With a lead of 22 points over Barnard Castle going into the weekend, Richmondshire hoped to secure the title or at least go into next weekend’s final game not needing too many points.
Saturday’s home fixture with Saltburn saw Richmondshire with a depleted squad due to the absence of Shaun Charlton and Owen Kelly.
With reduced bowling options having won the toss they decided to bat second, even though this would reduce the win points to 20.
Meanwhile, bottom of the table Normanby Hall put Barnard Castle into bat giving them the chance of 25.
Saltburn’s openers made a strong start and the score was 107 when the first wicket fell and 143 when the second wicket went.
At that point it looked as though Richmondshire could be chasing a big total but the Saltburn batting line up isn’t deep and the Richmondshire bowlers began to get on top, finally bowling out Saltburn for 201 after 49.3 overs.
The Richmondshire innings got off to a good start through openers Bob Carr and Tom Dowson and they had taken the score to 70 before Tom fell for 33.
A partnership of 75 between Bob and Gary Pratt took the score to 145 before Bob was bowled for 68.
With Gary anchoring the innings with 45 not out, Mike Layfield (14) and Matty Cowling (23 not out) went after the Saltburn attack. Matty wrapping up the win with two mighty sixes.
This left Richmondshire sweating on events at Normanby, where Normanby Hall were proving more resistant than expected against Barnard Castle.
Batting first Barnard Castle had made 270 for five declared. By declaring after 44 overs they gave themselves an extra six overs to bowl Normanby out.
At that point when Richmondshire sealed their victory, Normanby had three wickets down but still quite a few overs to survive.
Richmondshire followers were left frantically updating their Playcricket scoring app to follow the game’s progress as more wickets fell.
In the 55th over two more wickets went leaving Barnard Castle seven balls to get the last wicket. Normanby held out to leave Barnard Castle with just 15 points.
This meant that with Richmondshire and Barnard Castle meeting in the traditional Bank Holiday Monday fixture at Barnard Castle there was a chance of the title being decided.
Whereas Saturday’s game had been played in hot sunshine, Monday’s weather was bitterly cold with a regular spells of drizzle, making watching cricket a much less pleasant experience.
Despite that the game was enthralling high drama.
Now 27 points, behind Barnard Castle won the toss and elected to bat to go for the desperately needed 25 points.
Richmondshire had Shaun Charlton and Owen Kelly back in the side but the opening bowlers again struggled to make any impact as Barnard Castle progressed to 47.
The introduction of Sam Wood to the attack changed the game, as with a devastating spell of bowling he took a career best seven for 30. Barnard Castle being bowled out for 175 after 49.5 overs.
Tom Dowson having a great day behind the stumps with two brilliant catches and a stumping.
After a reasonable start the Richmondshire innings began to get bogged down against tight Barnard Castle bowling but they were almost halfway to the required total when Bob Carr was out LBW for 26.
When Gary Pratt was given LBW by the same umpire just three balls later (one of five LBW decisions in the innings) things were starting to look ominous for Richmondshire.
Mike Layfield went for 13 and Steve Mather lasted only four balls before he was also LBW.
At this point Richmondshire were intent on survival by batting out for the draw.
Barnard Castle seemed to be intent on drawing out the game as the light failed and rain threatened, knowing that a Duckworth Lewis decided game would give them the 25 points.
A backs to the wall effort by Matty Cowling, surviving 46 balls for 19 and Owen Kelly surviving 34 balls for 35 saved the game.
Hitting boundaries when the spectators were struggling to even see the ball Owen actually managed to bring the total to within five of a win. The win was no longer important as with Richmondshire taking 12 points to Barnard Castles 11, a 28 point lead guaranteed Richmondshire the title.
In the other weekend games the 2nd team lost at Darlington by six wickets. This leaves them just above the relegation places but hopefully with enough of a margin to survive.
Blackhall conceded Saturday’s game to the 4th team who then went on to defeat Northallerton on Monday which should secure the league title. Richmondshire made 219 for three declared thanks to a century from Clive Layfield (101 not out) and 53 from John Clark.
Northallerton could only manage 103 with Andy Dade wrapping up the innings with four for six.
The 25 points leaves the 29 ahead of second place Stockton with one game remaining.
The 5th team travelled to Middleton in Teesdale who made 166 all out in 33 overs. Eight of the wickets fell to Richmondshire under 13 bowlers. In reply Richmondshire made 139 for 9, under 13 Jack Platt top scoring with 28.