The title race was opened up dramatically last week after Cleckheaton’s shock defeat of leaders New Farnley, and Woodlands victory over Hanging Heaton. The main beneficiaries were Pudsey St Lawrence and Farsley who are second and third respectively and in touching distance of New Farnley at the top.
Woodlands, who at last found some batting form last week, are the latest test for New Farnley in what is ostensibly the big match of the Premier League this weekend at Lawns Lane.
The Albert Terrace based side scored 244-9 against Hanging Heaton with overseas player Ishfaq Ahmad (80) doubling his league run aggregate for the season. Off spinner Kez Ahmed (5-44) wrapped up a convincing win for his side.
Leaders New Farnley was on the wrong end of a shock result last week going down by 56 runs at Cleckheaton.
Former player Nick Walker was instrumental in Cleckheaton’s victory taking 5-42 as New Farnley was bowled out for 163. Cleckheaton’s overseas player Tayyab Tahir scored 96 and was chiefly responsible for the competitive score of 219.
Cleckheaton will visit Tofts Road this weekend no doubt mindful of the relaid square which is still causing concerns for batsmen.
Skipper Mally Nicholson, who is only three victims away from a career 500, lsaid: "“I’m looking forward to this week’s game, and I think the rest of the lads will be- especially after our last two performances. Against Hanging Heaton it could have gone either way, but against New Farnley we bowled well and had a few lads chipping in around our overseas (Tayyab Tahir) who has been great this season”.
“Hopefully this weekend we can put together another good performance on a newly-laid wicket. If we bowl well like we have been doing it should put us in good stead. We know they are a good team who we can’t take lightly, but on our day I think we can compete with most teams in this league. I’m hoping we can now push on after last week’s win and carry on climbing the table”
Looking at the the season so far, Nicholson said: "This season I’m happy with where we are even though we will have some ups and downs as a new, young side.
"I’m really impressed with all the new lads and especially our two young opening bowlers Johnny Whiteoak and Josh Thurwell) who are now starting to bowl as a partnership and take early wickets. Nick Walker has been a very good first change backing the lads up and we also have Andrew Deegan who has taken wickets so far this season.
“On the batting front I would say a lot of the lads would admit we have not been up to scratch. Obviously this is not including Tayyab who is quality and has been great to watch this season. Hopefully he will keep scoring runs and the rest of the batters can play round him. And if he doesn’t get them hopefully some of the more experienced lads can step up and score some including myself.”
Last week, Pudsey St Lawrence dismissed Lightcliffe for 80 as Richie Lamb (6-27) and Charlie Parker (4-36) took advantage of the uneven bounce on the Tofts Road surface.
In reply, St Lawrence found it tough as they slipped to 45-6 as Yassir Abbas (4-38) and Suleman Khan (3-35) made inroads into the early batting. They eventually crept over the line to pull within two points of the top.
Lightcliffe have another tough match this weekend when they visit fifth place Methley who had a 81-run success last week against Bradford & Bingley. Yorkshire all-rounder Matthew Waite (98) and Adam Patel (62) set them on course for a total of 238 against a bowling attack in where James Wilmshurst (3-40) and Bradley Reeve (3-68) were the most-successful members.
Bradford & Bingley were bowled out for 157 with only Ed Brown (54) showing stern resistance to the Methley seam bowlers Sohail Raz (4-35) and Marcus Walmsley (3-44).
The Wagon Lane side need to get back to winning ways next week otherwise they could be occupying a relegation place. They go to Scholes who are second-bottom and just seven points behind them.
Last week Townville cruised to an eight-wicket win over Scholes. A second-wicket partnership of 118 runs between Jonathan Booth (77no) and Brayden Clark (41) enabled them to overhaul a below par Scholes score of 161. Pacemen Shahid Nawaz (3-23) was the best of the Townville bowlers, while opener Shoukat Ali (35) was top scorer for Scholes.
Townville go to Red Lane this weekend to face a Farsley side that are now only 8-points from the top.
Yorkshire’s James Logan was the star man last week for Farsley when he took 5-19, and also scored 51 not out in an emphatic eight-wicket win at East Bierley.
