Hanging Heaton CC have a tough weekend ahead if they are to press home their challenge for honours this season.
With Pudsey St Lawrence making the running in these first weeks of the Bradford League First Division programme, there is little to choose amongst the chasing pack, and none of those clubs can afford a slip at this stage, if they want to keep pace with the leaders.
“It is certainly going to be difficult,” said cricket chairman John Carruthers.
“We have an enormous weekend with home games against the reigning champions Cleckheaton tomorrow then a second-round clash with Pudsey Congs in the Heavy Woollen Cup, on Sunday. But we do have a full-strength squad to pick from.”
Carruthers knows he has had some consistent performances from Ian Philliskirk and Ben Elvidge this season, and if skipper Gary Fellows or Nick Connelly can hit form, there will be some big runs.
With 73 from Fellows and 123no from Connelly in the seven-wicket win at Congs last week, Carruthers will be hoping for more of the same in both this weekend’s games.
As it stands St Lawrence lead the table by 25 points but only 16 separate Woodlands, Cleckheaton and Hanging Heaton, as each look for that level of consistency that will put pressure on the leaders.
Cleckheaton, looking for a third consecutive title, had a tense nine-run win over New Farnley in their last game, Andy Gorrod (134) completing his second century of the season for Cleckheaton, while Woodlands, at home to Undercliffe tomorrow, were winners by just four runs over Bradford and Bingley.
It is looking like being a highly competetive First Division championship race this time.
Same can be said of the Second Division race, where fifth-placed Gomersal beat leaders Morley in their last game to leave themselves 26 points adrift of Morley, but with a game in hand, ahead of tomorrow’s derby at Hartshead Moor.
Fourth-placed Spen Victoria, who beat Idle in their last game, take on third-placed Baildon in a crucial game for both sides while newcomers Scholes, lying second, look to follow up their seven-wicket win over Keighley with a trip to Windhill. Morley should beat Idle at Scatcherd Lane.
In the other Heavy Woollen Cup games, affecting the district, this week Gomersal entertain Huddersfield League side Delph and Dobcross, with the winners playing Hanging Heaton or Pudsey Congs in and Woodlands, having seen off Barkisland last week take on Wakefield Thornes in the first quarter final, at Oakenshaw, on Sunday.
• No-one was more pleased than former Kiwi keeper Tony Blain to see his fellow countrymen beat England in such swashbuckling style at Headingley this week, but he is not adverse to swashing the odd buckle himself on the cricket field.
Gomersal-based Blain, once understudy to Sky TV commentator Ian Smith in his playing days, is no longer classed as an overseas player and still turns out for Gomersal second XI, despite having already celebrated his 53rd birthday this year.
He did give playing a miss this week to watch the test match, but in his last game he hit 108 off the Baildon attack in a 167-run opening stand with Phil Carter in 29 overs.
He is consistently the club’s leading second XI scorer but he no longer keeps wicket and he is certainly not hankering after a return to first-team cricket.
“I play purely for fun,” he said, “and it's no fun at my age to be going out to bat against some of the young quicks playing in Bradford League first teams these days.”
Enjoying their cricket seems a national pastime for New Zealand cricketers these days but then Tony Blain always did and still does.