Much of the interest this week revolves around the Premier Division relegation scrap as Methley appear to be coming back from the dead, while Woodlands have made the title almost a foregone conclusion.
The Title Race
The much-anticipated Woodlands v Bradford & Bingley clash at Albert Terrace this weekend has possibly lost much of its sparkle after the results of last week, when Woodlands won at Pudsey St Lawrence, while Bingley lost to New Farnley.
Woodlands now have a 29-point lead with a match in hand, and appear to be certainties for the title. However, there will be a lot of pride at stake as the best two teams in the top flight battle it out, and Bradford & Bingley hoping for a miracle.
Last week New Zealander Brad Schmulian (54) top scored again for Woodlands, and led his side to a score of 179-9 on a difficult wicket at Tofts Road. Prolific spinner Chris Brice (5-30) ensured that the young St Lawrence side would not seriously challenge as they wilted to 108 all out.
Off spinner Dave McCallum took 5-59 as Bradford & Bingley were restricted to 183-9 in reply to New Farnley’s 225-9. Patrick Dixon (45) was the top scorer for the Wagon Laners, while New Farnley built their total around the efforts of skipper Lee Goddard (50), Steve Bullen (48) and Alex Lilley (33).
Paceman Jack Hartley (3-53) and spinner Bradley Reeve (3-47) were the pick of the Bradford & Bingley bowlers.
The Relegation dog-fight
Bottom club Methley proved once again that the gap to safety is not insurmountable in their case.
Yorkshire all-rounder Matthew Waite (5-46) was the catalyst for his side’s victory over Cleckheaton, but just as vital was the 37 runs made by their young wicketkeeper Josh Neal who arrived at the crease with his side floundering at 98-7.
His crucial contribution helped his side to post a total of 166 which proved to be two-runs too many for Cleckheaton, who keep losing to the basements sides.
Wrenthorpe had a demoralising 224-run defeat against their old rivals Townville. Richie Bresnan, was the chief destroyer with 6-17, while his new-ball partner Conor Harvey bowled eight overs without conceding a run as he picked up three wickets.
Half-centuries from overseas player Imran Rafique (74) and Harry Warwick (55) were backed up by an unbeaten 35 from Harvey as Townville – who have now shot up to fourth in the table – made 256-7 when they batted first.
The big relegation battle between Wrenthorpe (145 pts) and Methley (131 pts) at Bragg Lane End would have been too close to predict a few weeks ago, but the latter will take the momentum of last week into the match, and start as favourites.
Undercliffe have now given themselves a lot to do to avoid relegation after losing to a weakened Farsley side last week. Only overseas player Khalid Usman (48no) looked at ease at the crease, as Undercliffe lost a truncated game and now face a very testing end to their fixtures. .
It gets even harder for Undercliffe next week when they play a revitalised New Farnley side that upset second place Bradford & Bingley last week.
Lightcliffe (135 pts) might have lost to Hanging Heaton last week, but if they can get a positive result this weekend against Townville, they will know they have two of their relegation rivals to play in successive weeks.
This will be no easy game against a side eyeing their best ever finish in the Premier League.
The remaining games after this weekend are:
Wrenthorpe: Lightcliffe (a), Pudsey St Lawrence (h), Bradford & Bingley (a)
Methley: Farsley (h), Lightcliffe (a), New Farnley (h)
Undercliffe: Woodlands (h), Hanging Heaton (a), Townville (h)
Lightcliffe: Wrenthorpe (h), Methley (h), Pudsey St Lawrence (a)
Hanging Heaton are showing better form now with Nick Connolly (86no), and Callum Bethell
(5-29) starring last week in their win over Lightcliffe. They are now up to third, and play Pudsey St Lawrence, who has slipped down to fifth.
Farsley face Cleckheaton in a match that could go either way given the erratic form of both teams.
Premier League fixtures: Wrenthorpe v Methley, Townville v Lightcliffe, Hanging Heaton v Pudsey St Lawrence, Woodlands v Bradford & Bingley, New Farnley v Undercliffe, Farsley v Cleckheaton.
Apart from Batley, there are no teams making a definite statement in the promotion battle, and the continued inconsistencies have now flung the race wide open.
A couple of weeks ago Baildon, Pudsey Congs and Hartshead Moor appeared to be well out of it, but not any longer, as just 20-points separate six clubs vying for second place.
Leaders Batley were again indebted to their overseas batsman Sami Ullah as they took another step towards promotion with a hard-earned three-wicket win over lowly Wakefield St Michael’s. Ullah struck an unbeaten 88 and guided his side past the St Michael’s total of 150-8.
Batley will be looking for another victory at East Bierley, who has now been `sucked’ into the relegation scramble.
Batley club official Saqib Talib is delighted that the side has been more settled this season, and acknowledges the class of the club’s overseas player.
He said: “It has been a fantastic season so far and the key to our success is that we’ve had a consistent and settled team throughout the season”.
“We have backed our players to perform all the way, but our overseas batsman Sami Ullah has been a class act. Last week he scored a match winning innings of 88 not out against Wakefield St Michael’s, and he also had an unbeaten 103 against Baildon earlier in the season.