East Bierley, who are now 33-points from safety at the bottom of the league have the unenviable job of trying to beat Hanging Heaton this week.
Hanging Heaton lost to Woodlands last week despite decent efforts from seamers David Stiff (3-43) and Josh Holling (3-73) in a match when uncharacteristically their batting let them down.
The next day they showed their true worth by beating crack Drakes Huddersfield League side Hoylandswaine with a certain degree of ease to reach the final of the Heavy Woollen Cup. Ironically, they will play New Farnley in the Final who also got over their Saturday traumas by beating Methley in a thrilling semi-final.
Fixtures: Scholes v Bradford & Bingley, Methley v Lightcliffe, Pudsey St Lawrence v Cleckheaton, New Farnley v Woodlands, Hanging Heaton v East Bierley, Farsley v Townville.
The top three- Undercliffe (198 points), Wrenthorpe (181 points), and Morley (174 points) all won last week with Pudsey Congs (146 points) having an outside chance of joining the promotion chasing throng.
Leaders Undercliffe took no mercy on a depleted Hartshead Moor side beating them by ten-wickets in a match that lasted just 23 overs.
Undercliffe’s seamers Zeeshan Qasim (5-19) and Craig Wiseman (4-28) shot them out for just 49, and then their openers took just 5.5 overs to knock off the runs with Michael Kelsey scoring 34 not out.
This weekend Undercliffe visit inconsistent Batley who lost to Hunslet Nelson by 16-runs. Naveed Zamurad (4-35) and Musa Ahmed (3-49) were the best of the Batley bowlers while Tariq Hussain (41) top scored in their defeat.
Second-placed Wrenthorpe had a harder task than Undercliffe as they fought hard to secure a four-wicket win in a low-scoring game at Bankfoot. Jonathan Rudge produced an impressive spell of 7-18 and was backed up well by Awais Ejaz (3-30) as Bankfoot were bowled out for 63.
Wrenthorpe face third place Morley in what is realistically the most crucial match in the division. Last week Morley’s overseas player Sanga Cooray hit 50 to help to secure a four-wicket win at home to Gomersal.
Wrenthorpe’s captain Jordan Sleightholme, who is the division’s leading run getter, is aware of the importance of Cooray to Morley-
“The arrival of Morley’s overseas, Sangeeth Cooray, has obviously strengthened them significantly since we played them earlier in the year, and we know the importance of getting him out early as he’s a quality player. Our reliable opening partnership of Rudgey and Awais will be hoping they can make early inroads again to apply some pressure to the rest of the order”.
Sleightholme takes stock of the season so far: “Now we’ve reached the halfway stage of the season, it seems as though people are starting to talk about who they’re expecting to get promotion to the Premier Division, which I think is the ultimate focus of the top sides in the Championship One”.
“We’ve obviously had a good first half of the season, which has allowed us to build our position of second in the league and we’ve given ourselves a chance in the second half. The only real disappointing aspect to come so far has been the two losses in the league to Morley and Undercliffe, who as it stands, look like two of the strongest contenders for promotion. We’ve actually played both of these teams twice, once in the cup and once in the league with us winning both cup games but losing out in the league”.
“This weekend obviously gives us chance to put the league result right and win 2-1 overall as we welcome Morley to Bragg Lane End. We know it’s probably the biggest game of our season so far and so we are really keen to put a marker down for the rest of the year.
"In our line-up, a few of the lads will feel like they’re in need of a score this weekend, but playing at home gives them the perfect opportunity to do this, and the fact that it’s a big game will only spur them on more. I’m hoping it will be that game when it all comes together and we can all fire with the bat!”
“Recently following a couple of injuries and the odd missed game, we’ve seen players come up from the seconds more frequently, all of whom have performed brilliantly for us, particularly in the cup game last week against Townville.
"It’s been extremely positive for the club as a whole, and shows the good strides forward we are making with this and the strength in depth that we are starting to develop, which can only be positive for the future”.
Sleightholme ends by taking stock of his own batting performance. He said: "“Regarding my own performance, I was obviously keen to lead from the front after being made captain this year and it’s been good to get some runs in the first half, and put on a couple of good partnerships with our overseas player, Mehran Ibrahim, who has been brilliant for us since arriving.
