To an almost audible sigh of “Yes!” on Saturday, Hallam - who’ve avoided the fate all season - were rained off, while Elsecar, Whiston, Tickhill and Wath all got their games in and won.
That cut the deficit by up to five points and setting up a chase in the second half of the season that may run and run.
Elsecar and Tickhill were quite brutal in their application of Plan A. Elsecar bowled Rotherham Town B out for 89 in 35 overs, with Shahzad Rana taking 5-19 and Paul Cummins adding 4-32. Rotherham Town’s Hewad Abdullah smote 35* with three fours and two sixes but it was eclipsed by Peter Hadfield, who followed last week’s hundred with 58* as Elsecar knocked off the runs for one down in nine overs.
Tickhill obliterated Coal Aston for just 44, Josh Court taking 4-5 in three overs and new South African signing Siviwe Gidana 3-13. Andrew Rennison and Nick Page took just four overs and one ball to get the 45 required to win.
Whiston, a side brimming with high order batsmen, elected for plan B, and hit Darfield for 193-7, declaring after 41 overs. Andy Tomlinson batted through for 81*. Danny Kemp made 38, then removed Darfield’s middle order with 5-35, as Whiston bowled them out for 120.
Darfield were missing Lesroy Weekes but will have been disappointed not to have done better.
It enabled Wath to overtake them in the table, with a solid team performance against Kexborough. David Mace took 3-35 as Kexborough made 167-7 in a game reduced to 34 overs a side. Adam Wiles top-scored with 56. Wath had five batsmen scoring 28 or more as they reached their target with one ball to go. They lost two in two to Michael Jepps in a tense finish, but Jory Bannister held them together and Jonathan Hays hit his first ball for four to win.
As well as Hallam/Houghton Main, Collegiate and Conisbrough were rained off, the south west seeming to take the brunt of the rain – the two Norton clubs were also rained off in Division One.
So Elsecar, Whiston and Tickhill have two points separating them as they pull away from the pack, scrapping with Hallam for the two promotion places to the Yorkshire League South.
There are ten games to go, the holidays coming up and maybe a spell of better weather(?). It could be a really exciting run in and next week, Elsecar play Tickhill, both in blistering form. Certainly worth a trip to Armroyd Lane.
Division One looks to be even more tense, with four clubs (Hallam B, Rockingham, Thorncliffe and Sprotbrough) all snuck in behind Aston Hall B and just one point separating them. Hallam B, who made 268-8 to beat Sprotbrough, and Thorncliffe [186-5 to beat Barnsley B] did their causes no harm on Saturday.
And on Sunday, Tickhill moved into the Whitworth Cup final, beating Conisbrough, largely thanks to an outstanding innings of 124 by Andrew Rennison. Set 234 to win, Conisbrough’s middle order led by Gary Strephan (44) battled gamely,but closed on 204-8.
The second semi-final is next Sunday between Elsecar and Darfield, who, with Weekes back, picked themselves up to beat Houghton Main comfortably by seven wickets, Tabassum Bhatti taking 5-9.
Sunday will also see the Mick Savage Cup semis with Worsbrough Bridge playing Rockingham and Hallam B playing Shiregreen.
But what a summer! If this is the shape of things to come through global warming, we’ll need to think hard about how we can keep the game thriving.