Weather gods smile on Darlington
Their main rivals have made more use of wellies than whites this summer but Darlington's good fortune with the weather is giving them a massive advantage in their bid for the club’s first senior championship win in 22 years.
With Richmondshire and Great Ayton again stuck almost literally in the mud with their games abandoned after delayed starts, Darlington managed just short of four hour’s play in which they came dramatically close to recording their eighth win in 10 games.
But despite having to be satisfied with 13 points from a draw they extended their lead as the title pacesetters to 24 points.
The Feethams ground staff needed a team of helping hands to pump away gallons of water, mainly from the former football end of the ground, after the heavy overnight and morning downpours had put the game with Guisborough in danger.
But close on three hours after the normal starting time – with tea taken early – the match went ahead.
And the Quakers’ skipper, Peter Armstrong, might have wondered if all the hard work was to cruelly smack them in the face as they lost their first three wickets for just four runs in a sensational opening session.
The evergreen Jon Barnes turned his talents to scoring runs rather than stopping them and led a Darlington recovery which took them from 48 for five to finally reach 119 for seven from 30 overs.
Barnes hit 66 from 74 balls with 4 fours and 2 sixes, sharing in a sixth wicket partnership of 71 with Doug Mulholland who was unbeaten on 32. He faced 42 balls and hit two boundaries.
Guisborough’s reply began disastrously with their first five batsmen back in the pavilion with only 14 runs scored, the biggest top-order batting collapse anywhere in the league this season.
The vintage Barnes and the magnificent Mulholland, who were Darlington’s batting heroes, combined brilliantly as they shared the opening overs – Mulholland taking three wickets and Barnes the other two.
Ryan Murray led a brief fight back before being clean bowled by Armstrong for his first of two wickets as he and Martin Lower tried to dispose of a more stubborn Guisborough ‘tail’. But Chris Norminton and his skipper Chris Nicholls played out the final four overs on 60 for nine to frustrate their hosts and scramble a draw.
Barnes (2-13 from ten overs), Mulholland (3-14 from nine) and Armstrong (2-11 from six) were joined by Lower (1-9 from five). Among them they had 11 maidens.
But credit must go to Guisborough for the way they stayed at the wicket, first in drizzly conditions and later in more prolonged heavier rain to see the match through.
Frustrated Richmondshire had to temporarily abandon their championship hopes when their game with last season’s champions, Marton, was washed out after just nine overs and one ball.
Vice-skipper James Clarkson took two of three wickets to fall. Marton, who had been put into bat, finished on 28 for three. The match started late and had an interruption from the rain after six overs. Richmond got an extra bowling point to add to the six for an abandonment.
Third-placed Great Ayton managed just a couple of overs but took a Barnard Castle wicket before the weather turned nasty, yet just three miles down the road Stokesley got in 55 overs before the rain became the only winner.
Hartlepool hit 191 for the loss of four wickets with Marc Symington, 50 from 117 balls, and Adil Arif, 30 off 19 balls with 3 sixes, showing contrasting styles. Neil Coverdale was unbeaten on 41 and Kasun Bodhisha added 38.
Stokesley had scored 26 without losing a wicket in the ninth over when the game was abandoned, but the two extra bowling points they gained were a bonus in their fight to get off the bottom of the league.