STRUGGLING Middlesbrough continue to show no signs of a fightback as they remain without a win and in one of the relegation places after being comprehensively beaten by title favourites Darlington, who, by sharp contrast, are in their most impressive form.
Unbeaten after 11, the highflying league leaders managed to extend their advantage from 23 to 34 points over second-placed Barnard Castle and more important still, are 41 points ahead of Richmondshire, who have pipped them for the championship in each of the past two seasons.
The batting brilliance of Liam Coates, who hit a superb 127 to become the first in the league to reach 500 runs for the season, was the initial undoing of the Acklam Park side while the craft of skipper Pete Armstrong (5-56) and Doug Mulholland (4-38) totally suffocated them with their last five wickets falling for just five runs.
The Quakers, who enjoyed a 25 point victory after batting first to reach 236-4, were happy to watch the powerful hitting of Coates, who faced 129 balls with 12 fours and five sixes, finishing with a flurry of three massive straight hits over boundary edge fielders.
Dan Hodgson (43) shared in a 90-run stand for the third wicket with Coates, who was finally bowled in the penultimate over.
For Boro, youngsters Matty Bell (2-54) and Reece Wood (2-56) shared 19 overs but when it came to batting they were among those who were easily overpowered after James Lowe (40 from 93 balls including six boundaries) and Sam Gaudie (31) proved the only line of resistance. Boro faced 40 overs in making 127 in their reply.
Barnard Castle dropped valuable points when held to a draw by Redcar which made Stokesley’s defeat at Richmond not as bad as it might have seemed. Batting first, they made 150-9 with the Weighells, Jonny (56) and James (39), showing real determination as Lewis Stabler (3-9 from eight overs) produced a spectacular opening burst and Sam Wood (4-47) followed up with a strong 13 overs. The Dalesmen won by three wickets, with just two overs remaining, following steady partnerships involving Shani Dissanayake (37), Mike Layfield (34) and Stabler (29no). Andrew Weighell and James Beaumont, who each grabbed two wickets, took the result to the wire.
A run-fest at Seaton Carew – 472 were scored while just eight wickets fell – ended with a victory for Guisborough.
Richie Dunn, Graham Murray and Roshen Silva all made half centuries after being set to score 235 to win, and with Chris Allinson chipping in too, they passed the target with five balls to spare. Silva, the Sri Lankan pro, top scored with 75, his season’s highest, which included five fours and a six from 97 balls. Dunn (53 from 78 balls), Murray (50no from 49 with 40 in boundaries) and Allinson (42no from 49 balls) hit 17 boundaries between them.
Seaton Carew’s excellent contributions came from the Braithwaite brothers, Paul (71 from 91 balls with eight fours) and David (30) along with Sanjaya Rodrigo (64 from 93 balls).
The siblings shared an 84-run stand, the best of the match until Dunn and Silva enjoyed an opening partnership of 119 for the Priory club.
Marton and Great Ayton stayed handily in the top six after each handing out heavy defeats in games in which their opponents suffered batting slumps. Marske were skittled for 72 in just 28 overs with Dave McCabe (3-15) and Richard Hawthorne (3-17) in great form. Ayton bowled out Sedgefield for 74 with Michael Croft (6-16), David Grainge (2-7) and Joe Marsay (2-27) seeing nine of the wickets fall for just 25 runs.
Hartlepool shot out Saltburn for 108 with Craig Symington (4-31) and Mike Yuill (3-28) doing the damage. Club pro Jonathan Rickard hit an unbeaten 64 with five fours and three sixes, sharing a partnership of 60 with Alan Tebbett (24) as Pool won at a canter by seven wickets.