THE race for the knockout places in the NW Cricket League’s T20 Birtwistle Cup is hotting up with one round of group matches to go, writes Bill Slinger.

In Group One North, Baxenden batted first against Ribblesdale Wanderers and closed on 118-6 - Jake Hargreaves top scoring with 60 while Jacob Johnson chipped in with 25.

In reply, openers Andrew Needham (75 no) and Mack Spencer (44) put on 116 for the first wicket as Wanderers ran out comfortable winners by nine wickets with five overs to spare.

Whalley batted first against Earby and made 147-7 - the innings was dominated by Levi Wolfenden who made 94 off just 55 deliveries, hitting 12 fours and three sixes.

Earby lost wickets on a regular basis and they ended 13 runs short on 134-9. Wolfenden completing an all-round performance taking 3-24.

On Thursday, Barnoldswick (122-5) beat Salesbury (116-6) by five wickets.

With one group game left to be played, Barnoldswick and Ribblesdale Wanderers both have six points, with three other teams on four points. Wins for the top two would guarantee them qualification for the quarter finals however any slip up could bring out the calculators for the final positions.

In Group Two North, Oswaldtwistle batted first against Cherry Tree and were quickly reduced to 39-7 despite Brad Boddie’s 21. An early finish looked on the cards with Hassan Mughal taking 3-14. However youngsters Muhammad Jalgoanker (16no) and James Clarke (27) at least made a fight of it adding 44 for the eighth wicket and a final total of 83-8.

With the weather always a potential factor, Neil Timmers took matters into is own hands making 75 off just 35 deliveries including 12 fours and two sixes, to give Cherry Tree a nine-wicket win with 11 overs to spare.

Feniscowles batted first at Padiham and were quickly dismissed for 61, Ryan Hurley top scored with 17. There were three wickets each for Toby Burrows and Oliver Parr.

Unbeaten knocks of 21 from Jack Edgar and 39 from fellow opener Callum Clarke made sure Padiham wrapped up a 10-wicket victory off only 5.4 overs.

Settle batted first against Read and posted an imposing 181-3. Ashen Silva batted throughout the innings making 67 not out including seven fours and two sixes. Mo Bhada took 3-20.

The Read reply never got going and they were bowled out for just 68.

The results leave Settle and Padiham joint top with six points and their fate for qualification is in their own hands with Read and Cherry Tree looking for the top two to slip up.

Most of the matches in the South sections were affected to some extent by the weather.

In Group Three South, the game between Eagley and Farnworth Social Circle was abandoned without a ball being bowled.

Akbar Ur Rehman produced the performance of the round as he smashed 152 from 77 deliveries - including 17 fours and five sixes - as Lostock racked up the runs, closing on 223-2 against Blackrod.

In reply, Blackrod were bowled out for 75.

Sheran Khan with 69 and Asif Hussain (43) helped Walkden post 150-4 but, in reply, Ulli Bronkhorst top scored with 41 as Astley Bridge won by six wickets.

This leaves Bridge on six points and Eagley on five, but both can be caught by Lostock and Blackrod, both with four.

In Group Four South, the match between Kearsley and Farnworth was another game abandoned without a ball being bowled.

Elsewhere, Rowan Shelton scored an unbeaten 35 as Atherton closed on 74-4. In reply, Tonge reached their target for the lose of three wickets with Hashan Dumindu (39no) leading the way.

Sam McLachlan (48) and Raji Immi (47) top scored in Brinscall’s 154-5 and despite Jake Lehmann’s 43, Little Lever finished 11 runs short - Jon Hinrichson taking 4-17.

On Tuesday, Littler Lever (147 all out) beat Tonge (114-8) by 33 runs and both teams have six point at the top of the table.

n Fixtures - Friday - Barnoldswick v Whalley, Ribblesdale Wanderers v Salesbury, Cherry Tree v Settle, Padiham v Oswaldtwistle Immanuel, Read v Feniscowles, Astley Bridge v Eagley, Farnworth S.C. v Blackrod,

Lostock v Walkden, Atherton v Kearsley, Farnworth v Brinscall.

Sunday- Earby v Baxenden