STUART Maher was relieved to come to the Great Harwood party with a superb spell of bowling as the table toppers eased to a six-wicket win at Settle.
Maher has been content to play second fiddle to the Ribblesdale League’s leading wicket taker Syed Shahabuddin so far this term, but he matched the pro’s season best haul of seven wickets as the hosts were skittled for just 99.
It also made it seven wins out of seven completed games for the Cliffe Park outfit.
The potent Harwood attack, which has been unleashed first in all but one of their league fixtures, left their batsmen a two-figure total to chase for a third time this season, having already knocked over Ribblesdale for 88 and Oswaldtwistle Immanuel for 84.
And while they are taking nothing for granted so early in the season, the dressing room is clearly in relaxed mood.
Maher joked: "Russell Whalley our vice captain gave an inspirational team talk before the game. He motivated us by saying the season had started really well because we hadn’t lost yet. He’s not known for stating the obvious, and I think he realised how stupid it sounded as soon as he’d said it!"
Maher got the ball rolling after dismissing Settle’s Liam Crowley with just 10 on the board and wrapped up the innings with the last three wickets to fall to finish with 7-45. The pro took 2-45 and Paul Houldsworth grabbed the other wicket.
In reply Harwood were reduced to 42-3 after openers Philip Allen (20) and Liam Noon had made a bright start, but eased home thanks to an unbeaten 36 from the pro and Allan Armer (20).
"It was just one of those days where everything went right," said Maher.
"I put the ball in the right areas and waited for the rest of the team to catch it. The pro has been chipping in with five, six and seven wickets, but it doesn’t really matter who gets them. They weren’t my best ever figures, but I’ve not bowled to my ability for the last three years so it’s about time I started performing."
He added: "Historically we’ve been awful bowling first and trying to chase down targets - particularly small ones. But the pro has brought a new air of confidence and it’s rubbed off."
Harwood make the short trip to Baxenden tomorrow, looking to protect the league’s only unbeaten record. Bash will be in hopeful mood after their bowlers were in fine form to bowl out Whalley in just 36.1 overs, for a comfortable 46-run victory. Mark Rishton (37) and David Cronshaw (33) were Baxenden’s leading scorers as they posted 164 all out while Will Purser grabbed 3-39 in Whalley’s 118 all out.
There was less joy for Oswaldtwistle Immanuel as Clitheroe beat them by 77 runs after posting an imposing 245. Openers Daniel Turner (86) and Nick James (70) put on 167 for the first wicket before Imran Abid (5-65) and Gerard Metcalf (4-85) stemmed the run flow. In reply Ossy were always struggling after Oliver Clare fell in the first over without a run on the board, although pro Andrew Kerr (69) provided stern resistance, with support from Phil Howard (28). Tomorrow Ossy face a tough looking trip to Edenfield.