RELEGATION-threatened Birstall shook off their disappointing All Rounder Cricket Equipment Central Yorkshire League form to complete the shock of the season in the Jack Hampshire Memorial Trophy semi-final at reigning champions Townville.
It was a day when everything finally came good for the troubled Batley-based side as they hit back from the early dismissal of Saif ur Rehman for 17 to stage a 204-run second-wicket stand between Craig Wood and Rob Macfarlane in 29.5 overs.
Wood finally fell victim to Richie Bresnan for 103 but Macfarlane was joined by skipper Eric Austin (11) and another 23 runs, in ten balls, were added without further loss as the big-hitting Macfarlane finished on 111 not out off 89 balls.
It was the kind of batting that has been badly needed in the Premier Division this season – but even more impressive was the bowling.
Although wickets fell regularly, the Townville score crept closer and closer to Birstall's 263-2 as Jonathon Booth (76), Ritchie Bresnan (56) and one-time Spen Victoria opener Tim Walton (54) all made runs.
But the Birstall bowlers held their nerve. Danny Broadbent, having taken four wickets in 5.4 overs, came in to bowl the penultimate ball of the innings to Bresnan with two wickets in hand and six runs needed.
Townville were still favourites at this time but Bresnan was caught by Chris Goodair and, with the last pair at the wicket, the final ball failed to produce a run and Birstall finished winners by five runs.
That win has guaranteed a final clash with current league pace-setters Methley, six-wicket winners at Wrenthorpe, on Sunday, August 17.
But before that they still have Premier Division survival to secure and that battle continues on Saturday when they entertain Wrenthorpe at Leeds Road.
A win will lift Birstall above Wrenthorpe into fourth-bottom position – but with second-bottom Hopton Mills only two points behind them, Birstall will have one eye on events at Scholes, where Hopton are the visitors.
Leaders Methley are at home to Townville, while Wakefield Thornes take on Mirfield Parish Cavaliers and Ossett are at home to Carlton in other Premier Division games.
In the Championship, promotion hopefuls Liversedge go to Oulton and Batley are at East Leeds.