Aire-Wharfe: Ashes hero Ben Stokes inspires Follifoot to take title fight to the wire
FOLLIFOOT are taking inspiration from England’s Ashes hero Ben Stokes in a bid to snatch the Aire Wharfe League title from Otley on the final day.
Second-placed Follifoot trail defending champions Otley by 31 points with three games remaining and the two sides will face each other in a potential title decider at Otley’s Cross Green ground on the last Saturday of the season.
With points and title-winning experience in the bank, Follifoot skipper Nick Robinson knows Otley are very much in pole position with the leaders welcoming third-bottom Pool next Saturday before visiting second-bottom Collingham on the penultimate weekend.
Follifoot visit fifth-placed Horsforth next weekend before welcoming third-placed Ilkley who are not yet mathematically out of the title race.
But Robinson says his club have been inspired by Stokes’ heroic unbeaten century at Headingley which hauled England to a breathtaking win against Australia who needed just one wicket to retain the Ashes with England still 73 runs short of victory.
“I saw some of the videos on Snapchat and stuff from some of the Follifoot lads that watched it and everyone was glued to it,” said Robinson.
“It was an unbelievable day’s cricket and to be needing 70 with one wicket left and coming back to win it, it just reinforces the fact that you should never give up.
“It was an incredible win against probably one of the best bowling attacks Australia have had for a long time.
“As a cricketer, you watch it and you think actually anything is possible when you play and you have just got to try and back yourself and dig in sometimes.
“To watch that as someone who plays on a regular basis, it’s quite inspirational.
“If we can learn a lesson from Ben Stokes’ innings then that will be it – take the title race to the last game of the season and even if we need to beat by Otley by 20 points to nil then we will try and do it. It was brilliant.”
Follifoot’s latest victory on Saturday at fourth-bottom Rawdon was rather more straightforward with Robinson blasting 79 which, together with a knock of 91 from Yasar Ali, took Follifoot to 241-7, with Josh Cutts adding 34.
Cutts then took 4-42 as he and Istikhar Hussain (3-48) caused the main damage to skittle Rawdon for 165.
Follifoot took the full 20-point haul for their efforts with Otley grasping 16 through a dramatic success at seventh-placed Bilton.
Alex Mullins took 6-26 as Bilton were dismissed for just 108 but skipper James Davies proved Otley’s answer to Stokes with an unbeaten 53 to haul his men home at 111-9.
Every game in the division resulted in an away victory with third-placed Ilkley 105-run victors at third-bottom Pool and fourth-placed Addingham being eclipsed by eight runs at home to Burley-in-Wharfedale who sit sixth.
Fifth-placed Horsforth raced to a 166-run success at second-bottom Collingham & Linton while bottom club Adel won by three-wickets at fifth-bottom North Leeds.
“I think Otley are the stand-out side in the league,” said Robinson.
“They have got the pedigree of winning the title for quite a long time now and they have been there or thereabouts for a lot of of seasons.
“They have got that winning know-how and they managed to pull off a good win on Saturday against Bilton, winning by one wicket, and sometimes it’s those games that really make the difference at the end of the season. They are a very good side, they have got some very good players and I think it was inevitable they would be there or thereabouts.
“But I think if we did go all season and only lose two games and still didn’t win the league then you would probably feel a little bit disappointed but we have got three games to go and hopefully we can make sure that we do stay there. We are doing everything we can.
“The weather has beaten us more than we would like which has been frustrating, particularly last week against Collingham when the ground wasn’t playable with the rain because Otley lost, but they still got more points than us because it’s only three points for a rained-off game.
“That was disappointing but we played well on Saturday and, I guess, all we can do now is win the rest of our games and hope Otley slip up.
“The last game of the season is Otley at their spot and it would be great if that was a winner takes all.”