Tonge inflicted a first defeat of the season on Anthony Axford North West Cricket League high-flyers Blackrod on Sunday to hand the initiative in the Premiership title race to champions Little Lever.

Fifth-placed Tonge claimed their second win of the weekend, this one by 28 runs at home against a Blackrod side who had won eight of their previous nine games added to an abandonment.

Blackrod, who failed to chase a 168 target - 139 all out - actually went top of the table despite the loss.

But that was only because Little Lever did not play due to Lancashire Knockout action - they were beaten in the quarter-finals of that at Prestwich.

It means Blackrod have 100 points from 10 games, whereas the champions have 98 from nine.

Opener Sam Hardman’s 50 was the feature of Tonge’s 167-9 before captain Connor Lord and Sri Lankan professional Hashan Dumindu claimed three wickets apiece. Dumindu also hit 44 to help Tonge to win number six from 10.

In the Championship, hosts Walkden strengthened their promotion bid by triumphing in a remarkable finish against Baxenden - winning by one run defending 145 as Baxenden fell from 142-7 to 143 all out.

Walkden’s seventh win in nine games - their second of the weekend - leaves them second on 84 points, 20 clear of third-placed Earby and 11 behind leaders Read, who won at Brinscall.

Two more top-flight teams claimed their second wins of the weekend on Sunday - Padiham and Farnworth Social Circle.

Padiham moved third ahead of Salesbury, who didn’t play because of Little Lever’s LKO involvement, with a thumping 169-run win at Lostock. Sub pro Marques Ackerman hit an excellent 106 with seven sixes to underpin their 45-over total of 275-4, before captain Toby Burrows took the new ball and claimed 5-40 with his left-arm spin as struggling Lostock were bowled out for 106.

Padiham won for the seventh time in 10 and are sat on 86 points, 14 off the top.

Farnworth SC, in sixth, won for the sixth time in 10 having posted 316-7 in their 177-run win at Kearsley. Their total is the highest across both first-team divisions in 2024. Bajan pro, Jameel Stuart, was their star with 161 off 101 balls, including 11 sixes, from number four. He then claimed three wickets with spin in mid-table Kearsley’s 139 all out. New-ball partner Dave Mather claimed 5-48.

Farnworth and Eagley - seventh and eighth with five and four wins respectively - triumphed over the bottom two sides, Astley Bridge and Ribblesdale Wanderers.

Hosts Farnworth beat bottom-side Bridge (170-9) by four wickets chasing a revised target of 157 in 38 overs. Alex Rodzoch and Australian overseas amateur Liam Smith impressed with 43 and two wickets and 56 and two wickets, respectively.

Eagley won by six wickets at Ribblesdale. They bowled their hosts out for 111, with James Richards and Pakistani professional Ayaz Tasawar striking four times apiece. In a routine reply, Harvey Seigne top-scored with an unbeaten 50.

In the Championship, like Walkden, three more sides made it back-to-back weekend wins - Earby, Feniscowles and leaders Read.

Read’s eighth win in nine - at Oswaldtwistle Immanuel - leaves them with 95 points, 11 clear of Walkden and 31 ahead of Earby in third.

Read (163-9 from 45 overs) won a tight rain-affected affair at Oswaldtwistle, who fell narrowly short of chasing a revised 137 in 35 overs. They finished on 128-8. Zi Bhada top-scored with a middle-order 64, recovering Read from 39-4. He was bowled by his brother Mini.

In reply, Nizam Vaid claimed three wickets as Oswaldtwistle fell short having been ideally placed at 67-0.

Earby won a thriller by one wicket at bottom side Cherry Tree - their fifth win in 10. After bowling Cherry Tree out for 155, they were set a revised target of 144 in 39 overs following rain and fell from 59-0 and 135-5 to 142-9. But number 10, Ben Hall, hit the winning boundary with two balls to spare. South African OA Stefan Breuninger top-scored with 38.

Seventh-placed Feniscowles claimed their fifth win from nine and are now within one win of third in the table. They chased a revised 170 in 42 overs to win by two wickets at home to Whalley, who posted 176-7.

Moazzam Ali and Khalid Hussain claimed three wickets apiece for Feniscowles, whose successful pursuit was led by Imran Mehmood’s 39.

Hosts Atherton beat Brinscall to win their fourth game in nine. Atherton, fourth in the table, chased a 185 target to win by five wickets. Bajan pro Shayne Moseley, the former West Indies Test opener, hit 99 not out in the chase after Brinscall had initially posted 185-4.

Little Lever and Salesbury now play the game they were scheduled to on Sunday in late August.