Farsley’s defeat of New Farnley last week has thrown the Premier Divisionn title race wide open with Pudsey St Lawrence (257 pts) the new leaders, followed by New Farnley (254), Hanging Heaton (252) and Farsley (245), in the closest battle in years.
Farsley, who were without James Wainman, skittled New Farnley with seamer Chris Henry taking a match-winning 5-47. This puts New Farnley under pressure this week when they have to face Hanging Heaton in what is in effect a dress rehearsal for the Heavy Woollen Cup final.
Hanging Heaton made short work of Scholes, bowling them out for 112 largely thanks to spinner Callum Geldart (5-34), while openers Gary Fellows (61no) and Ben Kohler-Cadmore (44) took their side to within two runs of victory before being parted.
The Bennett Lane club should be suitably buoyed by their spectacular progress in the Vitality ECB Club T20 competition.
The other big title clash this weekend is between local rivals Pudsey St Lawrence and Farsley at Tofts Road. St Lawrence had a routine victory last week, bowling out Townville for 123, and then knocking off the runs in an unbroken second-wicket stand of 104 between opener Mark Robertshaw (71no) and Charlie Best (33no).
Skipper Chris Marsden, who has battled injury problems to take 22 league wickets at 12.95, appreciates the good cricket that Farsley are currently playing. He said: "“It's a big game for both teams and we are playing some really good cricket at the moment and so are Farsley.
"They are a strong team who are high on confidence after beating New Farnley twice last weekend. Losing their overseas player Pat Kruger and James Wainman will be a blow for them because they have won games for them this year. But, they still have match winners in their ranks and it will be a good game if both teams play at their best”.
Marsden concludes, “It's good to be back at the top of the league but there is still a lot of cricket to be played. As I said, we are playing some really good cricket at the minute, but we have to focus on doing our basics right and concentrate on our own game between now and the end of the season”.
Probably the most critical match is the relegation struggle between Bradford & Bingley and bottom side East Bierley at Wagon Lane. This match represents a huge opportunity for Bingley to get in front of Scholes who have a difficult match against Cleckheaton.
For Bierley, it’s a must-win match, and even then, their chances of avoiding relegation are very remote.
Bingley lost decisively last week at Woodlands, but still gained three points on Scholes who failed to pick up a single point against high-flying Hanging Heaton.
Scholes’ opponents Cleckheaton continued to impress last week beating Lightcliffe by 102 runs with Tayyab Tahir (50) and Andrew Deegan (5-28) bossing the match.
Lightcliffe might be showing indifferent form of late, but they will be striving to do the double over Woodlands who they beat with ease in the corresponding fixture at Albert Terrace. Only opening bowler Yassir Abbas, who took 3-46 and Suleman Khan (3-60) made an impact last week.
Woodlands’ lack of stability in batting was not in evidence last week when Tim Jackson made a fine innings of 102, and was joined in an opening stand of 185 by Sam Frankland (94), as his side made 251-6.
For once, the unavailable spinner Chris Brice was not missed and in his absence Kez Ahmed took 5-20.
Methley’s impressive debut season in the top flight continues as they appear to be cementing a top-five place. The latest win was against East Bierley who could not cope with the `big guns’ and in particular Yorkshire’s Matthew Waite who top scored with 73.
The weekend Methley play their old Central Yorkshire League rivals Townville who are going through a bad patch.
When Townville slipped to 26-5 against Pudsey St Lawrence last week, the writing was on the wall despite a determined 40 from Conor Harvey. The nine-wicket defeat was in contrast to their recent narrow defeats inflicted on them by other title contenders New Farnley and Hanging Heaton.
Fixtures:Scholes v Cleckheaton, Lightcliffe v Woodlands, Bradford & Bingley v East Bierley, Methley v Townville, Pudsey St Lawrence v Farsley, New Farnley v Hanging Heaton.
It’s tight at the top with Undercliffe (253) and Wrenthorpe (252) continuing to enjoy a healthy lead on third place Morley (224 pts).
