There is a raft of top matches this weekend, and none better than the clash at Lawns Lane, between New Farnley (2nd) and Pudsey St Lawrence (1st).
St Lawrence opened a 12-point lead at the top last week after a surprisingly easy eight-wicket win over champions Hanging Heaton at Tofts Road. In the big match of the day, Mark Robertshaw hit an unbeaten 85 after sterling efforts from his team’s bowlers Charlie Parker (3-25) and Chris Marsden (3-37) had reduced the Batley based side to a modest target.
New Farnley are now second after their crushing 10-wicket win at Scholes. Left-arm seam bowler Alex Lilley followed up his seven-wicket haul against Hanging Heaton, by going one better and returning the season’s best Premier Division figures of 8-36 as Scholes were skittled out for just 67.
The opening attack of Lilley, who is the leading wicket-taker in the division with 25, and former Yorkshire and England paceman Ajmal Shahzad, will certainly be a big tester for the Saints.
Chris Marsden has certainly excelled with the ball for the Saints this season and is taking the extra captaincy responsibilities in his stride. He realises the significance of Saturday’s match but plays down the importance of what is essentially just one game.
Earlier this week he said: “People are obviously billing this as a huge game, but ultimately it’s just another game to us. We need to be focused on every Saturday as if it's a big game.
“Normally the pressure would be on us being top of the league, however, with the marquee signings New Farnley have made, I believe they have increased the pressure on themselves to deliver the goods”.
Marsden went on to say: “We are playing some great cricket at the minute, and as long as we continue to do our basics right, and enjoy our cricket, we will be difficult to beat.
“New Farnley are also playing some good cricket and have plenty of match winners in their side. It will be a good challenge Saturday and we are looking forward to it”.
After losing to the Saints, Hanging Heaton has now slipped down to joint-third with Lightcliffe who have continued their march up the league.
Lightcliffe have a testing away match at Townville who had an impressive win at Wagon Lane beating Bradford & Bingley by 56 runs. Townville’s Richie Bresnan produced a fine all-round performance as he top scored with an unbeaten 58, and also took 3-12 as Bradford & Bingley were bowled out for 148.
Left-arm spinner Chris Greenwood ensured Lightcliffe would have no problem beating bottom side East Bierley by taking 5-12 as they were dismissed for 83. Opener Alex Stead (32) and overseas player Suleman Khan (32no) helped Lightcliffe to their modest target.
In fifth place are Farsley who beat Methley by 65 runs with overseas player Pat Kruger taking 6-55. Farsley face a Bradford & Bingley side who are struggling for consistency. The batting lacks depth with only Kyme Tahirkeli and Jonathan Whitehead making big scores so far this season.
Methley, who appear to have trouble fielding anything like their best side, are losing ground and have slipped down the table after their latest defeat. Things get no easier this weekend as they go to Bennett Lane to face Hanging Heaton.
Hanging Heaton will be keen to make a statement on the field after looking a shadow of their former selves in some matches in recent weeks.
Woodlands might have been early runners, but their batting crisis illustrated by their Pakistan overseas batsman Ishfaq Ahmad’s eight runs in five innings, leaves them vulnerable when they host Scholes.
This clash represents two `out of sorts’ sides with Scholes suffering the ignomy of a 10-wicket defeat last week, and occupying a relegation position.
Cleckheaton might well have turned the corner after rolling over Woodlands for a meagre 68, and new left-arm opening bowler Josh Thurwell taking an impressive 6-23. They also have their overseas batsman Tayyab Tahir firing on all cylinders as leading run-getter in the Premier league. The Moorend club have a further opportunity to climb the table when they visit East Bierley.
Woodlands v Scholes, East Bierley v Cleckheaton, Townville v Lightcliffe, Farsley v Bradford & Bingley, Hanging Heaton v Methley, New Farnley v Pudsey St Lawrence.
Undercliffe and Wrenthorpe are the new joint leaders of Championship One, with Morley five points further back in third place.
Undercliffe won the big match last week against Morley after finding themselves in trouble at 25-3. A fourth-wicket partnership of 152 between Fahid Rehman (98) and overseas player Khalid Usman (56) swayed the game in Undercliffe’s favour, and the latter helped to wrap up Morley’s reply with 3-21.
On Saturday the Intake Road side go to bottom-team Ossett who are still searching for their first win after losing a tight game with Hunslet Nelson.
Usman, who is proving to be a very influential signing for Undercliffe, returns to Dimple Well Road to do battle against his former club.
Wrenthorpe, who play Batley, maintained their challenge after seamers Jonathan Rudge (6-26) and Awais Ejaz (4-25) bowled Hartshead Moor out for 52. Their opponents Batley are now losing touch with the pacesetters after succumbing to Gomersal.
Morley face Pudsey Congs who edged a one-wicket win over Bankfoot, with James Ford (71) and Mustafa Raffique (5-47) proving to be the joint-match winners.
Although Morley lost their big match with Undercliffe they will be heartened by the form of their overseas all-rounder Sanga Cooray.
Gomersal are within touching distance of third place after bowling Batley out for 156 with left-arm spinner Chris Rhodes (4-17) still on top form. They face a Hunslet Nelson side that had a welcome win over Ossett after skipper Will Stiff had done most of the damage with 5-24.
Veteran spinner Mushtaq Ahmed (6-31) was instrumental in Baildon’s 29-run win at Yeadon to keep them in touch with the chasing pack. They have a home game against Hartshead Moor who are finding life difficult in Championship One.
Hartshead’s latest setback was against Wrenthorpe when they could only register a total of 52.
James Lee’s Bankfoot host Yeadon after a narrow defeat against Pudsey Congs. Yeadon are in need of urgent points being one of three teams at the bottom separated by two points.
