When the season approaches its end, this weekend might be seen as the key point.
Two clubs have been by far and away the most consistent this season and last, and they met this past Saturday as second placed Collegiate travelled up the M1 to take on leaders and double reigning champions Wakefield Thornes.
Shorn of their county contracted players Billy Root and Azeem Rafiq, Collegiate needed a strong performance to push their case for the lead position.
Collegiate won the toss and batted first, and lived to regret the decision.
Thornes attack were ruthless in demolishing the visitors line up, reducing them to 36-5; Mahmood Rasool (5-39) did the most damage in putting Collegiate on the back foot.
Henry Eldred (44), Ben Fielding (24) and Robert Shaw (21) fought back and dragged Collegiate up to 159 all out in the 43rd over.
This was not the performance Collegiate needed and a strong bowling performance was called for to give them any chance of victory.
The second innings was cat and mouse as Collegiate chipped away at the champions’ batting line up.
At 90-5, Collegiate were in with a chance thanks to Matt Dixon’s 2-44 and 2-26 from Matt Fielding.
Josh Shaw’s all round performance was key as he posted 35 alongside his 3-65 and led Thornes to a three-wicket victory in the 47th over, leaving Collegiate ruing their earlier failure with the bat.
Thornes moved 20 points clear, with Collegiate still clear in second but seemingly with a mountain to climb, relying on others to halt Thorne march towards a third title.
Barnsley consolidated their third place with a good win in a tight game against fourth placed Doncaster.
Barnsley batted first at their hosts request and openers Trower and Beukes fell relatively cheaply, but Harpreet Bathia and Eli Richards set about the attack.
Bathia posted his fifth century in six league innings finishing on 103 as he was one of three victims for Jack Shutt.
Richards continued and struck 104* off just 84 balls taking Barnsley to 271-4. The reply was strangled by Dan Waldron taking two early wickets, and despite an excellent 94 from Ali Waqas, his team mates couldn’t provide enough support from the other end although Duncan Heath’s 39 was part of a 87 run partnership that caused Barnsley some concern.
Waldron returned to finish with 3-49, with Bathia taking 2-49 as Doncaster finished on 246-9.
Wickersley moved back into fourth with a straightforward win over struggling Aston Hall who decided to bat first, and just 36 overs later were regretting the decision.
Ali Manzoor was destroyer in chief with 6-26 for Wickersley, as only the top three Aston Hall batmen posted double figure scores.
Mark Cummins helped finish off the innings with 3-28 as Wickersley needed 90 for victory.
This they did in just 21 overs as Cummins (36*) and Tom Knight (34*) combined from a tricky position of 33-2 to take their side to victory with no further loss.
The defeat leaves Aston Hall in a perilous position at the bottom of the table.
The remaining games illustrate the competitiveness of the league below the top two sides.
Mid table Treeton lost at improving Cleethorpes who chose to bat first. James Osmond struck 76 and with twenties from Bill Kirby and Vusimuzi Sibanda, Cleethorpes were able to post 192-9 despite the efforts of Will Street (3-59).
The reply was steady but wickets fell with regularity to keep Cleethorpes on top. George Barnes struck 53, with support from Shahjahan Younis (33) but Alex Osmond kept his side in control with 6-55. Five scores of 1 or less meant Treeton fell for 170 and a loss by 22 runs.
Whitley Hall’s recent upturn was quashed at Appleby Frodingham who moved within two points of their vistors.
From 33-2, Whitley let their hosts escape as Ryan Schierhout (61), Matt Fowler (46) and Kieran Lindley (34) combined to take the score up to a competitive 238-8 despite Richard Wilkinson’s return of 5-59.
Whitley’s reply never got going, without an innings to build a reply around. Greig Batty top scored with 51* batting at six, and despite a quickfire 31 from Abhishek Kulkarni, Whitley finished 45 runs adrift on 193 all out with four overs remaining as Kieran Watson taking 4-54.
Finally Hallam returned to winning ways with a good result at Whiston whose struggles return after a recent improvement.
Sajid Khan continued to score well for Whiston when they batted first, but with little support from his team mates, Danny Kemp’s 26 aside, Hallam were always in control.
Joe Cooper took 4-23 and with Craig Moffat picking up 3-24 in support Whiston fell to 132 all out in 46 miserly overs.
The reply was not straightforward however, as Whiston’s bowlers rallied. Hallam started well at 51-0 and at 102-3 the game seemed over.
Khan excelled with the ball (3-41) but Hallam fell over the line at 135-7 and 12 much needed points were theirs.
This weekend Thornes welcome Cleethorpes, Collegiate look to bounce back against Doncaster and Barnsley go to Wickersley.
Whitley travel to Treeton, Hallam host Appleby Frodingham and a basement clash sees Aston Hall welcome Whiston.
STANDINGS (14 games): Thornes 148; COLLEGIATE 128; Barnsley 114; Wickersley 106; Doncaster 100; Treeton 86; WHITLEY HALL 76; Appleby Frodingham 74; HALLAM 74; Cleethorpes 64; Whiston 62; Aston Hall 50.