Leaders Undercliffe had to battle hard for victory last week at Pudsey Congs, edging to a one-wicket win, with Robert Williams (37) playing the key innings in chasing the home side’s 194-9.
This week they take on fourth place Bankfoot who defeated Hunslet Nelson by 74 runs. Half-centuries from Hisan Ahmad (68), Arsaam Malik (56) and Adam Wainwright (52no) effectively won the game for Bankfoot who made 250-5.
Undercliffe’s title credentials should be severely examined by a side led by James Lee who doesn’t fear any team at the moment.
Bankfoot Cricket Chairman Greg Colehan, who has a career record of more than 1,000 league wickets in First Team cricket, looks forward to the challenge of Undercliffe-
“We are obviously highly-delighted to be sitting in fourth place at this stage of the season after winning nine9 out of the last 10 games. We are hoping to finish off the season as strongly as possible, and it will be the ultimate test on Saturday against Undercliffe.
"They have a very powerful and strong side and deservedly sit at the top of the league and we have to play them twice in a matter of a couple of weeks”.
Colehan speaks about the work the club has done. "Our club model might be slightly different than other clubs in the division as we have put in a lot of effort off the field on the infrastructure. We got new` roll on covers’ last season, put more resources into the wicket and ground, and put in a new practice net this season. We have also created new access via patio doors into the changing rooms.”
“We are looking to build a sustainable model for future years both on and off the field with hopefully introducing a junior set up for the 2019 campaign. With this in mind we have tried to build a team with a number of younger players mixing with some experienced campaigners.
"The team has been fantastically led by captain James Lee who certainly commands the respect of his teammates and leads from the front with both bat and ball. In fact all the squad has contributed over the season and this makes it very satisfying.
"Our overseas player Arsaam Malik has fitted in well with 400 + runs and seasoned Bankfoot campaigners like Andrew Stothart 35 wickets and Kammy Siddique have done well. So have the lads who have come up from the 2nd X1 (who got promoted last year ) Players like Jawad Waheed who has scored 400 runs, besides opening the bowling, and Hisan Ahmad”
Colehan concludes- “Our four 18 year old lads in the team have also contributed over the season and we are delighted and very proud of their achievements. The team spirit has been great. The younger lads have had no pressure to perform as they are learning their trade in what is still a very tough league.
"We expect good things from them in the next few years. As long as they are learning along the way they will get plenty of help as well as `earache’ from the older pro’s who they are a great set of lads”.
Wrenthorpe go to Jenny Lane to face a Baildon side that appeared at the tea interval last week to be very much on the mend.
Baildon set Gomersal a target of 324 after Baildon openers George Barker (138) and Jack Hainsworth (86) had shared a stand of 171. However, their inability to defend this score despite the valiant efforts of veteran spinner Mushtaq Ahmed (5-63), will send get alarm bells ringing at Jenny Lane.
Wrenthorpe did not have it all their own way against bottom side Yeadon despite setting an impressive target of 293-8. Yeadon reached 264 with Mehran Ibrahim (4-72) and Awais Ejaz (3-59) ensuring an abortive chase.
Earlier, Ibrahim had made a fine 108 in a Wrenthorpe innings which also saw Luke Patel (76) and Jonathan Rudge (33) making valuable contributions.
Third-place Morley will fancy bridging the cap on the top two when they visit struggling Hunslet Nelson who’s skipper Will Stiff took 4-48 last week in a lost cause. Sri Lankan Sanga Cooray was again the star player for Morley as he took 5-50 in the defeat of Batley.
It might be a stiff task for Hunslet Nelson, but they need to start claiming decent point tallies as they are only13-points in front of second bottom Ossett who play at Batley.
Ossett built a good score of 252-7 last week after former county man John Sadler had top scored with 74 not out. However, they could not defend it as relegation rivals Hartshead Moor reached their target with eight overs to spare.
Batley might have lost to Morley last week, but they had Naveed Zamurad in form scoring 49 after earlier taking 4-26.
