CHEER has been in short supply at Pudsey Congs so far this season. Until Saturday, that is.
It was definitely one of the more uplifting moments for everyone at the Britannia Ground, with a vital 71-run victory over stricken top-flight relegation rivals Cleckheaton having provided a much-needed transfusion of hope in the club’s battle against an embarrassing relegation.
Congs may still be bottom, but it does not tell the full story after they skittled Cleck for a paltry 35, the Moorenders’ seventh loss in eight outings and the third time that they have failed to reach three figures with the bat in a month.
In a key day at the bottom, Batley also came up trumps with a 63-run win over East Bierley to leapfrog them in the table and move up to fourth from bottom – with the quest to avoid the drop now a real four-horse race.
On a day when damp pitches made batting much more onerous, a key first-wicket stand of 42 between Mubtada Akhtar (27) and James Ford (15) underpinned Congs’ 106-9, with Babar Butt hitting 22 not out in a shortened game.
Curtis Free (4-19) and Qaisar Ashraf (4-13) made hay for Cleck before Jonathon Donnelly, whose 6-20 featured a hat-trick and Josh Holling (4-13) held their own party, with the visitors dismissed for a wretched 35 with only John Wood reaching double figures.
Congs now trail Cleck by just six points – while being just 11 points behind third-from-bottom East Bierley, who they visit on Saturday.
Chairman Ralph Middlebrook said: “We have entered the fight with a vengeance, I’d like to think.
“It is the first time we have played as a team (this season) and everyone battled hard.
“Mubtada’s knock was so valuable and the catches that the keeper took were outstanding and Jamie Allen took three very difficult chances. It was vastly encouraging.
“We were delighted. We never thought we would bowl them out for 35.
“It will be a good tussle between the four clubs to stay up and we are in the mix now at least. If we’d lost on Saturday, you would have said we would be a bit adrift.”
Sufyan Patel struck a fine 70 and Muhammad Hafeez excelled with 5-31 as Batley (209) claimed an important win over East Bierley (146), whose main men were Amar Rashid (5-65) and Adal Islam (59).
On a seminal day at the top, Farsley and Hanging Heaton were the big winners to boost their title quests.
It proved a thriller at Red Lane as leaders Farsley dramatically edged out champions Pudsey St Lawrence by three runs in a tense finish.
A key sixth-wicket stand of 79 between James Wainman (46) and Matthew Revis (52) helped Farsley total a decent 181, with Chris Marsden (4-34) taking four late wickets.
Replying, a spirited lower-order partnership also hauled St Lawrence back into contention after they were toiling at 55-6 with Marsden (54) and Tom Hudson (61no) putting on a super 102 for the seventh wicket.
But the hosts held their nerve at the death and impressive bowling from Adam Ahmed (5-37) helped Farsley over the line as the visitors ended just short at 178-9.
Farsley are seven points clear of Hanging Heaton, who beat third-placed Woodlands at Albert Terrace.
Chris Brice’s 4-34 helped restrict the Tewits to 143-9, but the visiting bowlers then took charge with David Stiff and Muhammed Rameez taking three wickets apiece as the hosts were all out for 120.
An opening stand of 123 between Mitchell O’Connor (74) and Simon Lambert (52) was the highlight of New Farnley’s knock of 237-9 and win over Bradford & Bingley (172).
Jack Hughes’s 107 could not stop Townville (214-7) losing out by eight wickets to Lightcliffe (218-2), for whom Niall Lockley (110no) and Yorkshire’s Alex Lees (96) put on 141 for the second wicket.