As we enter the last scheduled group matches we know most of the likely section winners, but there is a complicated end of the season scenario for both the Division One Cup East and the Division Three Cup West sections.
East Bierley, who were leading the Division One Cup East section by 15-points before last week, were brought down to earth by a crushing defeat by rivals Birstall.
Similarly, Rodley were looking good and -bossing the Division Three Cup West section until lowly Adwalton confounded the odds by successfully chasing 244-8.
However, the big focal point this week will be in Division One East where four out of five clubs are now in contention to win the group and reach the final.
Division One Cup East:
The East Section was looking as though it would go East Bierley’s way, but after Birstall’s visit to South View Road last week it has become a real dogfight between four sides.
Birstall produced the performance of last week when they defeated previous leaders East Bierley by 121 runs.
After East Bierley had taken the first four Birstall wickets they had a tight control of the match. However, they could not break a fifth-wicket partnership between Nick Kaye, pictured top, and Benedict Gundry which proved to be their undoing.
They batsmen `played’ themselves in carefully, before launching an offensive that took the game away from Bierley.
The fifth-wicket stand was worth 154, including 12 sixes between Kaye (90no) and Gundry (69) who powered Birstall to a winning 236-5.
This remarkable victory has set up the following scenario of Gomersal (75 points), Birstall (74), East Bierley (73) and Carlton (71) all capable of winning the group.
Carlton revived their hopes of making the final with an 85-run victory over Hartshead Moor in their inter-divisional fixture.
Big-hitting Jonathan Rudge struck six sixes in his unbeaten 65 which, along with Daniel White’s 57, helped Carlton to post a score of 189-8. Joe Wood picked up 3-44 for Hartshead Moor.
Arman Hussain (3-26), Nick Busby (3-33) and Farrouk Alam (3-4) joined forces to bowl out Hartshead Moor for 104.
Carlton are at home to leaders Gomersal in a clash that takes top billing in this section.
East Bierley has an inter-divisional clash at Keighley which could necessitate the winning of maximum points for them to return to the top.
Keighley will need to be watched after making no mistake last week at Baildon, winning by the considerable margin of 120-runs.
James Wilmshurst took a hat-trick as he returned figures of 5-14 and was backed up well by Ben Hemsley (4-13) as Baildon capitulated to 72.
Raees Hussain and Nathan Storton both made 36 in Keighley’s 192, while off spinner Simon Bailey impressed with 5-30 for the Jenny Laners.
Birstall are probably favourites to top the group, having a home fixture with bottom club Ossett. However, the Birstall secretary Mark Gilman thinks otherwise, and he is grateful for some substantive cricket this season.
He said: “Initially, congratulations to the league, umpires and all the clubs for getting the game on this year. The format has been good and the restriction on bowlers means more players are involved in the game, and that was important this year. Maybe this is something we should look at when we hopefully go back to 50-over cricket next year.
“We are losing players across the board; most players don’t just want to turn up to field, so if teams maybe have to use a minimum of five bowlers, then maybe these “fielders” might get a chance to bowl a few overs and keep them in the game.
“In terms of the current season, we’ve just been happy to finally get some games in and have enjoyed the shortened season in the Covid Cup. After our traditional slow start, we have a chance of topping the group, something I would have given you long odds on after the first two games."
He added: “Our section has been extremely competitive with everyone beating everyone else and you can’t really call any game with much certainty. There’s not much between any of the sides in the division and that’s made the cricket all the more competitive for it. Consequently, the positions within the league table are forever changing with a win lifting you from bottom to top.
“Whilst we beat Ossett earlier in the season, it was a tight game and we came out on the right side that time. But knowing many of their players, they will be up for giving us a bloody nose on Saturday where a win for them could see them leapfrog us in the table.
“For our part, last week’s victory over East Bierley was our best performance to date. It was a must win game for us and fortunately we produced our best performance of the season.
“We struggled early on with the bat and were in a little trouble at 58-4, but one of our strengths is our batting down the order. Nick Kaye and Ben Gundry initially batted watchfully and patiently, before finally exploding with 128 runs in the last 10 overs to put us in a commanding position at tea”.
“To back this up, we then bowled probably the best we have as a unit this season and to restrict Bierley’s bonus points was also key for us. Whoever wins our section of the league will host Pudsey Congs in the `play-off’ and that’s a massive carrot for us all to chase.”