Pudsey Congs, who play bottom side Yeadon, gave leaders Undercliffe a tremendous match before going down by one-wicket. Congs all-rounder Jonathan Donnelly scored 52, and also took 6-47 in an encouraging performance for the 5th place side.
Their opponents Yeadon also had a virtuoso performer in a defeat. Chasing Wrenthorpe’s score of 293-8, Muhammad Naveed made a magnificent 130 from 71 balls, with six sixes and 15 fours in a 29-run loss.
Despite Hartshead Moor’s defeat of Ossett they still need good points hauls to draw themselves out of trouble. They will be looking to Mohammad Khan’s (92 not out) and Ali Shan (59), who both excelled last week, to continue their form against high scoring Gomersal.
Gomersal also have form batters illustrated by their successful chase of Baildon’s 324. Skipper Graham Hilton led the way with 81 and was backed mainly by Jonathan Boynton (62) and Joe Duffy (51).
Fixtures: Yeadon v Pudsey Congs, Undercliffe v Bankfoot, Hunslet Nelson v Morley, Batley v Ossett, Hartshead Moor v Gomersal, Baildon v Wrenthorpe.
The following day there is a full set of fixtures re-arranged from April 21st.
The top two Undercliffe and Wrenthorpe have home matches against Baildon, and Pudsey Congs respectively. For Morley, they will have to beat struggling Ossett to keep a catchable distance between them and the top two, but it won’t be easy against a side desperate for points to avoid relegation.
There is a big relegation battle at Hunslet Nelson where the home team do battle with Hartshead Moor. However, they are not in as much trouble as Yeadon who need a win at Batley to give themselves a flicker of hope in avoiding relegation.
Fixtures: Batley v Yeadon, Hunslet Nelson v Hartshead Moor, Undercliffe v Baildon, Wrenthorpe v Pudsey Congs, Morley v Ossett.
Keighley still lead the table by seven points, but have played one more match than second-placed Wakefield St Michael’s who are on their tail. Brighouse are 13-points further back after losing by one-wicket to the Wakefield side.
Leaders Keighley maintained their hold on top spot with a hard-fought five-wicket victory over Birstall after Louis Horsfield led the way with an unbeaten 73.
This weekend, Keighley will be looking for a 20-point victory over bottom side Liversedge who crashed to Northowram Fields last week.
Keighley’s morale must be high after they beat Sandal last Sunday to reach the Jack Hampshire Cup Final.
Second-placed Wakefield St Michael’s held their nerve to pull off a thrilling one-wicket win over Brighouse after last-wicket pair Ollie Lightfoot (28no) and Tom Robinson (6no) edged their side home.
Brighouse’s Quadratullah Azizi (44), Deron Greaves (41) and Quaisar Hameed (40) all showed form with the bat, and will need to continue this next week when they meet a Hopton Mills side fighting hard to avoid relegation.
Hopton Mills made 328-6 in their 100-run win over East Ardsley with Mark Ashton (115) and Ashley Mackereth (58) providing the bulk of the runs, and the consistent seamer Michael Carroll (5-36) sweeping through the opposition’s batting.
St Michael’s opponents this week are Spen Victoria who are still competing well, but just can’t get over the winning line. Last week they failed to defend a strong total of 263-7 against Buttershaw St Paul’s after Ollie Davison (58), Joe Wood (46), Adam Brown (37) and Evan Edwards (37) had given them real hope.
However, half-centuries from Amer Ayoub (68), Kevin McDermott (60) and Gary Wainwright (59) powered Buttershaw St Paul’s to a four-wicket win.
St Paul’s, who have climbed above Birstall into fourth place, can’t make further inroads to the top this weekend as they have an `open date’.
Birstall have lost ground in the promotion race and now stand 29-points behind the top two. They lost by 5-wickets last week to leaders Keighley after openers Eric Austin (89) and Peter Gregorsen (30) had helped to propel the score to 225.