Fixtures: Bankfoot v Yeadon, Morley v Pudsey Congs, Ossett v Undercliffe, Gomersal v Hunslet Nelson, Wrenthorpe v Batley, Baildon v Hartshead Moor.
Old Bradford League foes Brighouse and Bowling Old Lane go head to head at Russell Way this weekend. They both started the season a little sluggish, but are now piling on the points, and look capable of challenging.
Brighouse’s overseas player Deron Greaves dominated last week in his team’s win against East Ardsley, hitting two sixes and 10 fours in an innings of 64 not out, after earlier taking 3-24.
However, it is Keighley who are still on the summit after beating Altofts by 98-runs. Richard Gould showed his value to the side as he hit an unbeaten century. They go to Carlton who had a much needed victory against Spen Victoria with Daniel White starring with the bat to the tune of 61 not out.
Second-place Wakefield St Michael’s go to struggling Liversedge who have just one league win to their name. They lost last week by 10 wickets to a resurgent Birstall.
St Michael’s had batsmen Charith Cooray (78) and James Cooper (62) in form in their 66-run win over Northowram Fields.
Birstall all-rounder Josh Haynes is another man in form, scoring a century and taking three wickets last week, and will doubtless look to do the same against tenth place Altofts who were well beaten by Keighley.
East Ardsley go to bottom side Northowram Fields looking to arrest their recent slump and also hoping star batter Haseen Bashir recaptures his form of last season. Northowram are without a win and desperately needing points to stave off a relegation battle.
Another club needing points is Spen Victoria who lost by fourwickets to Carlton despite a fine bowling spell by Michael Flathers (5-34). They face Hopton Mills this weekend who are in a similar position after losing to Buttershaw St Paul’s.
They appeared to be heading for victory after good work from Michael Carroll (5-43) and Umar Abbas (4-50) had reduced Buttershaw to 52-6 chasing 163, but they eventually lost out by one wicket. The dependable Ashley Mackereth was again Hopton’s top scorer with 40.
St Paul’s, who have an `open date’ this weekend, have now won several tight games this season to illustrate their staying power. They are now third and with prolific wicket-takers in Amer Ayoub and Ben Platt in the camp, will be a threat to any team in the division.
Fixtures:Liversedge v Wakefield St Michael's, Carlton v Keighley, Brighouse v Bowling Old Lane, Spen Victoria v Hopton Mills, Altofts v Birstall, Northowram Fields v East Ardsley, Free: Buttershaw St Paul’s.
The top three of Jer Lane (99pts), Adwalton (96) and Oulton (95) appear to by drawing away from the rest with Azaad 26 points behind in fourth place.
Of the top three, Adwalton could be challenged most strongly as they face an unpredictable Crossbank Methodists side.
Last week Crossbank were back on track and up to fifth after their impressive 128-run win over Rodley. Batsmen James Lord and Imran Mayet excelled, and so did Paul Sauer and Adam Holroyd with the ball.
Adwalton were made to fight surprisingly hard for their two-wicket success against Gildersome & Farnley Hill, and were thankful for Ryan Robinson’s critical innings of 42.
Chairman of cricket at Adwalton Paul Bennett looks forward to the match. He said: “Crossbank is a game we always look forward to as we usually have very close games that can go either way- plus the teas are always `spot on’.
“Crossbank have had some terrific results and performances this year against the likes of Cawthorne and Methley They are also coming off the back of a good win against Rodley, so we will need to make sure we turn up and play well if we are to maintain our unbeaten start to the year”.
“We go into the game full of confidence due to that start and I couldn’t be happier with the way new captain Ryan Robinson has fitted into the club and the way the lads have responded to his leadership.
“This has been particularly shown by the way we have won some very close games this year with everyone contributing at some point during the first five league games”.
Bennett added: “Building on the way we finished last year, Ryan and Gareth have given us not only extra quality individually, but also improved the way we play and approach the game.
“They have certainly had a positive impact on our talented juniors. It’s a long season that will have many twists and turns, but it’s great to be in this position rather than the one we had last year where we were wondering where a win was coming from” .
Jer Lane, who had no trouble beating Windhill & Daisy Hill after Gurdev Singh had gone through them to claim 6-58, they face Heckmondwike & Carlinghow who lost to East Leeds, and in consequence find themselves in the bottom two.
Oulton, the only team to have beaten Jer Lane, will be keen to keep their run going as they face Sandal who has gained some form after beating Great Preston last week in a canter.
Lee Geldard took 7-10 as Great Preston was hustled out for 56. Oulton’s total of 152 all-out last week was enough to beat an Azaad side that can usually bat all the way down.
Great Preston will be still smarting from their seven-wicket defeat against Sandal, while their opponents this week, East Leeds, won last week thanks to Tom Chapman’s fine bowling analysis of 6-49 against Heckmondwike & Carlinghow.
Gildersome & Farnley Hill have a difficult game with Azaad, but their confidence will be boosted by their close game with contenders Adwalton.
Gildersome’s Ghulam Hussain, whose 63 contained five sixes and seven fours helped to set his team a challenging total only to lose by 2 wickets.
It’s still not happening for Windhill Daisy Hill as they search for their first win after battling hard against leaders Jer Lane. They face Rodley, who after a bright start to the season are now finding the going hard.
Fixtures:Heckmondwike v Jer Lane, Great Preston v East Leeds, Oulton v Sandal, Gildersome & Farnley Hill v Azaad, Crossbank Methodists v Adwalton, Windhill Daisy Hill v Rodley.
Top,picture: New Farnley opening batsman Martin Andersson Picture: Ray Spencer