It's the halfway stage of the Ribblesdale League season and Baxenden skipper Ian Austin admits that, at the moment, it seems no one wants to stake a big claim for the league title.
Just 20 points separates Bash – who have lost three league games on the bounce – and ninth-placed Cherry Tree which means most clubs in the league still fancy their chances of taking the championship off Austin’s side.
But, despite their poor current run, Bash still dislodged Clitheroe at the top on Saturday in what could be the closest title finish for years.
Bash picked up seven points in Saturday’s narrow four run loss to Padiham to return to pole position.
"It seems no one wants to win the league at the moment as everyone is beating each other," said Austin, 44.
"Getting to the top seems to be a jinx as the moment you get there, you get beat and then someone else catches you up, takes over at the top and then they get beat.
"Anyone out of the top seven or eight could win it at the moment but I was talking to Whalley’s captain – they are 10th – and they still think they could put a run together and get into the mix.
"It’s the halfway stage of the season now and I guess it makes it more exciting that it is so close.
"Last season, we got to this stage and hadn’t lost a game and I think we took our foot off the gas. Read closed the gap and made it closer than it should have been and we ended up losing four games by the end of the season.
"But we have lost four now and I think a team could lose seven or eight this season and still win the title.
"Whoever puts a decent run together in the second half will be champions and we have to hope that’s us.
"It keeps it open and interesting though and it means in every game there is all to play for."
Bash did have a good start but have since stuttered. Austin continued: "This season we are the the defending champions – the top dogs – and everyone raises their game as they want to beat us.
"That means we can’t relax and, after doing the double last season, we can’t really top it except doing the treble but we want to defend both not just for the players but for everyone at the club."
While they are currently wobbling, Austin doesn’t see a lot wrong in his team.
"Lewis McIntosh has had great season so far but all the amateurs are doing well. Simon Payne made 55 on Sunday in the cup which was a useful contribution and Mark Rishton got 52 on Saturday which helped to take the game to the wire – even though we didn’t win it.
"Danny Hothersall has come into the side and got 40-odd at times which has kept us in the games and a number of players have got quickfire 20s or 30s which have helped us.
"Probably the only player who will be slightly disappointed is Bobby (pro Baber Naeem). But saying that he hit 185 in the Ramsbottom Cup semi-final at Padiham on Sunday and we know he can do that and hopefully that will be a springboard for him for the second half of the season."
That was an enthralling clash in a lively atmosphere and, despite a delayed start due to the rain, Bash got their 48 overs in as both sides went run-crazy on the small Arbories ground.
Bash set the tone smashing a whopping 355-7 – Naeem hitting 20 fours and nine sixes in his 185 stunning knock.
The interval was around 6.30pm and it was touch and go whether it would finish on Sunday especially as, despite getting the major scalp of big-hitting Padiham pro Kashif Siddique run out for 17, Umar Saddique showed what he can do with a massive 126.
Thankfully for Bash, after Padiham reached 208-3, the wickets then fell quickly and, with night closing in, they sealed their final showdown with Settle at Edenfield CC on Sunday August 2.
"It was hard weekend and I am aching all over – my knees hurt like mad!" said the former England one-day man.
"Even when we got 355, I wasn’t sure as we have lost two games when we have got more than 300 on the board and we haven’t got a good track record defending big scores.
"But obviously we want to win the cup, that’s why you play – to win things – so it’s great we are in the cup final."
And it’s the third part of the Padiham trilogy tomorrow as Bash meet them again in the league.
"It’s one-one so far and we are back at Padiham tomorrow for the decider!" added Austin.
GREAT Harwood made it two wins out of two and knocked Clitheroe off the top of the table.
Allan Armer notched his first half century of the season, supported by pro Raouf Akbar (42) as Harwood made 214-5.
And it was a first for all-rounder Paul Houldsworth too as he took his first five wicket haul of the campaign with Clitheroe managing just 92 in reply as Harwood slowly make their way up the league table.
Oswaldtwistle Immanuel have been on the end of some close victories this season – but this time it was their turn to suffer as they lost by eight runs.
They still took five points though and pro Chris Cook-Martin continued his recent good form with the bat, his 59 taking him to 505 runs for the campaign so far.
And Gerard Metcalf has moved into second spot for the league’s leading wicket-takers as his four wickets took him onto 39 for the campaign.