MIRFIELD Parish Cavaliers have emerged as surprise title-contenders after opening the second half of the season with a convincing win over Birstall which moved them into third place.
Only six points separate the six clubs chasing leaders Methley and Parish’s trip to joint third-placed Scholes this week is crucial for both clubs.
Methley lead the way from Townville by eight points but the Cavaliers and Scholes are just a further four points adrift.
Birstall, now only one point above the relegation zone, were never in the game at Wellhouse Lane.
Yasir Ali’s top-scoring 53, in 61 balls, helped the home side to 226, despite a 3-42 return from Saif ur-Rehman, but Birstall struggled from the start as Muhammed Shahnawaz (4-41) and Bradley Drake (3-24) ensured the ball held sway.
James Keen did manage a highly creditable 56 for Birstall, out of 119, but it will need more from others if they are to take the points from the visit of Hunslet Nelson this week.
The Jack Hampshire Trophy semi-final draw offered little joy either for Birstall, as they now face a trip to in-form Heavy Woollen Cup finalists Townville.
Scholes had a welcome return to winning ways as they overran a resurgent Ossett by 124 runs at Queens Terrace.
Although only Zain Abbas and skipper James Stansfield (39) made double figures for Scholes, the 111 not out from the Pakistani opener was decisive in a score of 197-6.
In reply, Ossett capitulated against Chris Jackson (4-23) and Mohammed Sharafat (3-23) while Abbas claimed 2-8 in two overs at the death, to bowl them out for 73. Stansfield will be calling for more of the same against Parish, but former Woodlands skipper Tim Orrell is doing well for the Mirfield side and he won’t want to see his side lose momentum.
In the Championship, third-placed Liversedge are just three points behind Northowram Fields after a tense 18-run win at Oulton that owed much to the bowling of skipper Graeme Winn (4-37).
Earlier, Alan Sumner (48) and Jon Trevitt (44) had worked hard to offer an albeit modest 138-run target.
Buttershaw St Paul’s are well adrift in fourth place after a five-wicket defeat at home to East Leeds, while Westwood Park lost ground in Division One, losing by eight wickets at Gildersome.
Mirfield’s eight-wicket defeat at Caribbean leaves them propping up the table.