The secret to a mid-season resurgence is simple, according to Horsforth skipper Ollie Hardaker.
Taking over the captaincy with his side hurtling down the table and sliding towards ninth place, he says the priority was to strip back to the basics and ensure the entire club was pulling in the same direction.
Eyebrows were raised when star signings Sharrukh Kahn and Michael Kitson departed with the club seemingly embroiled in a relegation scrap back in June, but the club’s fortunes have skyrocketed, their 56 run win over Guiseley a sixth win in seven league games.
“We’ve got a really tight-knit group at the club now and that’s what’s got us out of the mess we were in,” Hardaker said. “The two lads who aren’t with us any longer are both very good players but you can see the difference in having ‘proper Horsforth lads’ in.
“We’ve decided to go with some really promising young lads and that’s brilliant for the team environment. They put everything into it and we’ve all pulled together.”
Hardaker’s 71, together with Corey Barsby’s dogged 58, laid the foundations for Horsforth’s 215-7, which looked unlikely to be surpassed once the spin twins of Jack Rich (4-45) and Michael Lambert (3-41) got to work. It was Hardaker’s first half-century in a season during which he admits he has struggled to balance the strain of captaincy.
“It’s my first time captaining and, to be honest, having to focus on the team rather than just my own batting game has had an effect. I hope I can use Saturday to push on, I felt in good rhythm and it was an important knock.”
With the club all but safe and likely to finish the season in mid-table, they have already set about planning for their next campaign, and Hardaker is keen to ensure the club learns from this campaign.
“First and foremost the key is to make sure we keep hold of good players, and we didn’t do that last year. If we can do that and get a few good lads in, then we’ll be in a good position.”
Despite their immense run of form, Horsforth sit in eighth, with Guiseley having tumbled to fifth after Pool’s surprise hammering of one-win-in-four Burley. Batting first, there were contributions by all of the Pool batsmen as they reached 261-4 in their 50 overs, which included a star turn by Will Cooper, who struck 75.
Burley’s reply never quite got going and their fading title charge was all but extinguished by Ollie Boggie’s 5-17 as they were bowled out for 141.
This allowed Beckwithshaw to further stretch their lead at the top to 33 points with a breezy eight-wicket win over Ilkley. John Hughes’ 53 provided the backbone of Ilkley’s 181-8, but it was never going to be likely enough in the face of Alex Lilley (35), George Myers (59), Ross Sedgley (45*) and Sam Moore (39*).
Second-bottom Collingham still have a mountain to climb if they are to escape relegation but they will take heart from their win over fellow strugglers Colton. Jack Harrison’s 62 helped the home side reach 193, a figure that gave Toby Jacklin (5-33) and Steve James (3-51) enough wiggle room to spin Dan Gautrey’s men to 162 all out and near-certain relegation. If either side are to put a survival charge together it will be at the expense of North Leeds, who fell to a four-wicket defeat at home to third-placed Otley.
James Davies’ 4-27 was the catalyst for the Roundhay side’s meagre 115, but they were well in the game at 77-6 before Sam Kellett’s 32 from 23 balls saw Otley go to within two points of Burley.
Another side on the up are Rawdon, who blasted their way to 283-5 at Bilton thanks to skipper Andrew Duckworth (83) and Aussie star Marcus Berryman (85).
Bilton started well but came up 66 runs short despite the best efforts of twirl twins Mustahsan Ali Shah (63) and county triallist Kiel van Vollenhoven (61).