THE race for this season’s Drakes Premiership crown was thrown wide open on Saturday when the top two clubs, Golcar and Barkisland, both crashed to defeat.
Steve Whitwam stroked an unbeaten 132 for leaders Golcar, but was upstaged by Max Joice (88no) and Richard Cocking (79) in a matching-winning 156-run seventh-wicket stand for Skelmanthorpe.
And Barkisland fared even worse at Micklehurst, where the Sykes Cup finalists came down to earth with a massive bang after being shot out for 133.
Missing opener Simon Wheelwright, Dave Weston and crucially Love Ablish, who has returned to India because of a family bereavement, the visitors struggled to cope with Aaron Lilley, who continues his impressive learning curve in the first team with five for 24. Only Tinashe Panyangara (50) performed with the bat.
Micklehurst still didn’t have it all their own way, however, losing six wickets in the process of winning, thanks to Danny Anchor’s 38 (before he retired hurt) and Melbourne Austin with 37 as Matt Steers struck with four for 53.
Whitwam was not alone in posting a century in a beaten side, however, as the same fate befell John Booth (111) for Lascelles Hall as their position now begins to look pretty serious after losing to Clayton West, who were again inspired by Paul van den Berg.
The South African all-rounder top-scored with 89, backed up by Rob Kaskiewicz (53) and Nick Sharp (52no) and then took six wickets with four lbw decisions going his way, along with two more for Steve Glover.
Meltham’s Leighton Morgan also cracked a ton in defeat to Shelley, for whom improving Sam Scott (73no) and Muthu Pushkpakumara (53) put on 101 for the first wicket in a seven-wicket win which also leaves Meltham in the relegation zone.
Matt Cox was another century-maker, but he did finish on the winning side, as Honley romped to a nine-wicket win at Shepley to reverse their early season defeat against the Marsh Laners, Harlon Haye taking five for the reigning League champions who have now closed to within four points of the top.
Kyle Hogg helped himself to seven wickets as Emley crashed to 54 all out at Delph, while Holmfirth are also looking over their shoulders as they went down again, this time at Elland.
The day’s highest score came in the Frank Platt Conference derby clash at Hall Bower, where Primrose Hill’s non-EU batsman Mobin Ahmad put the home attack to the sword with an unbeaten 158.
Ben Dunne had earlier made a very fine century for the Bower, and featured in a 120-run stand with Tom Cliffe (68), but their 236-7 tally was never going to be enough when Ahmad, in tandem with Usamn Yousaf (50) got cracking with a 170-run stand for the second wicket.
At the top of the table, runaway leaders Slaithwaite ended Kirkburton’s faint hopes of getting into the play-offs with a 10-wicket win, Mark Mitchell bagging five for 16 as the visitors from Riley Lane collapsed to 80 all out.
Marsden maintained their push with their ninth outright win, this time over Almondbury, and are now looking a good bet for a spot in Conference play-off final.
Simon Robinson was a five-wicket performer, while Peter Lombard made an unbeaten half-century for the Hemplow men.
Ian Cooper of Lepton took five Thongsbridge wickets, but his batsmen came up 30 short of the visitors 194-9 total.
The Cedar Court section is a little closer, although Scholes still hold a 12-point lead over nearest challengers Kirkheaton.
Asim Khan reached the 50-wicket mark in Scholes’ nine-wicket win over Rastrick with a six for 38 return, but he was pipped for the Examiner prize by Broad Oak’s Ben DeAraugo, who needed seven – and got them – against Paddock, who had subsided to 60 all out at 3pm.
Broad Oak completed a seven-wicket win, while Scholes romped home by nine wickets, Matt Smith making 40 not out, after Khan’s six-for sent Rastrick tumbling to 87 all out.
Kirkheaton stayed just ahead of the Oak after they also took maximum points at Armitage Bridge who were dismissed for 95, of which Danny Moorhouse made 35, Dale Winterbottom claiming five victims.
Mark Bray scored a half-century as Kexborough ensured Linthwaite are winless.