BATLEY began the last day of the Bradford League Championship One season as outsiders for promotion, but ended it as champions after a remarkable sequence of events.
Three successive defeats looked to have ended their hopes of playing Premier Division cricket next season, with leaders Morley sitting 10 points clear and second-placed Bankfoot five points ahead going into the final round of games.
While Morley faced Baildon and Bankfoot took on relegation-threatened Wakefield St Michaels, Batley were tasked with a clash against a Gomersal side enjoying a revival.
By the halfway stage, there was the first glimmer of hope. Bankfoot had crumbled to just 119 all out and Batley, desperately short of runs in recent weeks, had only one batting point by the 40-over mark but managed to increase that to four, and only one point behind Bankfoot, at the close of their innings.
At that point Morley were still 10 ahead and on course for the title after bowling out Baildon for 198.
Wakefield St Michaels had already had their relegation, along with Scholes, confirmed by this time, as East Bierley had beaten Keighley in a match lasting just 105 balls after Keighley lost seven men without scoring in a total of just 24.
Despite that knowledge, they still had the heart for a fight and finished as four-wicket winners. Bankfoot had accumulated another three points, leaving Batley needing to take eight wickets just to draw level with the Bradford side. But, in the end, there was no need to panic.
Gomersal crumbled to just 91 all out and Batley’s 19 points took them ahead of both Morley and Bankfoot, but with Morley still playing.
It must have been frustrating for Morley skipper Matt Baxter as his side completed their overs with one wicket in hand but still four runs short of forcing at least a tie and claiming the title.
So, defeat for their promotion rivals and a very, very, welcome return to winning ways, means Premier Division cricket at Mount Pleasant next season. However, Batley are going to have to make a better show of it than last time if they are going to stay there!
With Batley as champions and three more of the district’s sides among the next six it has been a good year for the district in this division, while Birstall will be promoted as runners up from Championship Two.
The relegation of Scholes from Championship One, their second drop in succession, and Liversedge from Championship Two were disappointments and both Crossbank Methodists and Heckmondwike and Carlinghow will not be happy with the bottom two positions in the Conference.