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Darlington sail on at the top
With the championship hopes of both Richmondshire and Great Ayton taking a further nosedive because of the weather while rain dodging Darlington sailed on relentlessly as leaders, the spotlight switched to the battle for survival.
For the clubs hovering around the relegation zone it has almost become crisis time, and for bottom club Billingham Synthonia there was real anxiety.
But the Synners became saints as they grabbed a win, only their second of the season, to make sure they didn't become separated from the pack.
Thornaby, third bottom, and now only four points better off than Billingham, looked like getting more than the 157-8 they posted when their professional, Indika de Seram, dominated the crease.
He hit an attractive 72 runs from 107 balls with six fours and a six, and featured in a stand of 82 with Rizwan Hussain for the fourth wicket after their first three wickets fell for just seven runs.
But Mike Yuill (3-34) followed the early success of skipper Martin Cull (3-35) to put the skids under their visitors. Then it was the turn of Stuart Lobb (68 from 83 balls) and Tariq Aziz (51 from 117 balls) to ease Billingham over the winning line with four wickets to spare.
Second-bottom Marske, now equal on points with Billingham, struggled at Hartlepool where Neil Coverdale (78) and Kasun Bodhisha (61) lifted their side to 199-7 with a stand of 122. The Seasiders slumped to 114-6 and finished on 143-7 as Bodhisha and Adil Arif each grabbed three wickets.
Of the teams on the edge of the danger zone, Stokesley and Normanby Hall were in opposition and just 17 runs separated them. Brett Roberts (47) and Graham Shaw (37) got the Hall beyond 200 before Andrew Weighell (67) led the fightback.
His 80-ball knock included ten fours. James Beaumont produced an unbeaten 56 before 15-year-old Tom Preece hit a boundary from the last ball to take Stokesley to 185-8 which gave them two extra bonus points and stopped the Hall collecting two more of their own.
The other endangered side, Sedgefield, will never be luckier and rivals Great Ayton never more unfortunate after a torrential donwpour cut short the final overs of their encounter.
The Premier newcomers were heading for defeat when heavy rain caused the match to be abandoned with Ayton needing 19 with seven wickets in hand and 13.4 overs left. It robbed them of 12 points and gave Sedgefield an extra six for the unlikely draw.
Ayton dominated with David Grainge (4-56 from 16 overs) and Mike Croft (3-10 from three overs) curtailing the hosts to 158-8. Ayton responded with a 65-run opening stand from 90 balls between Chris Batchelor (43) and Josh Thompson (36) before Brad Moses (30 not out) took them to 140-3.
The big surprise of the day was a nine-wicket defeat of Middlesbrough by league champions, Marton.
It was all over in 67 overs as Boro were skittled out for 109 by Upul Indrasiri (4-9 in 6.2 overs), Neil Russell (3-53) and Mattie Connelly (3-44). In Marton's 31-over reply Chris Simpson, with an unbeaten 55 from 101 balls including six boundaries, and Russell, with 43 from 73 balls with seven fours, made Boro look brittle.
Darlington's six wicket win over Barnard Castle (132-9) was achieved just minutes before Feethams was engulfed by rain, while Richmondshire had already been badly affected by two severe downpours which saw 30 of the 100 overs lost.
Gary Pratt (88) and Shani Dissanayake (80) shared an unfinished stand of 131 as the Dalesmen declared on 202-2, but Guisborough (43-3) were only left 24 overs batting time.
This counted as a no-result game with six points each for the draw plus bonuses. But Darlington, whose mighty trio of Peter Armstrong, Doug Mulholland and Jonathon Barnes took another nine wickets, were able to extend their table-topping lead by another eight points to 28.
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