Salesbury beat champions Little Lever on Saturday as rapid-fire winners Blackrod regained the initiative in a fascinating Premiership title race in the Anthony Axford North West Cricket League.

An eight-wicket win chasing 157 was Salesbury’s seventh in 10 games and kept them in touch in fourth place.

Andrew Mercer struck three times in Little Lever’s 156 all out before unbeaten South African professional, Garnett Tarr, top-scored with 77 chasing.

He shared a decisive opening partnership of 149 with Liam Parkinson, who made 68 having earlier taken a wicket.

Little Lever’s second defeat in 10 has re-opened the door for Blackrod, who were indebted to a fabulous 7-16 from seven overs for new-ball seamer Matthew Readey, as Tonge were skittled for just 30 in an eight-wicket win.

Blackrod raced to win number nine from 11 in a match lasting only a total of 21 overs, owing to Readey’s second seven-wicket haul of 2024.

Six of his wickets were bowled. In fact, nine Tonge batters were bowled. Bajan overseas amateur Antonio Greenidge added the other three wickets in a 12-point return.

Padiham are third. Toby Burrows went within a whisker of matching Readey’s seven wickets for Blackrod, the Padiham skipper and star spinner claiming 7-21 to secure a hard-fought home win against lowly Lostock. Brilliant Burrows is now the NWCL’s leading wicket-taker with 52 in all cricket.

Lostock would have been confident of victory when they bowled Padiham out for 130. Ultimately, Callum Clarke’s opening 59 proved the innings of the match.

Lostock’s confidence would have grown at 42-1 in reply, but they lost nine for 34 to be bowled out for 76 - a 54-run victory margin for Padiham, their seventh in 10 matches.

The title race sees Blackrod top on 112 points from 11, Little Lever have 98 from 10, Padiham 98 from 11 and Salesbury 88 from 10.

Everybody in the league but Little Lever and Salesbury have played 11.

In the Championship, Read’s rampant promotion charge continued with a 127-run home victory over Oswaldtwistle Immanuel for a ninth win in 10.

It came on the back of posting 343-3 from 45 overs - the highest total of this season’s NWCL. Every Read batter used reached a half-century, led by South African overseas amateur Zadian Muller’s brutal 101 off 44 balls with nine sixes.

Declan Bailey made 76, captain Will Wrathall 92 and pro Blayde Capell 61 not out. In reply, Oswaldtwistle finished on 238-8. Muller struck once.

Back in the Premiership, Ribblesdale Wanderers boosted their survival hopes, benefitting from the London Bus Syndrome - you wait ages for one to come along and then two arrive at once.

They backed up last weekend’s win against Lostock by chasing 157 to win at Eagley by four wickets. They are now level on 43 points with third-bottom Lostock.

Sub pro, Ockie Erasmus, claimed three wickets in Eagley’s 156-9 in 44 overs before leading the chase with an unbeaten 68.

Astley Bridge are getting cut adrift at the bottom, on 20 points. Their 10th defeat came at home to Farnworth, by five wickets as the visitors chased 171.

Yasir Rashid impressed with 5-53 in Bridge’s 170-9 before Simon Booth’s unbeaten middle-order 65 led Farnworth’s reply.

Kearsley won a mid-table battle at Farnworth Social Circle (166 all out) by six wickets to win their fifth game.

Charlie Dorsey struck four times for Kearsley before captain and opener Cameron Murray led the successful chase with 58.

In the Championship, Baxenden won a tight and tense affair at home to second-placed Walkden - by three wickets chasing 152.

Their fifth win in 10 kept them on the coat-tails of the team they beat, 11 points behind.

Adam Masood and Matthew Austin each claimed four wickets to limit Walkden to 151 all out before pro Ben Gorton opened the chase with a measured 63.

The Championship promotion race is incredibly tight. Leaders Read are on course for next year’s Premiership with 105 points from 10 games, but second-placed Walkden, on 84, are only 17 clear of Feniscowles in sixth.

Sandwiched in between are Earby, Atherton and Baxenden - all Saturday winners.

Third-placed Earby beat bottom side Cherry Tree at home by 48 runs having posted 189-1 from their 45 overs.

Sri Lankan pro, Raveen Yasas, contributed 85no to their sixth win in 11. He shared a second-wicket 130 with opener Evan Dobson, who made an unbeaten 62, and then accounted for 5-35 with his spinners in Cherry Tree’s 141 all out.

Atherton have now won five, lost five having shown great powers of recovery away at Brinscall, victorious by 104 runs.

They were 91-7 batting first, but number nine Harry Morgan top-scored with 22 to fashion a 175 all out total.

Brinscall were then bowled out for 71 as Bajan OA, Jamaine Bullen, struck four times. Zeeshan Alsam and Mohammad Nazim, who contributed 18 and 13no, claimed three and two wickets, respectively.

Feniscowles have put themselves into promotion contention with three successive wins - six from 10 in all. Their latest came at Whalley, by eight wickets.

Sheraz Ahmad and Mohammed Adnan Khan claimed four wickets apiece to bowl Whalley out for 76, before unbeaten Imran Mehmood top-scored with 43 in reply.