"I am, however, coming into this game off the back of two ducks so it will be important to get back on track and continue this as we push on in the second half."
Pudsey Congs, who go to failing Hartshead Moor this weekend, continued their progress up the league with a 29-run win over Baildon in a high scoring game. Barney Gibson (73), Jonathan Donnelly (57no) and Vikram Sharma (38) helped Congs to make 263-9 despite spinner Simon Bailey taking 5-41.
Baildon’s reply was led by Hamzah Iqbal (66), Chris Reynolds (45) and Blair Oakley (38), but they fell short of their target when they were dismissed foe 234.The wickets were shared by three Congs bowlers, Jamie Allen (4-42), Mushy Rafique (3-22) and spinner Sam Wisniewski (3-19).
The match this weekend at Jenny Lane between the hosts and Bankfoot carries some importance as skipper Jack Hainsworth looks to get his side out of the poor run they find themselves in.
Bankfoot ran promotion chasing Wrenthorpe very closely last week with their inspirational skipper James Lee taking 6-21.
Gomersal, who face Ossett, gave Morley a good game last week with spinners Chris Rhodes (3-62) and Jonathan Boynton (3-43) causing all kind of problems.
Ossett had their first league win in their basement battle with Yeadon. Former county man John Sadler (50no) made himself available and with Joe Finnigan (38no), helped them pass Yeadon’s 149 with six wickets intact. All four wickets to fall went to young spinner James Massheder (4-38).
Yeadon’s innings was again dominated by the experienced Damon Gormley as he battled hard for an unbeaten 71 as Ossett skipper Dan Busfield took 5-47.
Yeadon have a gilt edged chance to narrow the 27-point safety gap when they play third-bottom Hunslet Nelson. They will surely look to give Gormley more support with the bat, and Massheder greater help with the ball.
Last week, Hunslet Nelson boosted their chances of avoiding relegation with a 16-run victory over Batley. Opener Mohammed Iqbal (78) top scored as Nelson made 161 before bowling out Batley for 145.
Fixtures:Yeadon v Hunslet Nelson, Batley v Undercliffe, Hartshead Moor v Pudsey Congs, Baildon v Bankfoot, Wrenthorpe v Morley, Gomersal v Ossett.
Leaders Keighley fell short when they had their top of the table meeting last week with rivals Wakefield St Michael’s losing by 43 runs. Louis Horsfield (61) and Nathan Storton (32) led the Keighley reply, but it was to avail as the gap at the top was reduced to 16-points.
This weekend Keighley do battle with lowly Hopton Mills who were well beaten by promotion hopefuls Brighouse last week.
Brighouse, who have an `open date’ weekend kept their promotion challenge on track with a eight-wicket win over Hopton Mills. Opener Deron Greaves (56no) and the consistent Sohail Hussain (38no) helped them overhaul the Mills total of 136.
The next day in the Jack Hampshire Cup, Brighouse showed their potential by beating Keighley.
The St Michael’s triumph was based on the consistent batting of Mark Atkinson (60), Ayaz Seedat (47) and Charith Cooray (45) who helped to post a competitive 227-7.
Their next rivals are Buttershaw St Paul’s who are capable of upsetting any team on their day.
Last week, a century from Paul Carroll who made 122, consisting of three sixes and 16 fours, helped chase down Northowram Fields score of 211 to secure a seven-wicket win. Ajantha Weerappuli (46) was top scorer for Northowram Fields.
Northowram Fields go to promotion seeking Birstall who had two centurions last week in Matthew Dyson and Rishy Limbechaya as they set a total of 303-3 which proved to be 82-runs too much for East Ardsley.
Promotion seeking Bowling Old Lane went down to a shock 76-run defeat against relegation haunted Spen Victoria.
Spen, who have not been able to see good positions to fruition, had Ollie Davison (68) and Evan Edwards (59) sharing a third-wicket stand of 109 to assist their team to 243-9.
Old Lane struggled in reply and only a hard-hit 86 from Ayyaz Akram (86) challenged the grip of the Spen bowlers as they were dismissed for 167 with Joe Wood (4-46) and Nathan Cant (4-62) doing the damage.