"They were both top quality innings, and he has tended to score runs when we needed them the most. No doubt about it, he’s been our best overseas signing in years."
Talib heralds the bowling attack: “I will not say the bowling front is ‘old’, but experienced veterans Muhammad Shahnawaz and Tariq Hussain have taken 68 wickets between them. How these two go in the last four games will determine our promotion bid. I’ve also got to mention the mid-season signing of Mohammed Bhoola from Shelley who has given our bowling unit control in the middle overs.
“Before the season started, our main priority was the fielding and how to go about improving our standards. The team has been led by our young captain Roheil Hussain, who has done excellent work in getting everyone onboard.
"It has also helped that the recruitment was based on younger players such Owais Hussain, Kasir Maroof and Mohammed Bhoola. This has improved our fielding standards compared to previous year."
Talib concludes: “Going into the last four games of season, we know what we have to do and we will try our best to win the remaining games. We start this final run at East Bierley this week, and we will ensure that we take each game at a time."
Baildon, who had their Australian all-rounder Blair Oakley (58*) in form again in their defeat of East Bierley, could go ahead of Bankfoot if they manage to beat them this weekend. Despite their mid-season slump, the Jenny Laners are back in the promotion race with a bang.
Bankfoot lost to Pudsey Congs who reignited their promotion bid with an impressive six-wicket win. Congs talisman Yasir Ali stood up to be counted again with a bowling return of 5-32 followed by an unbeaten 49.
Congs have an away match with a Keighley side that eased their relegation fears last week with a much needed win against Scholes. The bowling of Alex Antoine (5-10) and James Rogers (4-25) proved too potent for the bottom side.
Scholes go to Gomersal who were shot out for 22, after they had in turn bowled Hartshead Moor out for 109.This leaves Gomersal in need of at least one more victory to guarantee their Championship One status for another year,
Hartshead Moor’s remarkable bowling form last week was down to Iain Wardlaw (6-11) and Danny Squire (4-8), who will be looking to replicate this again this weekend when they play second place Morley.
Morley might have been strongly fancied for promotion at the beginning of the season, but they are experiencing a few setbacks of late.
The latest one came last week when Ossett’s New Zealander Izaiah Lange struck a fine century as his side stunned Morley, pulling off a nine-run win in a nail-biting game. Lange hit four sixes and 13 fours while making 109 to rescue his side from 2-2. Jack McGahan (35) gave him good support as Ossett recovered to make 234-9.
Morley looked to be heading for victory as skipper Matt Baxter (98) and James McNichol (65) shared an opening stand of 171, but once they were parted there was little resistance to the Ossett attack. Joe Finnigan (3-52) and Max Chappell (3-56) struck crucial blows as Morley’s progress stalled as they finished on 225-8.
Ossett have pulled themselves well away from the relegation zone in recent weeks and now have a theoretic chance of promotion. If they beat Wakefield St Michael’s this weekend, and the other results go in their favour, they could be well entrenched in the promotion pack.
However, it won’t be easy considering how hard St Michael’s made Batley work to ensure victory last week. They lost out by just two-wickets in a game where Mark Atkinson (52) and fellow opener Mitch Forsyth (39) had given St Michael’s the foundation for a winning score.
Championship One Fixtures: Ossett v Wakefield St Michael's, Morley v Hartshead Moor, Gomersal v Scholes, Keighley v Pudsey Congs, Bankfoot v Baildon, East Bierley v Batley.
Carlton and Birstall have now drawn decisively away from third place Yeadon, whose promotion hopes are now hanging by a thread,
Leaders Carlton require just 19 points from their last four matches to secure promotion after their convincing win over Hopton Mills. Another century from Daniel White and a five-wicket haul for prolific seamer Jonathan Rudge were the key factors in their 124-run win over Hopton Mills.
Next for Carlton is a visit to Northowram Fields who are now encased in the bottom three relegation places after their 48-run defeat against Hunslet Nelson.
Birstall, who have now a 35-point cushion on third place Yeadon, made no mistake last week in a six-wicket win over Bowling Old Lane. Eric Austin (101no) and Nick Kaye (40no) were the mainstays of another impressive Birstall batting performance.
They do have a tricky away match at Buttershaw St Paul’s, but their powerful batting could make `mincemeat’ of the short boundaries there. St Paul’s were surprisingly beaten last week by relegation fighting Altofts, despite the best efforts of Jack Seddon and Ben Platt.
Yeadon’s fading promotion challenge took another jolt as they went down to a five-wicket defeat at home to Jer Lane in a 34 over contest. Yeadon’s overseas player Sarmad Hameed made an unbeaten 89, but needed more tangible support on the day.
An away fixture at Adwalton could boost Yeadon’s hopes, particularly if Birstall slip up at Buttershaw.
Vinit Patel and Usman Shakir battled hard last week in Adwalton’s defeat at the hands of Spen Victoria.
Spen’s skipper Bilal Ejaz was the cornerstone of his side’s score of 202-9 with a well-made 92, and in addition took 4-43.
