Sedgefield seize the moment
The Darlington Building Society ECB North Yorkshire and South Durham Premier League championship sprang to life when all 14 sides were able to play for the first time which left eight teams separated by just nine points.
The rain was replaced by a biting wind and a couple of games proved to be low scoring as pitches played tricks with batsmen but, at least, the season was underway in earnest.
And there were milestones to celebrate as newcomers Sedgefield won for the first time at the highest level, Barnard Castle, despite their first defeat, clung onto the league leadership and Richmondshire, the pundits’ tip to become the new champions, survived a serious examination of their batting talents to win on a testing pitch.
Sedgefield, who came close to victory on their home debut in the top flight, had to fight hard to defeat Stokesley despite bowling them out for just 78. Muhammed Zahid, with 13 inspired overs for just nine runs, took four wickets and with Richard Hawthorne (3-27) and Adam Randall (2-26) chipping in, Stokesley lasted only 39.1 overs.
For a second week they collapsed disastrously after their skipper, Andrew Weighell (40) was out. Their last five wickets tumbled for just nine runs.
Sedgefield were in trouble themselves on 58 for eight as visiting professionals, James Beaumont (4-22) and Brandon Viret (3-35) hit back, but Steve Naylor (36 not out) dug in to swing the game. He faced 94 balls in an hour at the crease and with keeper Justin Preston surviving 36 minutes and 26 balls, took them to victory.
Barney remain kings of the Castle, but only by a single point as Sedgefield moved into second place alongside Richmond who defeated Darlington by nine wickets.
James Clarkson (3-13), Lewis Stabler (3-17) and Shani Dissanayake (2-45) destroyed the Quakers who spent their 50 overs struggling to reach 95 for eight.
Gary Pratt (48 with six boundaries) and Clarkson put on 61 for the first wicket and Mike Layfield finished the task with 15 overs to spare.
Hartlepool put the skids under Barnard Castle after Simon Tennant (58) and Duncan Coates (30) shared a 58 run stand for the fifth wicket to recover from the loss of both their opening batsmen for just three runs.
They finished with 152 for seven as Kasun Bodhisha (3-49) and Anthony Fawcett (2-22) starred for Pool. Then Adil Asif (45) hit form to take them much of the way towards a four wicket success. Tennant (3-27) and James Finch (3-36) put up a bold fight which proved eventually in vain.
Middlesbrough’s Paul Johnston hit the day’s highest score – a superb 93 with ten fours and three sixes – as they took 16 points from a draw at Great Ayton.
Johnston, just recovered from a hamstring injury, shared in a stand of 104 from 108 balls with Dan Trodden (45) to take Boro to 226 for eight. Steve Pennock (4-16) and Lewis Harper (3-59) hit form for the villagers.
Quick bowler Shahid Mahmood (5-38) gave the visitors a scent of success but Michael Croft (33) and Tom Crown (32) shared an unbroken stand of 70 to take Ayton to 155 for seven. David Grainge had previously hit 47.
Current champions Marton, along with Guisborough and Marske, all enjoyed first victories. Marton relied heavily on their professional Upul Indrasiri who hit 85 and took four wickets as Billingham Synthonia were beaten by 54 runs.
His innings, as he faced 113 balls, included eight fours and a six. Craig Symington (6-47) enjoyed a good return for the hosts but their batting had no answer to the skills of Indrasiri (4-45) and Neil Russell (4-23). They were bowled out for 113.
New South African ‘pro’ Dominic Hendricks showed his value to Marske with 74 from 90 balls to lead the side beyond 200 against Thornaby. He hit six fours and three sixes to share a stand of 77 with Joe Wing, who also went on to take four wickets.
All-rounder Jon Pickard finished off Thornaby by taking three wickets in just five balls. Their all out score of 142 included a half century from Rizwan Hussain but Marske’s 77 run victory came with just three balls remaining.
Janaka Gunarathne’s return to Normanby Hall was marked with a superb knock of 83, including 48 in boundaries, but his side’s 50-over total of 170 for seven wasn’t enough against Guisborough, who won by four wickets with six balls remaining. Mosharraf Hossain (4-58) and Martin Hood (47) were their match winners.