The season is entering its final quarter and there are some nervous signs at Bawtry Road as a fourth loss in five games has dragged newly formed Sheffield and Phoenix United into a significant relegation dogfight.
United travelled to Whitley Hall last weekend and suffered a real thumping at The Wheel. The hosts won the toss and elected to bat first and after Matt Milburn fell cheaply, the rest of the batsmen contributed.
James Moorhouse (80) and Chris Siddall (76) posted a partnership of 146 to take the score to 179-2 and with quick-fire contributions from Greig Batty (29) and skipper Alex Fletcher (26), Whitley rattled up 302-9 from the full 50 over allocation. Bilal Anjam was the pick of the United attack with 3-54 with Yaqoob Yousuf providing good support with 3-68, however without the control that Azeem Rafiq has provided to the attack, the remaining bowlers received some heavy treatment from the Whitley side.
In reply United needed a solid foundation from which to attack the target. Ex-United stars Piet Swanepoel and Neil Longhurst ensured that didn’t happen. Swanepoel picked up three and Longhurst another to reduce the visitors’ reply to 34-4, and that effectively sealed the victory. Anjam enhanced his increasing reputation with a positive 41 before Callum Bethel took the first of three wickets and with little support from the rest of the line-up, United folded to 116 all out in the 30th over, and defeat by a massive 186 runs.
The victory took Whitley Hall up to third in the table, and represents a significant change in form in the last two months as they were in the bottom third when the sides first met earlier this season.
United remain in eighth place, but the gap to the bottom two was reduced by Treeton’s win over Rotherham - who are confirmed as relegated.
Collegiate had been on an excellent run but were halted in a high-scoring game at the inconsistent Wickersley. Collegiate inserted the hosts looking to chase down whatever was set them at the compact Northfield Lane ground.
After the returning Luke Shutt dismissed Mark Cummins cheaply, Dave Rodgers (83) and Tom Knight set about the Collegiate attack with some energy. With contributions from skipper Stuart Guy (41) and Shahjahan Younis (25), Knight finished undefeated on 117 from just 108 balls and Wickersley had posted 316-5. Henry Eldred took two of the wickets, but at a cost of 112.
As for United, Collegiate needed a good start but Lewis Brown headed the Wickersley defence and reduced the reply to 90-4. Billy Root was the main threat but his dismissal, by Liam Johnson for 57, broke the back of the visitors’ hopes. Some lower order hitting by Josh Varley (26) and Shutt (47) got the Collegiate total up to 258 all out, losing by 58 runs and slipping down to fourth place. Lewis Brown’s 4-83 was the Wickersley bowling highlight.
Both sides are at home this weekend, with Collegiate welcoming Appleby Frodingham to Abbeydale. A win would close the gap to the second place visitors, while United hosting Aston Hall, who are just one place and two points ahead of them in seventh. A win for United would be a massive boost in their bid to stay in the top league in the area but with Rafiq on Twenty20 finals day duty with Yorkshire, the young side will need to battle hard for the points.
Standings (17 games): Wakefield Thornes 172; App. Frodingham 140; Whitley Hall 120; COLLEGIATE 120; Cleethorpes 114; Wickersley 114 Aston Hall 90, UNITED 88; Barnsley 86; Doncaster 82; Treeton 80; Rotherham 26.