They play East Ardsley this week who are battling hard to escape the relegation zone. They came up 100-runs short in their pursuit of a good Hopton Mills total of 328-6 last week after Dan McTerrnan (47) and Gary Jennings (40) had shared a first-wicket stand of 106.
Bowling Old Lane, who reached the Jack Hampshire Cup Final, last Sunday, will need to beat Altofts to get their promotion drive back on track.
They had at chase Carlton’s massive score of 330-6 last week, and although Zeeshan Haider (98), Ahsan Butt (68) and Ayyaz Akram (44) made a valiant effort, they fell 74 runs short.
For Carlton, this was illustrative of their season of ups and downs as Arman Hussain (123*) and William Hayton (6-34) took the honours in the defeat of Old Lane.
They face Northowram Fields, who also show erratic form, but had no trouble polishing off Liversedge last week with Josh Bennett-Kear taking 7-38 in a six-wicket win.
Fixtures: Wakefield St Michael's v Spen Victoria, Bowling Old Lane v Altofts, Northowram Fields v Carlton, East Ardsley v Birstall, Hopton Mills v Brighouse, Liversedge v Keighley, Free: Buttershaw St Paul's.
It’s obvious that the top two are here to stay as Oulton (246 pts) and Jer Lane (235) begin to draw away as Azaad (216 pts) overtakes Adwalton (215 pts) into third place.
Oulton maintained their position at the head of the table, but had to work hard in a three-wicket win over battling Rodley. Their consistent batsman Jonathan Henshaw ensured the target was a winning one scoring an unbeaten 107.
This weekend, Oulton face Adwalton in the most critical match in the division. Adwalton dare not lose this one as the 21-point gap to second place could widen to unmanageable proportions.
Adwalton lost out to Great Preston after spurning a great opportunity to win. Young bowler Vinit Patel took 6-37 to put his team in control as Great Preston could only reach 167. Adwalton’s reply of 132 was disappointing, and has now given their opponents a flickering hope of promotion.
Great Preston, who go to in-form Azaad, had Jacob Wright (4-38) and Lee Russell (3-25) on form in their defeat of Adwalton.
Azaad are on a roll and continued with a six-wicket defeat of Heckmondwike & Carlinghow after chasing down a total of 185. It was a sound team effort from Azaad with no stand out performer involved.
Jer Lane are still pressing Oulton at the top after a routine seven-wicket win over Crossbank Methodists. The consistent Tom Watson (68no) again excelled, as did Raqeeb Younis (34) and Saeed Mirza (3-10).
This weekend they play East Leeds who are capable of an upset on their day. Zahid Tarvas (52) and Ben Wilkinson (35no) helped East Leeds to 206 last week, but fell 31-runs short of Sandal’s total.
After a slow start to the season, Sandal are now showing their true potential, and ran Keighley very close in last week’s Jack Hampshire semi-final tie. The previous day they beat East Leeds with excellent performances coming from Sam Noden (6-64) and Kieran Dransfield (60).
Sandal will be expected to beat Heckmondwike & Carlinghow who last week succumbed to Azaad despite solid batting from Javed Iqbal (45) and Ahmed Butt (37).
Rodley are showing encouraging form and gave leaders Oulton a right battle before going down by three-wickets. Lachlan Roache (106) hit three sixes and 13 fours in an innings that at one point appeared to be taking the game away from Oulton.
This week Rodley will do battle with Gildersome & Farnley Hill who had an unconvincing three-wicket win over bottom side Windhill & Daisy Hill. Liam Pearson’s bowling analysis of 5-47 was the catalyst for his team’s victory.
Crossbank Methodist’s will have their eyes on a victory when they travel to Busy Lane to take on Windhill & Daisy Hill.
Fixtures: Jer Lane v East Leeds, Sandal v Heckmondwike & Carlinghow, Azaad v Great Preston, Adwalton v Oulton, Rodley v Gildersome & Farnley Hill, Windhill & Daisy Hill v Crossbank Methodists.
Top picture: Farsley's overseas all-rounder Pat Kruger Picture: Ray Spencer