A SECOND week of sunshine and surprises brought the sweet taste of revenge for Darlington, a magnificent career best eight wicket haul for Sedgefield’s Steve Naylor, and a batting collapse which turned a likely victory into a crushing defeat for Stokesley.

And there was little joy for the two newly promoted clubs with Redcar crashing to a second heavy defeat and Saltburn unable to contain an impressive Great Ayton side to suffer their first reverse for a season and a half.

The village club, in fact, have become the early championship pacemakers along with Darlington whose victory over current champions Richmondshire provided the satisfaction of gaining revenge for the title being snatched away from them in the final weeks of last season.

Saturday’s “rematch” featured a pulsating last over finish with Richmond bowled out for 111 with just three balls remaining after earlier suffering a mid-innings collapse of alarming proportions.

Responding to the home club’s healthy total of 163-7, the Dalesmen lost four wickets for just one run half way through the reply, and although a seventh-wicket recovery between Matthew Cowling and Sam Wood was to follow they were never able to regain their grip on the game.

The formidable Quakers’ trio of Peter Armstrong (4-42 from 15.3 overs), Doug Mulholland (3-25 from 17) and Jon Barnes (3-38 also from 17) had a stranglehold on their visitors to Feethams from the moment they removed Gary Pratt, the previous week’s star performer with 147, for just five runs. James Clarkson, with 27, finished as top scorer with Cowling’s 22 in a determined but ultimately unsuccessful match saving effort.

Newcomer Harry Linton (40) was impressive when Darlington took first knock.

Great Ayton’s rapid rise to the top of the league table came with victory by six wickets at Saltburn where they were set to score 175 and managed with nine overs to spare.

For the second week Chris Batchelor, with an unbeaten 91, was in superb form and he now has 168 without being out. He hit 48 in boundaries against the Seasiders with Neil Pearson (38) sharing in an opening stand of 76. In contrast jet-lagged professional, Nick Hendrie had an unfortunate baptism, getting a firstball duck just hours after arriving from South Africa.

Paul Allen hit a superb 76 for Saltburn and Steve Pennock, with four wickets, was Ayton’s top bowler.

Steve Naylor’s eight-wicket feat at Sedgefield came close to inflicting an unlikely defeat on Middlesbrough, but when his 17 overs were completed in conceding just 40 runs, Boro held out to snatch a draw.

Academy all-rounder Ryan Buckley stood firm to remain unbeaten on 21 as seven wickets fell for 68 runs. Earlier former Billingham captain Martin Cull had shown what an asset he is to his new team by bowling 17 overs and conceding just 26 runs. Sedgefield had posted 125-6 from their 50 overs with Naylor showing his aptitude as an all-rounder by hitting 33 in a partnership with Richard Hawthorne (34).

Stokesley faced the sort of collapse so familiar to them early last season when they were beaten at Hartlepool by 20 runs. Responding to the hosts’ 140-9, they were looking good on 80-1 with Andrew Weighell in his best form as he hit 61 from 79 balls including 11 fours. But they slumped to 120 all out with Jonathan Rickard (5-35) and Marc Symington (3-30) leading the victory charge. Jack Wilkinson, with 65, batted throughout the 50 overs to play a real captain’s role for Pool.

The Northern Echo: Durham’s Ben Stokes
Durham’s Ben Stokes

Redcar find themselves with just one point from their first two games after defeat on the opening day against Stokesley was followed by another harsh lesson at the hands of Guisborough who triumphed by seven wickets.

The Seasiders were bowled out for just 65 runs with Chris Nicholls (4-18), new professional Ranil Dhammika (4-9), and Stuart Lobb (2-22) proving a formidable threesome. Redcar’s batsmen were all at sea against them but an eighth wicket stand between Muhammad Saad (17) and Ben Hutchinson (16) almost doubled the score.

Belgium international Faizal Khan (5-39) led Barnard Castle to victory over Normanby Hall who, without their overseas professional who is due to arrive later this week, have now lost both their matches. The Hall managed just 117 and went down by seven wickets.

An hour of the game at Thornaby was lost while the outfield was mopped up following the morning’s rain. It meant 18 fewer overs and although Marton posted 157-8 they hadn’t enough time to bowl out their hosts who finished on 99-7.