LESS than 24 hours after landing back in the UK following the long journey from Sri Lanka, Nisal Randika showed no sign of jet lag as he smashed a faultless century to lift the spirits of struggling Sedgefield.
And what the club hopes will be the first stage of a revival could not have come against more difficult opponents – an in-form Richmondshire, who might have expected to pursue their renewed bid for their third title by recording their ninth win in 14 games.
Having to be satisfied with a winning draw they saw the gap between themselves and leaders Darlington, who won a thriller at Marske, widen by an additional five points to 23.
A delighted Randika was one of three to enjoy scoring hundreds on a perfect batting wicket on the day, collecting his from 118 balls after Gary Pratt (117) and Mike Layfield (102 not out) had left the electric scoreboard sizzling hot as the Dalesmen reached 273-2, their season’s best.
Pratt, whose second century took him beyond 500 runs for the summer, hit 15 fours and two sixes in his 130-ball knock and shared a second-wicket stand of 189 with Layfield, who faced ten balls less than his partner, hitting 15 boundaries.
When Sedgefield replied Randika (103) and Niall Penfold (42) shared an opening partnership of 109, more than the entire team has scored in several previous games.
The Sri Lankan was the fourth to depart with the score on 181 after which Richmond struck four more times.
But Sedgefield held on, thanks to a vital knock of 24 by Rameez Nawaz, to end up with 219-8 having seen off an extra five overs due to a 45-over declaration by their opponents.
After making 34 from just 15 balls when batting, Shani Dissanayake enjoyed a 19-over bowling stint to finish with 3-53 for Richmond but didn’t bag the wicket of fellow countryman, Randika.
That fell to Craig Marshall (3-50 from 14 overs).
Darlington grabbed a 20-point victory on their visit to Marske, but it proved a real nailbiter as they only managed it from the second ball of the final over after surviving a dropped catch in the dying moments.
A sixth-wicket stand between Jon Barnes (47 not out) and Doug Mulholland (30), who normally win games with the ball rather than the bat, stopped veteran Chris Nicholls (5-37 from 17 overs) becoming the match-winner for the Seasiders.
Marske posted 183-7 with Jonathan Pickard crashing 44 from 55 balls as Barnes (3-19) and Mulholland (2-73) each bowled 17 overs.
Ben Wicling also hit 44 from 64 balls before the winning Barnes-Mulholland combo took over.
Up table moves for Great Ayton, now fourth, and Guisborough, who jumped a place to sixth, were among the day’s other top team performances, which included an eighth win for Stokesley who battered Redcar by the seaside.
They won by an impressive eight wickets after bowling out their hosts for just 99 runs, with Andrew Weighell (4-22 from 13.3 overs), Richard Chandler (3-27 from 17) and Dieter Klein (2-29 from ten) in the wickets and the only positive resistance provided by Redcar skipper Tom Urwin (40).
Stokesley romped home courtesy of the Weighells, James (44) and Andrew (34), sharing an unbeaten partnership of 52.
Mohammad Saad took both the wickets to fall.
Ayton also swamped Middlesbrough, who have now fallen back into one of the two relegation places.
Adil Ditta (70 not out) got stuck in for a 100-ball innings, in which he hit six fours and three sixes, despite being dropped in the slips in the 30s.
Lewis Harper (6-46) excelled as Boro were confined to 148-9.
But Ayton’s response was impressive as Chris Batchelor (43), Nick Hendrie (47 not out) and Steve Pennock (40 from 27 balls) made 150 look easy.
Both Batchelor and Hendrie passed the 500-run milestone, the third and fourth to do so.
Guisborough leapfrogged Marton as they won by six wickets to record a rare league double over them.
Marton were restricted to 163-9, with Alex Wardell (52) disappointed by the lack of support as Richard Dunn (4-43) did most damage.
Home professional, Roshen Silva, was in sparkling form as he hit a match-winning unbeaten 81 from 112 balls containing 11 boundaries.
The Priory outfit is currently one of the two most in-form sides in the league, having won five and drawn three, two of which were abandoned, of their last eight games.
They haven’t lost since mid- May and only Richmond have gone longer undefeated.
Saltburn moved out of the bottom two by taking 12 of the 22 points on offer in a drawn finish with Seaton Carew.
The Seasiders had John Watson (35) and Sam Parry (24) to thank for reaching 151-9, which was just too high a target for Seaton who finished 14 runs short with two wickets standing.
Paul Braithwaite (36 and 2-7) again showed his all-round class, while Niraj Patel (3-23) was best for Saltburn.