Spen visit Altofts who will be desperate for another victory to steer themselves out of the relegation zone. Altofts lifted themselves out of the bottom three last week, with a 66-run win over Buttershaw St Paul’s. Ismail Patel was the Altoft’s hero with a fine spell of bowling that netted him 6-27.
Jer Lane continued their fine spell of form when they upset promotion seeking Yeadon last week. Abubakar Dawood (56), Tom Watson (42) and Raqeeb Younis (39no) led the Jer Lane batting when they chased down Yeadon’s score of 204-6 with eight balls to spare.
This week, Jer Lane face Hunslet Nelson, who beat Northowram Fields last week after good work from skipper Will Stiff, Jack Scanlon and Danny Cross.
Jer Lane chairman Malcolm Nixon is quietly satisfied with his side’s mid-table position. He said: “At this stage we are where we expected to be. We are in mid-table after competing well in most games, and we look forward to a Twenty/20 Finals day”.
“The First X1 are in a very competitive division and we have done ok mostly. After a good start we had a series of poor results, but we have bounced back and been on a good run for seven weeks or so, beating Yeadon comfortably last week. We have come up against some real quality performances, none more so than Carlton’s Kershaski John Lewis with the bat. It was a pleasure to watch even though it was against us.
“Our younger lads have found it hard, but Matthew Johnson has stood out at times bowling with pace and control. Young batsman Tom Watson has showed his capability with the bat at number 4. They both need to be more consistent to establish themselves at this level.
“The more experienced lads have now started to fire. Amjid Khan has a big heart and always gives his best. Raqeeb Younas, our top batsman for the last 7 years, has had a poor season by his standards, but was impressive last week at Yeadon and we are hoping for a strong finish to the season from him.
“There have been some disappointments and the loss in the Jack Hampshire Cup to Great Preston was a low point. We changed a few things at this point and things have improved. Abu Dawood was promoted from the twos and he’s finally converting his obvious talent into runs”.
“The 2nd X1 are going really well and barring a disaster will be promoted for the second year in succession. Jonny Waddington has done a tremendous job in the face of some adversity at times”.
Nixon’s discusses the club’s five-year plan, “The club’s objective was to reach Championship One within five years, and that looks a long way off at times.
"But, we are into year two of our five-year plan and there are a few changes being made after this season ends to keep us on track. We forget how far we have come in the last 10 years. It would have been hard to imagine we would now be in the BCL competing with and beating the likes of Spen Victoria and Yeadon.
“We are putting in a new bar this winter and an application to the Halifax League for a Sunday team is being prepared. This will allow us to blood some juniors and drag some old boys back for a bit of social cricket.
The highlight of Bowling Old Lane’s loss to Birstall last week was Farakh Hussain’s knock of 61 from just 28 balls. They are not completely clear of relegation worries and need to beat East Ardsley next week for a bit of breathing space.
East Ardsley were not at all convincing last week against bottom club Liversedge, only prevailing by 21-runs after Louie Hurley had impressed with 6-29.
Liversedge are now 36-points from safety and their game with Hopton Mills this week carries the banner of `must win’. Skipper Will Atkin, who had earlier taken 4-46, battled hard to make 46 in their latest defeat.
Championship Two Fixtures: Altofts v Spen Victoria, Buttershaw St Paul’s v Birstall, Bowling Old Lane v East Ardsley, Adwalton v Yeadon, Northowram Fields v Carlton, Hopton Mills v Liversedge, Jer Lane v Hunslet Nelson.
There is no sign that Sandal will relinquish the one promotion place available from the Conference.
Last week, they beat third-placed, and previously unbeaten, Gildersome & Farnley Hill by 91 runs, with skipper Kristian Shuttleworth leading the way with 58 runs, and all rounder Sam Noden (31no & 5-26) also starring.
Sandal could increase their 32-pont lead further with victory over Windhill & Daisy Hill, while their arch rivals Great Preston have a difficult match against third place Gildersome & Farnley Hill.
Australian Tyson Freeman is still proving to be a big hit for Great Preston, propelling his team to victory over Brighouse last week when he hit four sixes and 12 fours in making 109 out of his side’s score of 220-8.
Fourth-place Oulton are up against Crossbank Methodist’s who overcame basement rivals Heckmondwike & Carlinghow by five runs thanks to Louis Bentley (5-30) and Imran Patel (3-39).
Last week, Oulton beat Rodley by 11 runs in a low-scoring encounter. Daniel Hill (5-45) and Lachlan Roche (3-36) restricted Oulton to 115, but Rodley could only manage 94 in reply. Rob Young battled hard for his 47 before Joe Sykes (4-31) helped secure an Oulton win.
Heckmondwike & Carlinghow are stranded at the bottom and will find it difficult against East Leeds, particularly if Jack Watling is firing.
Brighouse and Rodley have open dates.
Conference Fixtures: Oulton v Crossbank Methodists, Heckmondwike & Carlinghow v East Leeds, Great Preston v Gildersome & Farnley Hill, Sandal v Windhill & Daisy Hill. Free: Brighouse, Rodley