IT looks to be Cleckheaton’s title to lose in the JCT600 Bradford League First Division.
The defending champions are 35 points ahead with five matches remaining but that hasn’t stopped the four clubs immediately below them jostling for the likely prize of finishing runners-up to the Moorenders.
Two of the quartet meet tomorrow, with second-placed Woodlands (189 points) visiting third-placed Farsley (180).
And it shows the intent of the Rams when batsman Andrew Duckworth says: “If we can take 19 or 20 points off Woodlands, then we will leapfrog them.”
Farsley, who won Division Two last season, bridged the gap very neatly in early season, winning their first four completed league games.
The Rams have only lost four matches overall, but three of those came in a four-week spell in late May and early June – to Woodands, Hanging Heaton and Cleckheaton – but they have bounced back well under new skipper Mark Harrison by winning five of their last seven.
Harrison has recently replaced Barrie Frankland as skipper, with the latter taking his chance in the last two matches, having been promoted from No 7 to opener.
He scored 88 not out in the eight-wicket victory over Yeadon and 61 as Pudsey St Lawrence were defeated last Saturday by seven wickets.
Duckworth said: “Both captains instilled team spirit but Mark has rotated his bowlers a bit more.
“Chris Henry was a bit frustrated when he wasn’t opening the bowling anymore but he has benefited after the tight spells of Neil Laidlaw and Graham Hume by taking wickets when the batsmen have been looking to get after him.”
Former Yorkshire opening bat Joe Sayers may be Farsley’s name player, but, as Duckworth suggests, it has been far from a one-man show, with off-spinner Harrison – Division Two’s all-rounder of the year in 2013 – Duckworth, Hume, Laidlaw and Ian Philliskirk all chipping in with worthwhile contributions.
“Hume’s first-class cricket knowledge is obvious,” says Duckworth, “while Ian has been around the Bradford league for so long that he knows just where to put the fielders for certain batsmen.”
Tomorrow Cleckheaton are at East Bierley, who are in a battle with Morley and Yeadon to avoid the two relegation places, while fourth-placed Pudsey St Lawrence – who are only below Farsley on games won – host fourth-from-bottom Pudsey Congs, who have pulled themselves clear of immediate relegation danger.
Division Two leaders Undercliffe (264 points), who like Cleckheaton will have to lose three matches to give the chasers a sniff, are at home to sixth-placed Baildon (182), while second-placed Saltaire (223) are at improving cellar dwellers Windhill.
Third-placed Keighley (217) have no scheduled match as they prepare their ground for Sunday’s Priestley Shield final.