Defeat by Darlington and the weather left Richmondshire three points behind Middlesbrough in a dramatic final day.
Having led by 17 points and with a game in hand just three weeks ago, Richmondshire have suffered a collapse in form at just the wrong time.
Prior to Saturday’s game they had lost two of the last three while Middlesbrough were on a three game winning run.
Darlington frustrated Richmondshire plans when they won the toss and opted to bat. This meant that to get 25 points Richmondshire would need to bowl Darlington out. This was beginning to look unlikely as former Richmondshire player Nathan Wright looked well set on his way to 69 not out, when the forecast downpour arrived.
This held up play for about an hour and when play resumed two wickets in an over from Shafi brought Darlington’s score to 122 for six.
Richmondshire then struggled to make any further breakthrough and news coming through from Middlesbrough showed they were strong favourites to take 25 points against Barnard Castle.
The need to take wickets became urgent and Richmondshire brought the field in to pressure the batsmen. Two wickets for Shafi (six for 30) in the penultimate over raised hopes but five balls (one a wide) of Harvey Websdale’s final over had gone with no further wicket,
Then to huge cheers the last two balls brought the final two wickets with a clean bowled and an lbw. This put the league in Richmondshire’s own hands as a win would give 25 points and an unassailable lead.
The rain interruption meant the Duckworth Lewis formula for rain affected games would apply and Richmondshire had 39 overs to score 147. At less than four an over, on the face of it, not a tough target, although the wicket was making batting tough.
Richmondshire’s inning got off to a bad start when Tom Dowson, still struggling with a broken finger, was out first ball. Captain Bob Carr followed with score on 22 and Mike Layfield at 33 for three.
Gary Pratt anchoring the innings was joined by Owen Kelly, who with 23 from 24 balls raised Richmondshire hopes. When he was bowled by ex-Richmondshire favourite Craig Marshall, no other batsmen could stay at the crease long enough for Gary to make the winning runs.
Forced to go on the attack with 28 still needed and one wicket left Gary was caught for 63. With five bowling points and two batting points Richmondshire took seven from the game. Meanwhile the downpour had arrived at Middlesbrough with Barnard Castle 45 for 3 chasing 190 all out.
Play never resumed and not enough overs had been played in the second innings for Duckworth Lewis to apply thus giving both sides 11 points, enough for Middlesbrough to take the league by three points. After such a fine summer it was sad for the final day to be ruined by rain and we will never know what may have happened if the Middlesbrough game could have been completed.
The 2nds were the only other Richmondshire team to complete their fixture on Saturday, having won the game at Wolviston before the rains came. Wolsviston made 151 all out with Dale Marshall taking three for 37, Jonny Carr three for 50 and Vittal Raj three for 18. In reply Richmondshire took 31.5 overs to make 154 for five, Brad Elsworth 67 and Jamie Stead 45 leading the scorers. The 25 points left them a very creditable fifth in the table and winner of the top second team trophy.
The 4ths had made 217 for 9 at Thornaby 2nds before the game was rained off, Jonny Baines top scoring with 48. The 4ths end a respectable mid table after promotion last season. The 5ths game was abandoned after just eight overs with Middleton in Teesdale 34 for no wicket, when the Richmond School ground was hit by the worst of the downpour. They have two home fixtures remaining.
On Sunday the 3rds wrapped up their season at Hartlepool, who made 199 for four after being put in. 51 not out from Jamie Stead and 46 from Jake Percival earned an eight point draw as Richmondshire made 160 for six. This was enough to keep them top of the table by just one point over Norton who had taken 25 points for a win at Marton.
The 3rd team acts as the club’s development side and under the captaincy of Dave Moffat and the guidance of experienced players such as Andy Dade and Jamie Stead has played a crucial role in bringing through first team players of the future.