The South Yorkshire League continues to surprise and delight in equal measure.
The winter reshuffle of players, and the acquisition by some clubs of outstanding new signings, has created the most open and competitive division for many years. Of course the incentive of promotion to the new Yorkshire League South at the end of the season has concentrated the mind wonderfully, too.
On Saturday, all eyes were on Whitley Hall, league leaders, against Darfield, second and top of the new pretenders – and what a game it produced.
Whitley were without Jim Tasker, on family duties, but that just gave space to others. Chris Siddall stroked 123* but was almost caught up by Greig Batty who smashed 61* from 41 balls - all of this against Darfield’s much vaunted Aussie paceman Michael Topp, who went for his own 100 (1-103). Whitley made 326-4, but such is the competition today that Darfield set about it and ended on 303-9. Greig’s near-namesake, Tabassum Bhatti, made 134 and James Ward 52 as Darfield got within touching distance!
Treeton moved up to second with a more familiar demolition job on Wath (94 ao) but this time it wasn’t Steve Foster who did the damage. Instead former England U19 star Charlie Roebuck took 4-22, then biffed 53* in 44 balls to win by seven wickets.
The two shocks were Wickersley (217-7) losing to Aston Hall (273-8), for whom former Derbyshire man Adam Whiteley made the season’s highest total of 163, and Elsecar (86 ao) being smashed by Tickhill (248-6, James Stuart 96 and fast bowler Steve Reid, 50).
Hallam, meanwhile, slipped into fourth after overcoming Conisbrough by 14 runs, Kiwi seamer Matt Newman bursting into form with the season’s best bowling (8-40).
Houghton Main (215-6) won a very evenly matched tussle with Coal Aston (213-6), Ian Simon and Tanzeel Ali making 50s while Liam Johnson made 77* and took 3-52 but ended up on the losing side. Some things never change!
Such is the competition in Division One that leaders Millhouses Works lost on Saturday, and dropped into the bottom half of the table!
Barnsley did their very best to help them, bowling 47 wides (leg side rule!) but no-one got going and Barnsley easily overcame their 174 for four down (Beck Frostick 48*). Whiston took over the top spot, scoring 306-6. Andy Tomlinson failed - he only got 98 this time!
Danny Kemp made 72 and Alex Galloway 56. It was all too much for Rockingham, who ended on 148-8 (Mark Wilkinson 53, Tom Bolland 4-29).
Rotherham 2nds (247-7, Tim Staveley 65) were bravely pursued by Shiregreen who made 225-9 (Hedar Rasool 60, Dave Mace 4-41).
Whitley Hall overcame Norton Oakes after restricting them to 189-4, despite an unbroken partnership of 85 by Luke Sage (62*) and Tom Childs (43*), then hammering 190-3 in nearly half the time, Doug Muzawazi (83) and Todd Dennien (71*) enjoying their own century partnership.
Collegiate got their first win of the season despite struggling to 174 ao, with old master Nick Gaywood (41) and Tom Shaw (34*) putting on 79 for the last wicket. Woodseats then fell for 115, with Shaw completing a fine day with 4-22.
Michael Jepps scored 55 and took 3-27 as Kexborough defeated Aston Hall.
Sunday’s Nicholas Associates Whitworth Cup produced the strangest score of the day when Hallam, playing their second game of the weekend against Conisbrough, had seven ducks and extras scored more than all but one of the batsmen!
But thanks to Nick Dymock (54) and Jamie Stone (34*) they made 173 – in 28 overs!
Conisbrough clearly found this so bizarre that they couldn’t get going themselves and ended up 135 ao (Joe Cooper 4-36).
By contrast, Aston Hall, clearly a side to watch, knocked out Tickhill in a game dominated by overseas, Nick Smit for Aston made 101* from 227-5 and then took 3-0 as Tickhill, with James Stuart injured, were bowled out for 104.
This weekend, Whitley are at Houghton Main, Darfield are at Conisbrough and second plays fourth as Treeton host Hallam at Washfield Lane.
Aston Hall will try to maintain their resurgence against Elsecar, Tickhill are at Wath and Wickersley entertain Coal Aston.