IT is probably best not to utter the phrase ‘wafer-thin margins’ when in the vicinity of a Morley player this week.
The Scatcherd Lane men were on the cusp of a keynote top-flight win at Woodlands to significantly boost their survival fight on Saturday, only for the hosts to edge home and leave the visitors to reflect upon the bitter pill of a one-wicket loss.
The upshot is that Morley remain in the bottom two, having suffered four defeats in their past five completed games, with the strugglers once again paying the price for a below-par batting performance.
The prospects of a Morley victory appeared slim at half-time when they were dismissed for just 98, with spinners Chris Brice (6-28) and Kez Ahmed (3-31) making considerable hay.
But the tide turned spectacularly with super stuff from opening bowlers Matthew Dowse (6-38) and Nathan Bromby (3-36) leaving Woodlands on the precipice at 59-9.
But stoic final-wicket resistance from Elliot Richardson (28no) and Ahmed (13no) edged Woodlands home – and leave Morley captain Matt Baxter to reflect upon what might have been.
Baxter, whose Morley side are 14 points behind third-from-bottom East Bierley with four matches to go, said: “We were really unlucky on Saturday. But when you get bowled out for 98, you don’t have any right to win games.
“It was still a terrific fightback and effort and a good game of cricket.
“We just have to take the positives and the second half of the game can galvanise us through the run-in. It is pretty straightforward; we need to win games and catch that next team, which is Bierley, who are just above us.
“The bowlers are doing their bit. Dowsy got six-fer on Saturday and bowled really well and Brombs is evergreen and keeps going and has always had that consistency and we nearly finished it off on Saturday. It was spin-friendly as you could see with the wickets of Kez and Bricey, who did the damage for them.
“We just hoped Kashif (Naveed) could finish it off for us, but we just didn’t get the rub of the green.”
Despite the psychological blow of defeat, Morley are refusing to lose heart in their survival battle and feel they retain every chance of winning it if they can get their batting in order.
Baxter added: “It has been runs and we have not consistently put totals on the board. If we can do that, we are always in with a chance as we have a really strong bowling attack.
“Runs have definitely been the problem and it is difficult to defend low totals every week and we have got to find a way to put on decent totals.
“We know we have the ability and quality in the line-up to do it and just have to start doing it in the last few games.”
Not too far away from Woodlands, rock-bottom Scholes, who play Morley this weekend, sprung a surprise by sinking local rivals Cleckheaton and maintaining their own hopes of a Great Escape.
They completed a noteworthy double over Cleck, Yassir Ali taking 6-61 to restrict the Moorenders to 180-9, despite Ian Nicholson’s unbeaten 71.
Scholes eased to victory thanks to Rizwan Ahmed (71no), supported by Ali (35no), as they totalled 181-5 in reply, although they are still 37 points adrift of safety.
PUDSEY ST LAWRENCE are back on the title course – even if things were thrown out of kilter ahead of their weekend derby with Pudsey Congs.
The overnight rain prompted a change of tack upon winning the toss for St Lawrence, but it was as case of ‘all’s well that ends well’ after they replied with 258-4 to take 18 points – after Congs opened with 257-6, Joe Greaves hitting a fine 104 for the visitors.
Star turns in a solid St Lawrence batting show were Adam Waite (72), Barrie Frankland (70) and captain James Smith (58no).
On his side’s six-wicket win, Smith said: “It was a difficult one and unfortunately on Friday night, a little bit of rain had come down and we had not covered the pitch.
“So the idea of trying to win the toss, batting first and trying to get 20 points kind of blew up in my face and we thought: ‘Oh god, we will have to bowl first here’.
“Still, on a good pitch, we felt that 260 was par, maybe a little bit short and I still thought we would get 18 points and in the end, it was a good win, especially with Hanging Heaton only getting 15 points.
“The pressure has been taken off us after losing first place to Hanging Heaton and maybe we have played with a bit more freedom without the pressure in the past two weeks.”
St Lawrence’s win cut leaders Heaton’s lead to just five points – despite the Tewits’ 10-wicket whitewashing of third-from-bottom East Bierley. David Stiff (5-19) and Muhammed Rameez (4-24) wreaked havoc as Bierley were blitzed for just 80 before captain Gary Fellows saw his side home with an unbeaten 54 as they reached their target in just 15.1 overs.
Third-placed Farsley remain in the hunt, with the Red Laners 11 points behind St Lawrence after a 51-run success over Bradford and Bingley.
In the runs, not for the first time, was captain James Price (64), well supported by Greg Pickles (48), with Farsley adeptly defending their total of 212-7 – with spinner Adam Ahmed continuing his excellent season with 4-35 as B&B were all out for 161.
Magic stuff from Jonathan Whiteoak (7-62), aided by Alex Stead helped Lightcliffe (133-2) ease past New Farnley (130).
TARIQ HUSSAIN (4-41) and Aqsad Ali (3-19) helped keep Batley’s Championship A title bandwagon bouncing along the right track with a 53-run win over Saltaire.
Batley defended their opening salvo of 182-6 as Saltaire were back in the pavilion for 129.
The leaders are 21 points ahead of Yeadon, who saw off Undercliffe by six wickets with Michael Hunter (5-62) excelling with the ball, with opener James Todd (53) leading the way with the bat.
Kiwi Chris Anderson smashed an impressive 105 not out as Hunslet Nelson saw off Liversedge by four wickets, while Harvey Anderson (5-38 and 44) was in the mood as Ossett accounted for Keighley.
Championship B frontrunners Townville produced a powerhouse display to sink old rivals Methley by eight wickets.
Conor Harvey (6-26) and Jack Hughes (4-8) produced awesome bowling stints as Methley were decimated for 78, with Townville easing home.
One of the bowling performances of the season saw Jonathan Rudge take a staggering 9-53 as second-placed Wrenthorpe crushed Spen Victoria – bowled out for 85 – eight wickets, Daryl Hendricks hitting an unbeaten 53.
Craig Field’s knock of 68 helped bottom team Hartshead Moor to chase down Carlton’s score of 188-7 and record a three-wicket win with just two balls to spare to clinch just their third win of the campaign.