South Yorkshire League approaches a crucial fortnight as top three all play like champions

Elsecar bowler Shahzad Rana. Picture: Barrie Codling
Elsecar bowler Shahzad Rana. Picture: Barrie Codling

The Nicholas Associates South Yorkshire League Championship is coming to its crucial fortnight. Hallam are still 17 points clear at the top, but are being determinedly shadowed by Tickhill and Elsecar. On Saturday, all three played like champions.

Elsecar bowled out Coal Aston for 115. Tom Griffin (42) and Dan Hemingway (35) resisted but Scott Jones (4-29) and Shahzad Rana (3-38) proved irresistible. Then, in less than half the overs, Elsecar crashed 116-4. Luke Aitken made 40, and Ainsley Swallow didn’t even bat.

Tickhill scored 254-8 against Wath (who harboured hopes of supplanting them, had they won). Andrew Rennison, who is in formidable form, made 107 and James Stuart 59. Jordan Shutt took four wickets and Sam Whitlam three but barely slowed Tickhill’s progress. Their bowlers, Josh Court (5-37) and Alex Rowland (4-37) then demolished Wath around Rob Barlow who held out, as ever, with 71 out of 140.

Hallam were even more emphatic at Kexborough. Alex Hughes and Mark Williams both scored hundreds in their 276-5, Hughes going on to 127. Kexborough could only manage 134 in total, Michael Jepps making 47, with the wickets shared around.

Sam Davison, aged 15, bowled just two balls – a six and a wicket!

Elsewhere, Houghton Main made relegation unlikely by overwhelming Whiston by nine wickets, Whiston’s disappointing 137 overtaken in just 15 overs by Ian Simon 79* and Khurram Javed 34* ( 100 of their 113 runs coming in boundaries).

But cricket’s not just about smacking boundaries. The day’s most exciting game was at Conisbrough where the home side battled to 198-8, Nathan Smith again holding things together with 67, against Darfield’s highly experienced bowling attack.

Darfield themselves started well, but collapsed to 161-9, with the best batsmen gone, before last pair Liam Pepper (33*) and Jack Waldron (11*) held on, squeezing out the 38 runs needed to win, with just four balls to go.

Next Saturday Hallam play Tickhill at Sandygate, the week after they play Elsecar at Armroyd Lane. If they slip up, and other results go to form, the difference could be down to three points with four games to go. At the bottom of the table, Rotherham Town have already dropped out, so the battle’s for one further relegation slot.

Neither Coal Aston nor Collegiate B have won a game this season (except against Rotherham) but Collegiate have at least picked up some bonus points, so they are favourites to escape. Still, one win could do it for either team - and they play each other on the last day of the season!

On Sunday, it was the Mick Savage Cup Final. Rockingham, second in Division One, played Hallam B, who are third. It should have been a tight game - Rockingham had won their last five, Hallam had lost only one of theirs - and it was Rockingham who played with the self-belief of success. They won the toss and batted first, Robin Singh and Corey Roebuck putting on an opening stand of 92.

Three wickets fell. Singh went for 62 but Hamzah Younis and Ben Dalton steadied things and at 45 overs, Rockingham were 208-8, 14 year old Charlie Bourne having taken 3-33. It was not an unassailable total given Hallam’s prolific opening pair, Harry Bliss and Benji Woon. Bliss himself has scored close to 500 runs in July. But not on Sunday.

Rockingham struck early and never let things slip. Bliss made 42 but Hallam were bowled out for 119 and Rockingham deservedly won the cup.