AS the saying goes, captains make big runs.
That was certainly the case at Bennett Lane on Saturday during the most eagerly-awaited Bradford Premier League game of the season between leaders Hanging Heaton and champions Pudsey St Lawrence.
And it was visiting skipper James Smith, who came to the party in a big way, at exactly the right moment in his club’s season – and his own.
By his own admission, Smith, a reassuring constant over the years, had been a bit out of nick with the bat this term, but all that changed at the weekend – just when his side needed him.
St Lawrence were in trouble at 94-4, after the Tewits opened with 248-9.
But Smith stood up to the plate superbly, hitting a match-changing 90 from 73 balls, which featured five sixes and ten fours in a real onslaught.
It was left to Richie Lamb to complete St Lawrence’s majestic riposte as they won with a ball to spare by two wickets.
On whether the innings constituted one of his best ever, in the circumstances, Smith said: “It was, bearing in the mind both the situation and magnitude of the game. It was overdue, let’s say that!
“I had not scored too many runs this season and the pressure was on me to try and front up, really. We played a couple of poor shots at the top of the order and gave them the impetus, with us at 94-4, to bury us.
“We had to show a bit of fight, which wasn’t easy. But the longer I spent at the crease, the more confident I got and that I could score the runs to get us somewhere near. I couldn’t quite see us over the line, but the lads who came in afterwards did the job, which was great.
“The lads have kind of carried me for the first half of the season, really. To actually turn up and do it in a game like that has given me a confidence boost for the second half of the year.”
The win tightened up proceedings in what is proving a compelling chase for silverware, with Heaton’s lead cut to six points, with Farsley and St Lawrence in striking distance, along with Woodlands.
Smith added: “It was important we won, although we will not be getting carried away.
“We understand fully that Hanging Heaton are a very good team and while we got 19 points on the day, we still went down a place in the league and Farsley are still pitching in and they got another 20 points.
“The reality is that it is 11 really, really big games to go now. We respect Hanging Heaton in terms of who they are as players and what they are, as a club.
“You can’t get ahead of yourselves with teams like them, Farsley and Woodlands knocking about.”
AFTER being edged out at the death on Saturday, things went full circle for Hanging Heaton just 24 hours later.
Seeking a historic first progression into the last 16 of the Royal London ECB National Club Championship, the Tewits were up against it against visiting Elsecar, who were looking like successfully chasing down the hosts’ target of 276.
But a fine final over from club chairman and Tewits legend John Carruthers saw Heaton into the national stages of the competition for the first time as Elsecar finished at 273-6 – after the hosts opened with 275-4.
Captain Gary Fellows carried his bat in outstanding fashion, hitting a magnificent 152 not out. Heaton’s reward is a last-16 trip to North West outfit Hyde.
Elsewhere in the top flight on Saturday, Farsley kept up the heat on Heaton after sinking Townsville by 75 runs with Dan Hodgson returning to the side with aplomb, hitting a sparkling 105 in his side’s hefty 287-6.
Replying, prolific opener Jonathan Booth (61) top-scored for Townville, but they fell short at 212, with Adam Ahmed taking 4-64.
Jamie Pickering hit a key 75 as Woodlands (229-8) beat stubborn Batley (211), for whom Muhammad Hafeez (4-55 and 56) impressed.
New Farnley captain Lee Goddard hit a brilliant 146 not out as his side stopped their slide against depleted Pudsey Congs by 61 runs.
A fine 6-48 from Qaisar Ashraf couldn’t break Cleckheaton’s demise as they lost by 45 runs to Lightcliffe, Kasir Maroof (106) smashing a super century.