Spen’s recent renaissance will be tested by an in-form Altofts who are quickly climbing the table. They made 325-6 on their way to a 63-run win over Carlton with Farroukh Alam smashing eight sixes and 14 fours in an innings of 141.
Bowling Old Lane go to East Ardsley who’s heroic National Village Cup run to the last sixteen might well have distracted them in the league. From early league leaders they now languish in the relegation zone anxious to get points on the board to get out of danger.
Last week they lost to Birstall in a high-scoring game with Gary Jennings (96) and Haseen Bashir (48) at least showing good batting form for Ardsley.
Bottom side Liversedge are 21-points from safety and will have their hands full when they take on Carlton. Although defeated last week they have Daniel White and Arman Hussain in top form.
Fixtures:Wakefield St Michael's v Buttershaw St Paul's, Spen Victoria v Altofts, East Ardsley v Bowling Old Lane, Birstall v Northowram Fields, Liversedge v Carlton, Hopton Mills v Keighley, Free: Brighouse.
Last week could not have gone batter for Jer Lane as they beat promotion rivals Oulton, and later found out that leaders Adwalton had lost. It is now very close at the top with Adwalton (177 points), Jer Lane (167 points) and Oulton (165 points) occupying the top three slots, and Azaad creeping closer on 153 points.
Jer Lane had a vital three-wicket win over Oulton after Gurdev Singh (5-40) and Nasir Chowdray (3-had dismissed them for 142. Jer had to contend with some difficult bowling, mainly from Oulton’s Jack Andrews (6-46), before Imran Mirza (41no) saw them home.
The next opponents this weekend for Jer Lane are Azaad who keep proving they can beat anybody. Leaders Adwalton were beaten for the first time this season as they went down to a 103-run defeat at Azaad.
Umar Mirza (49) and Razwan Subhani (35no) helped Azaad to 190-9 as Adwalton’s Gary Lewsley picked up 4-52.Adwalton’s hopes of victory were gone when they plunged to 37-5 and they eventually tottered to 87. Azaad’s bowlers Zaeem Zulfqar (4-9) and Subhani (3-23) did most of the damage.
Adwalton look to get their title bandwagon back on the road when they play Sandal who was surprisingly beaten by Rodley.
Rob Young was again the key figure as Rodley picked up a 61-run win over Sandal. He made 44 and followed up by taking 4-25 as his side made 196 before bowling out Sandal for 135.
Rodley, who have struggled of late, could well test East Leeds to the limit with their newly found confidence.
East Leeds had a 96-run win over Windhill & Daisy Hill with Banaras Hassan (41no) and Ben Wilkinson (40no) excelling with the bat, and Wilkinson (3-6) and Allan Olbison (3-50) proving to be the key bowlers..
Windhill & Daisy Hill will be hoping for a morale boosting win in their basement battle with Heckmondwike & Carlinghow who lost decisively against Crossbank Methodists last week.
It was a good all round performance by Crossbank winning by eight-wickets with James Lord (85) and Ebrahim Laher (51no) providing the batting power, and James Abbott (4-35) and Louis Bentley (4-57) proving too good with the ball.
Crossbank entertain a Great Preston side who have much to do to get their promotion ambitions back on track. They went about it the right way last week beating Gildersome & Farnley Hill by seven-wickets. The men in form on the day for Great Preston were James Conlon (71) and Joe Schofield who took 6-40.
Great Preston showed their abilities the next day in the Jack Hampshire Cup by knocking out Championship 2 side Altofts by nine-wickets.
Oulton will be expected to win at Gildersome & Farnley Hill who lost last week despite steady batting from Richard Bedford (53) and Martin Morley (36).
Oulton ran Jer Lane very close last week but needed to set a bigger target for Jack Andrews (6-46) to work on.
Fixtures: Jer Lane v Azaad, Adwalton v Sandal, Rodley v East Leeds, Windhill Daisy Hill v Heckmondwike & Carlinghow, Crossbank Methodists v Great Preston, Gildersome Farnley Hill v Oulton.
Top picture: Cleckheaton;s Tayyab Tahior has scored 605 runs this seasom. Picture: Ray Spencer