Gilman concludes: “As I said, there’s no foregone conclusion for any of the four sides in contention. Gomersal is in pole position a point ahead of us; Bierley one behind and Carlton a further two points behind them. All of us are in with a chance of topping the group and I’m sure no quarter will be asked or given in any of the matches this weekend.”
Please click the picture to take the survey
Premier Division Cup West:
Pudsey St Lawrence, who have an 11-point lead at the top, know exactly what they need to do when they face Cleckheaton at Tofts Road, while second place New Farnley should make no mistake against win-less Morley.
Last week, St Lawrence had a comfortable 97-run win at Morley with their talented young all-rounder Archie Scott playing a key role. After scoring an unbeaten 36 to give good support to top scorer Mark Robertshaw (50), he took an impressive 5-13 with his spin bowling.
Cleckheaton will certainly not roll over judging by their fighting performance last week when they beat Bradford & Bingley by one-wicket with just three balls to spare.
Iain Wardlaw, who made a valuable 32 not out, hit the winning runs when he edged a four to third man. He made sure that the earlier good work of Toby Booth (42) and Kris Ward (36) wasn’t wasted as Bradford & Bingley skipper Ed Brown (4-32) threatened to turn the game in his side’s favour as they fought to defend a score of 186.
New Farnley had a 133-run victory over Wrenthorpe with skipper Lee Goddard (87 runs) and Sam Barraclough (4-23) starring for their side.
Whoever wins this group, it was good to see Pudsey St Lawrence players visit New Farnley last Saturday night for drinks, giving their support for the arson-hit club.
Nick Connolly has been in good form for Hanging Heaton Picture: Ray Spencer
Premier Division Cup East:
Townville, who lead the East Section by 10-points, are favourites to take the group title.
They face a Methley side that have found it difficult to compete this season, and their latest defeat at the hands of Hanging Heaton was a 10-wicket setback.
Hanging Heaton’s Nick Conn0lly was in form with a scintillating 76 not out, and his side can only try and beat Bradford & Bingley in the inter-divisional match and hope Methley pull off a shock win against Townville.
Townville have proved this season that they have more than a few players that stand up and be counted.
Last week, Harry Clewett made a match-winning 58 not out in what could well have been a `banana skin’ game against Batley.
Batley, despite losing by four wickets, battled all the way, with Imran Mahboob (4-14) making Townville fight for the win.
They will be keen to end their season with a win at Wrenthorpe who sit 24-points behind them.
Division One Cup West:
Pudsey Congs are assured of a final appearance despite Bankfoot ending their run of six straight wins.
Bankfoot will finish in second place after playing some excellent cricket this season.
Their 59-run win was a team effort with Daniel Colehan (41) and Josh Marsden (31) excelling with the bat, and James Lee (3-17), Andrew Stothart (3-27) and Hisan Ahmad (3-13) doing their stuff with the ball.
Pudsey Congs have a home mach with struggling Baildon, while Bankfoot visit Hartshead Moor.
Division Two Cup West:
Kez Ahmed has been making his mark with the bat for Jer Lane during his loan spell Picture: Ray Spencer
Jer Lane has been the most commanding group leaders this season, and this was indicated by their latest one-sided triumph.
Their 112-run win over Northowram Fields was built around some excellent individual performances from Farakh Hussain (51), Haseeb Rehman (54) and Kez Ahmed (62) who is enjoying something of a renaissance with the bat. The latter will doubtless claim he is worth a higher batting position back at his Woodlands club.
Mohammed Jamal (4-39) and Zeeshan Qasim (3-10) were just too good for Northowram Fields.
Second-placed Buttershaw St Paul’s, won by four wickets in a low-scoring encounter with Bowling Old Lane. Kamran Siddique (4-19) and James Sawyer (3-3) took the honours as the Old Lane were dismissed for 73.
Jer Lane will doubtless use the Bowling Old Lane game to prime their players for final day action against a good Sandal side.
Northowram Fields should end their season with a victory over Scholes who have struggled this season.
Buttershaw St Paul’s can complete their good season by defeating East Ardsley in an inter-divisional game.
Division Two Cup East:
Sandal are convincing winners of the East Section despite their match with Scholes being a victim to Covid-19.
Spen Victoria more or less guaranteed second place after a 51-run win over Hopton Mills.
Amjad Tariq (49) and Adil Islam (40) helped Spen make 181, despite the determined efforts of Chris Scott (4-22) and Oliver Ramsay (3-21).
