IT was wall to wall sunshine on the first truly glorious day of the cricketing summer, but it was a couple of backs to the wall efforts that held up the title ambitions of Darlington and Great Ayton as their opponents hung on to deny them maximum returns.

At the same time the other three sides who have helped establish a five team breakaway group at the top of the table all won to create a 28 point gap over the chasing pack.

Quakers had much the best of their encounter at Park Drive, Liam Coates maintaining his early season form with a good looking 74 that propelled Darlington to their first target of the afternoon, the five batting points. Two early strikes then placed an immediate strain on the home response and brothers Marc (34) and Craig Symington (27) had to dig in to stop the rot, and despite four wickets from visiting skipper Peter Armstrong the hosts were able to claim a small share of the spoils on 135-8.

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For the second year running Redcar were down to their final wicket against Great Ayton, and for the second year running they held on.

The villagers took control of the game through Chris Batchelor who struck 11 boundaries on his way to a top scoring 78 from 119 balls, and with David Grainge adding 39 it was only the miserly Mohammed Zahid (17 overs 3-38) who kept the visitors in reasonable check. Set a target of 202-7 the Seasiders were two down in the blink of an eye, but Tyler Easton got his head down to hold the visitors at bay with a 103-ball 57, and even though young Durham starlet Joe Marsay bagged four wickets Redcar’s last pair only had to face three balls which they duly survived to end on 148-9.

There was the sound of rapidly falling timber at the SCG as Sedgefield, who had begun to look capable of salvaging a draw from their meeting with Stokesley, lost five wickets without adding a run, defeat by the massive margin of 148 runs swiftly following.

With a daunting target of 244-7 playing on their minds the loss of three quick wickets eradicated any thoughts of a run chase from the Sedgefield batters’ minds, and stubborn resistance from skipper James Davidson (23 from 50 balls) and Niall Penfold (34 from 83 balls) held out hope that at least defeat could be avoided. But then the world caved in as 87-4 became 87-9. South African Dieter Klein (4-35) had already earned his best figures since joining Stokesley, and he fittingly bowled the last man to hand the home team the maximum return.

Earlier in the day, with the sun beating down, the home batsmen had enjoyed themselves, an opening partnership of 71 between Andrew Weighell (44 from 82 balls) and James Beaumont (76 from 139 balls) laid the foundations for Jonny Weighell to give the innings lift off as he blasted 8 fours and 3 sixes in a pulsating 65, scored from just 46 balls faced. The 25 points took Stokesley clear in second, further reward for the home skipper’s strength of purpose in batting first when winning the toss.

Middlesbrough hoped their double header of a weekend would see them claw their way out of bottom spot, but the first part of their planning came seriously unstuck at Barnard Castle where their hosts notched up 206-9 and then rolled Boro over for 116 to win with 16 balls of the match remaining.

Aussie Ben Turner added another 74 runs to his quickly burgeoning portfolio, his innings including eight fours and a six and lasting 98 balls. 33 extras was next top scorer as Barney posted a respectable but not unbeatable target, however the loss of the talismanic James Lowe in the first over of their reply was a major blow to Boro’s hopes. They recovered some composure to reach 39-1 but then a mid innings mini collapse saw three wickets go down for two runs to leave an uphill struggle, and one that proved too much as Simon Tennant and Jack Robinson shared six wickets for the victorious home side.

Richmondshire’s Shani Dissanayake was playing a familiar tune at Guisborough. The Sri Lankan looks intent on making up for lost time after his late arrival in the country. In partnership with Lewis Stabler (4-30) he undid the home innings with a 15 over spell of 5-38, and even though Chris Allinson (62 from 123 balls) resisted well the Priorymen were bowled out for 154 in the final over. Dissanayake then cracked eight boundaries in his 69-ball 58 which gave the Dalesmen the impetus to win with five wickets and ten overs in hand.

The seaside derby spoils went to Marske as their newly arrived Sri Lankan, Nadeera Nawela, impressed on debut. He took two wickets as Saltburn were pinned down to 159-9, and then hit a half century as he shared in a match defining partnership of 135 with Gary Lynch who went on to finish the job with 95 not out from 103 balls. Earlier Chris Nicholls (4-30 from 17 overs) had once again championed the virtues of line and length.

The closest game on Saturday was at Marton where a relieved home side held off the attentions of newly promoted Seaton Carew to win by just seven runs, the undoubted star of their success being Faizan Hussain who returned a career best 7-41 to topple the new boys. Quite a day for the youngster as it could be argued his unbeaten 14 from the number eleven slot had been almost as valuable as his wickets.