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Mark Gilliver and Paul Blakeley to the rescue
Birstall, Batley and Northowram Fields avoided relegation from the Premier Divisi on in remarkable fashion on the final day of Central Yorkshire League action.
There is no substitute for experience in sport and two men stood out on an afternoon of high drama.
Northowram’s Mark Gilliver has had a highly successful career in club cricket but this has been a season to forget for a man with almost 16,000 Bradford League runs behind him.
The one-time Liversedge batsman had scant success over the summer, totalling less than 200 runs prior to the final game against New Farnley.
It was not a game Northowram were expected to win but Gilliver launched a blistering attack on the Farnley bowling to hit 135 in a total of 293-6, including 12 sixes, and put on 168 for the third wicket with Rob Larner (74).
With such a huge total to chase, New Farnley were never at the races and Northowram galloped to safety with six points.
That total virtually guaranteed the point needed for survival but it was a different story at Birstall, where visitors Altofts were also in the relegation mix.
Just one point would have been enough to secure Altofts’ safety and with Birstall struggling for runs and wickets in recent weeks, the home side were under the cosh.
Their problems were compounded by the absence of Saif Ur-Rehman, their most successful bowler this season.
In the event a useful 235 total was posted, James Byrne hitting 85 off 62 balls in the middle order, to give the bowlers something to go at.
But Altofts quickly moved to 49 off ten overs and only had to avoid being bowled out to take the point they needed to stay up.
It was a huge task for Birstall, who had managed to take ten wickets only three times during the season. But enter club coach Paul Blakeley, a man for a crisis if ever there was one.
Playing his first first-team game of the season, the 48-year-old bowled 15 overs for only 29 runs and snapped up two wickets in the process, including the vital first breakthrough.
Kevin Watson took five wickets but the stranglehold Blakeley put on the batsman paved the way for Watson’s success. Altofts were all out 175 and left facing Division One cricket next season.
Batley also avoided the drop, beating Carlton by 39 runs after a top-scoring 62 from Naweed Ghany and a 4-33 return by Huzaifa Patel.
Huddersfield League-bound Moorlands clinched the Division One title by two points, ahead of Ossett, after setting Scholes 218 to win and then bowling them out for 39 thanks to a 6-17 return from Andrew Walker.