RICHMONDSHIRE face one of their toughest assignments of the season today as they continue the defence of their Premier crown at in-form Marton.
A few weeks ago Marton seemed to be in trouble having lost both their overseas professional and three of their first four league games, but a run of three consecutive 25 pointers has lifted them to the fringe of the title race, and a sensational mid-week T20 performance simply confirmed their rehabilitation.
Meanwhile the Dalesmen, with two successive championships in their locker, remain a powerful side and have just been boosted by the news that left-arm paceman Lewis Stabler is likely to be available to them for the rest of the season. Although only 19, and still eligible for Yorkshire’s Academy team who play their games on a Saturday, younger players are now being given their opportunity with Stabler’s appearances being mainly in Yorkshire’s second team who play during the week.
Richmond are unchanged for the trip to Teesside whereas Marton will be missing Stabler’s Yorkshire teammate, Ryan Gibson, as well as Ben Hutchinson, and they hand opportunities to John Leadbitter and Dave McCabe, who has been enjoying the last few weeks of damp conditions with his bowling performances being a major factor in the club’s second team topping Division One.
Talking about Yorkshire it seems that Marske’s bold move in registering Adam Lyth as their home-based professional is not going to reap any dividends for them as the county star has been in wonderful form for his principal employers so far this season, his double century earlier this week taking him to the top of the national first-class run scoring charts.
Lyth has yet to pull on a Marske shirt, and it seems unlikely they will see too much of him, which is a slight concern for them as their overseas man, Sri Lankan Nadeera Nawela, was carrying an injury last week which hampered his contribution in the remarkable two run defeat at the hands of Barnard Castle, and also caused his withdrawal from the League side who played Durham last Sunday.
Marske make the short trip to rivals Redcar, and at least their resources have been boosted by the return to action of Chris Lince and Gary Lynch, but for the home team’s Callum Brown today’s derby will represent his final piece of action for the season as he undergoes a knee operation next week, which is expected to sideline him for several months. Redcar show one change with Mike Rix replacing Jonathan Cooper. Two successive defeats have dropped Great Ayton to the periphery of the title race, but they get the chance to put a spoke in Darlington’s championship wheel when they go to Feethams to take on the current leaders.
If they are to succeed they must come up with a way of coping with Jonny Barnes, who’s eight wickets for a paltry nine runs at Seaton Carew last week kept the Quakers firmly on course for success.
Barnes has had one better performance in his 24-year senior career, that coming in 2004 when he took 9-60 in a season where he ended up with 99 league wickets for Northallerton. There is no one better at exploiting damp pitches, and with the weather remaining changeable he looks set to increase his current tally of 34 wickets which have come at a miserly average of just five apiece.
Hartlepool fear skipper Marc Symington’s knee injury is worse than originally believed, and he may be facing an operation that would rule him out for the rest of the season. James Johnston comes in from the seconds to keep wicket when Pools entertain Middlesbrough this afternoon. Boro, of course, have their own problems and need a win sooner rather than later. But Paul Johnston won’t be facing his brother due to work commitments, his place taken by Adil Ditta.
Durham’s James Weighell returns to Stokesley action after missing last week following an injection to help the stress fracture he carried over the winter months, and it is hoped he will soon be given clearance to bowl.
Josh Linton is also back after recovering from a knee injury, and that puts the home side at full strength for the visit of Saltburn to the SCG. The Seasiders will be missing John Watson and Dan Conway, with John Bond and Gareth Russell-Hughes stepping in.
At the moment Kent prefer Mark Davies to work on his return to fitness at their county headquarters rather than get match practice, so he continues to be an absentee for Sedgefield who are unlikely to be changed when they entertain a Seaton Carew side seeking to banish the batting nightmares of last week’s performance. Seaton keep faith with the same team.
In the day’s final match top stumper Graeme Wrightson misses the Guisborough home game against a Barnard Castle side who travel east for the second week in succession hoping to repeat the hat-trick heroics and avoid any stings in the tail.
Barney are still buzzing after the win at Marske, and James Quinn returns to put them at full strength.