NORMAL service was resumed on Sunday when leaders Farnworth Social Circle bounced back from their shock defeat at home to Walkden to score a comfortable win at Astley Bridge.
And with second-placed Bradshaw losing at home to third-placed Farnworth 24 hours after dramatically cutting the gap on Circle to a single point, the weekend ended pretty much as it had begun, although Farnworth, Westhoughton and Greenmount all profited from back-to-back victories.
Tim Rees (60), Liam Ashworth (51) and Andrew Lane (42) helped Circle to 234-7 from their 50 overs before Liam Bones took an impressive 7-50 as Bridge were skittled for just 116 in reply – a result which ultimately extended the title favourites’ lead to nine points at the top of the pile.
Buoyed by their thrilling last-over victory at Egerton the previous day, Bradshaw went into their home game against Farnworth with high hopes of keeping the pressure on the leaders – if not taking top spot themselves – and things were looking good when they had the visitors at 12-3 after six overs.
But Simon Booth had other ideas, hitting 15 fours and eight sixes in a superb innings of 123 and, together with Adil Nisar (59), put on 155 for the fourth wicket as Farnworth recovered to score a respectable 229.
Bradshaw took on the challenge with Nick Lester (43) and Tom Liversedge (33) leading the way. But with five overs remaining, a brief interruption for rain meant they lost an over and their target was revised down to 225.
But targets were off the radar by the time Chris Wilson bowled the final over – and ended the innings with a hat-trick as Bradshaw fell 23 runs short.
Westhoughton were just nine runs short of 600 runs for the weekend as they romped to a second high-scoring victory in as many days at Kearsley.
Following up their 266-7 against Eagley the previous day, the Howfeners reached 325-4 off their 50 overs, professional Qaiser Abbas rattling up an unbeaten 138 and Ian Pilkington playing the main supporting role with 51. Such was their dominance that Kearsley’s Ata Ur Rehman ended with figures of 1-130 off 19 overs.
Kearsley were bowled out for 147 in reply, having slumped to 36-7 before a face-saving eighth-wicket partnership of 79 between Ur-Rehman (54) and Naz Ahmed (33).
Walkden, conquerors of Social Circle the previous day, crashed to a nine-wicket defeat at home to Greenmount.
They were looking in good shape at 44-0 but collapsed to 101 all out, Mark Stewart’s 4-30 the pick of the bowling.
That was nowhere near enough to test the Bury side and with Andy Kerr leading the way with 55 not out, they took just 22 overs to wrap up the win.
Horwich were another of the weekend’s double winners, following up Saturday’s home victory over Kearsley with a 77-run win at Little Lever, where Phil Cavill scored 121 and Babar Naeem 49 in a total of 246-9.
The reigning champions had their moments, Raki Mahmood taking 7-77 and pro Kamran Younis hitting 50 off 15 balls in just 20 minutes of his knock of 64, while 16-year-old opener Danny Robinson made a name for himself with 51.
But with Naeem (6-57) and Andy Taylor (3-8) leading the attack, the Railwaymen were never in any serious danger.
Heaton also had a profitable weekend, although after Saturday’s comfortable home victory over Little Lever they did not have things all their own way at Tonge.
In fact Tonge lived to regret twice dropping Heaton pro Humayun Farhat before he had settled into his stride and built an innings of 101. With Imran Mirza (59) in support, Heaton reached 270-7, Pat Hamer the best of the home bowlers with 5-91.
Tonge pro Chanaka Ruwansiri (71) and Yousuf Anwar (47) led the reply, which after a short rain delay left them chasing a target of 259 in 48 overs – a target they fell short of by just 16.
Egerton showed the depth of their batting when they successfully chased down a target of 179 at Eagley – Stuart Hornby (43), Paul Stafford (39no), Amal Athulathmudali (29) and Will Halton (28) all making sizeable contributions in the five-wicket win.
Eagley pro Agha Salman (45) top-scored for the home side, Halton the pick of the Egerton bowlers with 3-68.
Eagley 179-7 Egerton 181-5. Egerton won by 5 wkts.
Bradshaw 202 Farnworth 229. Farnworth won by 23 runs (revised target).
Astley Bridge 116 Farnworth SC 234-7. Social Circle won by 118 runs.
Tonge 243-7 Heaton 270-7. Heaton won by 16 runs (revised target).
Little Lever 169 Horwich 246-9. Horwich won by 77 runs.
Kearsley 147 Westhoughton 325-4. Westhoughton won by 178 runs.
Walkden 101 Greenmount 102-1. Greenmount won 9 wkts.