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Fortune smiles on new leaders
Luck, as well as ability, plays a part in deciding championships, and as Richmondshire regained their place as league leaders for the third time this season they had to be grateful that the weather played a major role.
With rivals Darlington and Marton having their games washed out, the Dalesmen were fortunate to be in the one place where the rain appeared to be the least severe. Despite one worrying delay, Richmond were able to grab a vital win.
It made it possible for them not only to wipe away the nine-point pre-match lead held by the Quakers, but to gain a three-point advantage of their own.
Darlington's game at Feethams was abandoned at about the same time as the new title favourites were beginning their innings at Saltburn after they had skittled out their hosts for a meagre 88.
Umesh Karunaratne did his best to hold back the visitors' attack, and at 64-2 the Sri Lankan, on 26, looked like building a useful innings.
But three wickets fell, including his own, while just two further runs were chalked up and the rot continued with the next two batsmen gone for only six.
Fifteen were added before the eighth wicket went down, but one run later Saltburn were all out as the collapse was complete. Shani Dissanayake, who took three wickets from 9.2 overs, and Craig Marshall (3-22 from nine) got among the Seasiders who lost two of their other wickets to run-outs.
Richmond were left 28 overs to get the runs and, despite losing two wickets quickly, went on to win at a canter.
Gary Pratt hit two fours and a six in a top score of 32, and when he left they needed 25 to win with 17 overs remaining and James Clarkson (20no) saw the job completed.
Karunaratne took two of the four Richmond wickets to fall in an eight-over spell which cost 41 runs.
Richmondshire were last at the top six weeks ago and Marton and Darlington have since enjoyed spells as leaders each lasting two weekends.
Now, with six matches remaining, Quakers must be starting to wonder if they're to be dealt a similar blow to last season when the title was taken from under their noses by the Dalesmen in the final fortnight.
Middlesbrough scored 139-5 after 42 of their 50 overs when the heavens opened and the game was called off.
Brett Roberts (53no) had held up the home bowlers for whom Doug Mulholland (3-42 from 13 overs) was the main contributor. They took an early tea break when the rain started but never got back out again.
Marton saw their hopes of winning the championship dented when only 20 overs of their game at Great Ayton (80 without losing a wicket) were possible. They are now 16 points behind the new leaders, rather than the 11 they were trailing Darlington before they lost their place as table- toppers.
A half-century for Simon Tennant, 45 from Aamer Sajjad, and an unbeaten 44 from Ben Usher took Barney to 192-3 before Richard Borrowdale (5-53 in ten overs) left the one-time title contenders on 110-8. The game was subsequently abandoned.
Relegation-doomed Thornaby were struggling on 83-5 against Hartlepool when the rain arrived. Durham School star Adil Arif showed his all-round ability with three wickets in a 17-over spell in the absence of professional Marc Symington.
In yesterday's top-flight game, Stokesley beat Normanby Hall by three wickets in a game where runs were at a premium.
Hall laboured through 50 overs to end on 150-7, Shahid Khan top scoring with 33 and Andrew Weighell taking four wickets.
Stokesley got off to a solid start in the run chase but then wickets began to fall to the spin of Leigh Beaumont (4-26) and it took a watchful innings from Will Brown (33no) to edge his team past the winning post with just 15 balls to spare.
Victory took Stokesley to mid-table, but Normanby have an uphill battle if they are to escape relegation after slipping 19 points from safety with six games remaining.
In division one on Saturday, the fight for the two promotion places continued apace with Bishop Auckland and Seaton Carew remaining favourites despite their games being abandoned.
Bishops, relegated two seasons ago are heading the charge. They bowled out Billingham Synthonia for 58. The reply had just started when rain hit, but the 11 points they gained extended their lead over Seaton to 15 and over third-placed Marske to 31.
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