IT WOULD have been a tough ask to go through the league season unbeaten – and Baxenden’s failure to do it has offered renewed hope to the chasing pack.
Ian Austin’s side seemed in total control as they charged to 13 wins in their first 14 league games with the only blot an abandoned match.
But mid-table Edenfield made sure their record didn’t hold on Saturday – and now the chasing pack are wondering if they can close the huge gap at the top of the table.
And that includes defending champions Great Harwood who, although currently in fifth place and 36 points behind Bash, will harbour hopes of catching them if they can see them off at Back Lane tomorrow.
"They are beatable – any team is in this league," said Harwood stand-in skipper Allan Armer, with regular captain Russell Whalley missing.
"It would have been a great feat to go unbeaten throughout the entire season but Baxenden are still in the box seat.
"We have to go there and give it our best shot – there is no point turning up if you think you are going to get beat.
"We haven’t got a spinner and their pro Baber Naeem is a spinner so I am sure the track will suit him – but we will be playing to our best."
Harwood, who won the championship after more than a hundred years without a league title last season, knew they would struggle to follow it up in this campaign.
"We knew it would be hard as we lost Paul Newton and players, me included, have been missing at various stages of the season.
"Years ago, no one used to go away during the cricket season but times have changed and we are amateurs after all, so you have got to have a life and put your families first at times.
"But saying that, I don’t want Harwood to have to wait another 100 years to win the league title again.
"I want to win the league this season. We have a lot of catching up to do but you have still got to believe.
"Some people say there is no difference between finishing second or fifth but I want to finish as high up as possible and that means aiming for the top however hard it seems."
Armer admits though it is almost mission impossible to close down Baxenden who have had a stunning season so far.
"They are not a lot different from last year as, although they lost Dave Parkinson, they got a straight replacement in Lewis McIntosh.
"And they have got one of the best pros, if not the best pro, in the league in Baber Naeem.
"But it is 11 against 11 on the day and it was a close game when we played them in the second game of the season with them winning with only an over to spare, so we go there with confidence."
It is a big weekend for Harwood who are in the semi-final of the Twenty20 competition tonight at Earby, then tackle the league leaders before taking on one of the pre-season title favourites, Clitheroe, on Sunday.
"We don’t want to lose any of these games and it is important for us," said the skipper-for-the-weekend.
"We lost against Barnoldswick the other week and dropped from second to fifth, so it is really close in those chasing Baxenden.
"We are understrength as Russell is away and Paul Houldsworth will miss the game, as will Ian Howarth.
"It means that me and the pro (Raouf Akbar) will have to stick at it as long as we can to make sure we don’t put too much pressure on the younger lads.
"I may even have to bowl at the Twenty20 tonight and I have only bowled one over all season. I didn’t get a wicket but did only go for three runs so it’s not all bad!
"I think whoever wins the toss will be important tomorrow against Harwood and then I think Clitheroe are in a false position and that will be tough on Sunday."
Harwood remain in fifth place despite a close-fought win against ever-improving Oswaldtwistle Immanuel on Saturday.
Armer made 61 off 46 balls in their 163 with Immanuel captain Imran Abid taking 5-41. Mitch Taylor top scored with 45 in reply for Immanuel but he fell on 88-3 and pro Andy Kerr followed to make it 88-4 and the lower order could not resist Akbar and Stuart Maher’s bowling.
But Armer admitted: "It was a hard game, we missed Russell in the top order but everyone chipped in.
"I was pleased with 61 as that’s my highest score this season and I have got about 350 runs for the season from 11 innings so it’s not too bad.
"I do prefer the hard and dry wickets so they are not suiting me at the moment but it’s hard to get them like that in this country. Oswaldtwistle did make it hard work though and they have improved greatly.
"The young lads there are getting better and more confident. In two or three years they will be an even better side."
BAXENDEN will be desperate to bounce back although their record – one loss in 15 league games – still makes title-winning reading.
They would have been confident of knocking off the 116 mid-table Edenfield set with their prolific batting line-up but Austin, Naeem and Mark Rishton failed to get going as Baxenden got that losing feeling in the league for the first time this season.