the rout after the Hall had set their visitors a target of 183. The win came with just five balls remaining.
Barnard Castle were dragged back into the danger zone when they were outplayed by Billingham who made 225-9 after an opening stand of 136 between Tariq Aziz (78) and Adam Greenwell (59). Skipper Martin Cull (4-29) cut Barney down to 117 for six despite an unbeaten 61 from James Sutton.
Table-toppers Richmondshire again exceeded 250 runs with Shani Dissanayake (82) and Gary Pratt (75) the star partnership.
Between them they’ve scored 521 runs in the last three weekends. Dissanayake (5-25) had Boro in trouble on 131 for seven in reply but Dan Hodgson (56 not out) led a fightback to finish on 170 for eight.
Darlington defeated Marton by just ten runs with only six balls remaining after a tumultuous battle in which Jon Barnes got his 50th league wicket – the first to reach the milestone this season – and Doug Mulholland (4-59) shared the star rating with Steve Lister (79 not out) who lifted the Quakers to 181 for eight.
Marton never completely overcame the loss of three early wickets. Great Ayton moved into third place after a four wicket win at Guisborough with Steve Pennock’s 80 runs a match winner. Mohammed Hossain (82) had led the hosts to 188 for five.