Sandal will be looking to use the match with Spen Victoria to tune in their players for the final at Jer Lane.
Hopton Mills close their programme with a home match with Hunslet Nelson.
Division Three Cup:
All thoughts in Division Three surround the inter-divisional match between West Section leaders Rodley, and East Section leaders Altofts.
They both have it in their own hands to win their section, but it will be complicated if they do not, with Crossbank Methodists and Oulton respectively, ready to pounce.
Rodley’s hopes of clinching the title were scuppered last week when they could not defend a challenging score of 244-8. Bailey Wilson (88), Robert Young (36) and Callum Postle (30) led the way for what should have been a winning total,
However, Adwalton were not daunted by the challenge and knocked off the runs with 11 balls to spare thanks to Will Cutt (58), Daniel Shaw (46) and Shoaib Rehman (30) who kept up with the run rate.
Crossbank Methodists kept on Rodley’s tail after taking a maximum 20 points in a nine-wicket win over Heckmondwike & Carlinghow. Timmy Saghir took 4-22 and Imran Patel (4-11) as Heckmondwike & Carlinghow were skittled out for 47.
This weekend’s fixtures pit Rodley at home to East Section leaders Altofts while Crossbank Methodists are at hosts to Adwalton.
On paper at least, Rodley have the more severe test playing Altofts, who need to win to keep Oulton at bay.
Altofts survived a scare last week against Great Preston as they recovered from 42-6 to record a one-wicket triumph. Elliot Carter (43) and Adam Perry (31) helped them edge past Great Preston’s 120 total.
Rodley Chairman Steve Bradbury had this to say about the big crunch match on Saturday, “We are looking forward to the visit of Altofts on Saturday who have been `head and shoulders’ the best team we have faced this season. Rodley need 14 points to be mathematically guaranteed a place in the play-off final against Altofts, but against a team who have only dropped nine points in their season so far, this will not be an easy ask”.
“We come into the match with a team keen to demonstrate their ability and determined to secure the Division Tyree West top spot. Whatever the result the visitors will receive a warm welcome.
“We approach the fixture top of the division and we are delighted with the progress shown this season. A sloppy performance against Heckmondwike & Carlinghow was disappointing, and a poor fielding performance at Adwalton last week means that we are closer to the pack than ideal. However, we have thoroughly enjoyed the cricket and are delighted with the progress seen again this year.
“Our development plans include a steady improvement in our league positions, and I believe that we have finished higher in every subsequent season that we have had in The Gordon Rigg Bradford Premier League. Should the East and West divisions be merged then 2020 would have continued that trend.”
He added: “We made the difficult decision to shelve our second eleven this season and decided to field one team each in the Bradford League and the Dales Council. Alongside our first eleven being top, our thirds have secured the divisional title and have been unbeaten so far.
“Each week between six and nine juniors are playing and its testament to their development that they have all contributed, playing with calm heads week in, week out. In 2021 we will be returning to three senior Saturday teams”.
“Junior wise, a couple of our teams lost players because of Covid concerns, and we have fielded sides at U18, U11 and U9s. The older group have been particularly badly affected by the weather, but the two younger sides have performed remarkably well. The U11s have lost just one game whilst the U9s have won every game in a competitive Airedale & Wharfedale Junior Cricket League.”
Bradbury concludes: “Our five--year development plan includes improving the playing surface, outfield, practice facilities, access and security in addition to our ambitions about playing strength. Earlier this year the club invested in new outfield and wicket mowers and we continue to follow plans prescribed by an ECB pitch adviser.”
Oulton kept alive their hopes of sealing their last season in the league with a place in the final by securing a 52-run win over Brighouse.
Wicketkeeper Josh Neal made 46 as Oulton were made to work hard for their 127 as Sohail Hussain took 5-1. Brighouse also found batting difficult and were all out for 73 with Jonathan Anson taking 4-5.
Oulton play East Leeds in what is likely to be the last in the Gordon Rigg Bradford Premier League.
The other fixtures are Heckmondwike & Carlinghow v Brighouse and Great Preston v Gildersome & Farnley Hill
Last week, Gildersome & Farnley Hill bowled out East Leeds for 84 to secure a 98-run win. Gethin Clarke was again in good form with the bat and made top score of 56 in his team’s challenging 182-8. The consistent Liam Pearson picked up 5-33 as East Leeds was bowled out for 84.