In another dramatic weekend of cricket Richmondshire 1st won twice to remain top of the NYSD Premiership but are still only four points clear.
The weekend started with a win over Hartlepool that turned out more difficult than it had seemed on paper.
With Hartlepool battling against relegation this had looked the easier of the games but it proved to be far from the case, as with Richmondshire short of two of their regular bowlers and not at their best in the field Hartlepool ran up a total of 233 for 8.
With Craig Swainston and Craig Marshall unavailable Richmondshire sprang a surprise with the selection of fifteen-year-old spinner James Kelly.
Although Richmondshire took two early wickets the dropping of professional Harsha Vithana on nought allowed Hartlepool to get a toe hold.
James Kelly brought into the attack first change showed maturity beyond his years to survive being hoisted onto the clubhouse roof by Vithana and the frustration of a series of confident leg before appeals being turned down.
He was rewarded with three wickets in the middle order, two caught behind by keeper Cowling and finally a successful lbw appeal.
This looked as it might lead to a batting collapse at 140 for 6 but Vithana found some more stubborn partners to allow him to go onto 102 and Hartlepool to set a challenging total.
The Richmondshire innings didn’t get off to a good start with Mike Layfield out for ten and when Gary Pratt was controversially given out caught behind on 52 the Richmondshire faithful began to fear the worse.
All the middle order managed to chip in with runs although the asking rate was starting to mount. Come the last over Richmondshire still needed seven to win and with a number ten batsmen Rob West, who won’t often have found himself in this situation, at the crease.
A six onto the clubhouse roof left Richmondshire level and another four off the penultimate ball of the game gave Richmondshire a critical twenty-point victory.
Meanwhile at Great Ayton a top of the table battle against Barnard Castle was going Ayton’s way, with Barney collapsing to 100 all out for Ayton to win by nine wickets and also gain twenty points.
Bank Holiday Monday being a local derby day saw Richmondshire visiting Barnard Castle, while Great Ayton were at neighbours Stokesley. Richmondshire saw the return of Craig Swainston and Craig Marshall but with Matty Cowling unavailable Mike Layfield took up the gloves.
Young James Kelly retaining his place after his Saturday performance. Barnard Castle, who won the toss and chose to bat, got off to an excellent start before the first wicket went down on ninety. Two more wickets then went down fairly quickly, the second of these being the key wicket of Karl Turner for an impressive 71.
James Finch and Richie Borrowdale then stage something of a recovery to go onto 171 before Sam Wood was reintroduced to the attack to bowl Borrowdale for 36. There then followed a couple more victims for James Kelly as the Barnard Castle batsmen became the victim of some fine catches as they attempted to accelerate.
Sam Wood then weighed in with a couple more and the innings ended on a relatively disappointing 203 for 8.
Richmondshire sprang a surprise by sending out Bob Carr to open with Gary Pratt and this looked an inspired decision as he took ten off the first over. Then on with the total on thirty he played inside a ball from opener Rod Dixon to be comprehensively bowled.
This brought in the more regular opener Mike Layfield, who along with Gary Pratt waited patiently for the bad ball to keep the rate moving along at the required four an over.
With a cold wind whistling round the ground, the large Richmondshire following were relieved when they started to accelerate to bring the game to its inevitable conclusion.
A series of fine boundaries and the final flourish of a six brought up the winning runs without further loss. Gary Pratt ending on 111 not out and Mike Layfield 66 not out.
So, another twenty points to stay top but the news coming in from Stokesley confirmed that Great Ayton had won by six wickets to keep pace with another twenty points.
With two games of the season left Richmondshire are four points ahead of Great Ayton, Marton move up to third twenty-five points back and after their disastrous weekend Barnard Castle are all but out of the race thirty seven points back.
In other weekend games, the effort of cobbling together sides meant all the fixtures went ahead but resulted in defeats for below strength sides.
The 2nds lost at Billingham Synthonia. The 4ths managed a respectable 143 for 5, with Clive Layfield 88 not out, but a below strength bowling attack couldn’t prevent Middleton St George knocking these off in twenty overs.
The 5ths managed to restrict Cliffe to 186 all out but then had a batting disaster to be all out 27.
The all-conquering Under 17s win again to make a clean sweep of trophies.
At Sundays fifteen-fifteen finals day at Billingham Synthonia the Under 17s again faced their rivals from the southern region, Saltburn. Short of a number of regular players this proved a slightly sterner test than their earlier encounter. Batting first Richmondshire lost three key batsmen in Sam Winter, James Kelly and Matty Price with less than fifty on the board but thirty-three not out form keeper George Spink and nineteen from Harvey Websdale got the final score to 120 for 9.
Requiring Saltburn to score at eight an over economical bowling and tight fielding proved vital. Saltburn ending on 106 for 6 with two run outs and only seven extras conceded.
This was the teams fifth trophy of the season, everyone available to them in the various cups and leagues. A performance all the more remarkable in that all the boys are available for at least one more year in this age group.