The two bank holiday games were always going to be critical and after surviving a scare against Thornaby on Saturday a loss to Barnard Castle on Monday threw the title race open again.
Going into the weekend two points behind Middlesbrough, Richmondshire had the chance to open a gap at the top with Middlesbrough having no fixture.
Thornaby have been Richmondshire’s bogie team this season, inflicting their one cup defeat. It looked as if there could be a repeat when Thornaby’s professionals Bukhari made 53 and Lewis Harper 60 taking them to 206 for 8.
In reply, Richmondshire had made a decent start with Tom Dowson making 23, Mike Layfield 63 and Gary Pratt 33 to get the score to 130 for three.
Tight bowling had kept the run rate slow and wickets fell when Richmondshire attempted to accelerate and 13 runs were still needed when the ninth wicket fell.
It was Australian amateur Tom Brookes who came to the rescue with 24 from 12 balls to hit the winning runs with just seven balls to spare, 20 points giving an 18 point lead over second place Middlesbrough, with all teams now having played an equal number of games.
Barnard Castle had a 25-point win to be a further 19 points behind.
The Monday bank holiday derby is always a needle match, drawing a big crowd to Barnard Castle.
Winning the toss and electing to bat first Barnard Castle made the Richmondshire attack struggle to make a breakthrough. Richmondshire captain Bob Carr placed his faith in the two spinners Shafi and Tom Brookes. Both had some success at times but also proved expensive with Barnard Castle reaching 234 for 8.
Richmondshire lost Tom Dowson, still hampered by a broken finger, early and found scoring difficult against tight Barney bowling. They lost wickets as they attempted to accelerate with some excellent catches being taken by the Barney fielders.
A victory began to look unlikely and it became a case of going for a draw or at least amassing as many points as possible. A fine half century from Matty Price, playing his first 1sts match for some time, improved the picture.
Eight points had been secured by the time Matty was last man out, caught on the boundary going for another big hit.
Eight points were enough to give Richmondshire a valuable one point lead going into the final weekend of fixtures, opening up a whole range of possible scenarios.
Richmondshire play Darlington at home, Darlington now without professional Muhammad Saad who has returned home. Middlesbrough have a home game against Barnard Castle who despite two 25 point wins this weekend are out of the running unless Richmondshire and Middlesbrough both take less than six points.
Between Richmondshire and Middlesbrough it could turn on the toss and batting first to get 25 points for the win. With an uncertain weather forecast the possibility of rain playing a part can’t be discounted but this would be a sad outcome after a largely fine summer.
Richmondshire 2nds got the reward of 20 points for their long journey to the outpost of the NYSD league Whitby. Put into bat Whitby made 107 all out with Dale Marshall taking three for 24 and James Kelly four for 13.
Richmondshire didn’t make the best of starts and slipped to 12 for two but a partnership of 63 between Marc Lockey (43 not out) and Brad Elsworth (49) took Richmondshire in sight of victory which was completed on 108 for three after 23 overs.
The 4th team visited Norton 2nds to win by 30 runs. Put in to bat they had made 55 before the first wicket fell with Andy Dade making 33 and John Clark 34. No other batsmen managed double figures and the innings closed at 122 all out after 34 overs.
The first four Norton wickets fell for 13 and with Michael Platt taking four for 19 and Mark Walker three for 26 Norton were dismissed for 92.
The 4ths then had another win on Bank holiday Monday when they played Redcar. Put into bat Redcar were dismissed for 193, Michael Platt again topping the bowling figures with four for 44 and Gareth Wood taking three for 48.
Richmondshire’s innings centered around 91 not out from John Clark and they reached 197 for four in 29 overs.
On Saturday the 5th team defeated Cliffe 2nds who batted first to score 129 for 9, with junior Will Shaefer taking four for 44 and John Bewell four for 34. A match winning innings of 80 not out from another junior Isaac Bottomley got Richmondshire to 132 for five in 27 overs.
The 3rd team had no game and remain top of the table by 18 points with one game remaining.