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Looking Back - 1996 (Part 5)

The penultimate month of the 1996 season saw the title race hot up as Earby went top of the league for the first time.

Having dropped to 3rd in the league at the end of July August started with an away fixture at Ribblesdale Wanderers.

Prior to the game professional Jonathon Harvey gave an assessment to the local press of his sides title chances by advising they must improve their away record dramatically if they were to win the Vaux Ribblesdale League.

Only two victories had been recorded away from home all season and with five away fixtures including the Ribblesdale Wanderers match remaining in their programme, it was a situation, Harvey believed, Earby must address immediately.

"Our away form is poor and needs to be considerably improved," said the 26-year-old who has scored an impressive 584 runs this season. I can't explain why - we just haven't performed.

"It's not a problem with the wickets or anything like that. Whatever the reason, we must rectify it quickly if we are to maintain the pressure on Barnoldswick, who I think could be vulnerable when placed in a pressure situation."

The pep talk worked a treat as Earby edged four points closer and only three points behind leaders Barnoldswick as they returned from Ribblesdale Wanderers with a full 7 points despite being bowled out for only 139 as David Howard took 6 for 56.

In reply however Ribb were never at the races as they struggled against Harvey’s bowling as he took 6 for 11 to dismiss them for 42.

Ribblesdale Wanderers 42 Earby 139

The following week Earby looked for revenge to their opening day defeat against Edenfield as they entertained them at the Applegarth.

Rain played havoc with the fixtures however as Earby were one of only two games which completed. Batting first Earby posted 208-3 off their allotted overs with professional Jonathon Harvey adding to his seasons total with a fine 85 and he was assisted by opener Nigel Pickles who batted through the innings for 83 not out.

In reply John Kershaw dominated the innings for Edenfield as he scored 71 not out as his side battled their way through a tricky early period without losing any wickets and they looked capable of producing a late flourish to snatch victory on run rate after time was lost to rain.

However they could not increase the scoring rate and were left on 164-3 after 43 overs 17 runs short of the required target to enable Earby to claim the points.

Earby 208-3 Edenfield 164-3

The following weekend saw a double header with Earby hosting Blackburn Northern on the Saturday followed by an away game at Settle on the Sunday.

Prior to the games it was announced that professional Jonathon Harvey would be staying on as professional for a further 2 seasons after he signed a new 2 year contract until the end of the 1998 season.

Back to the action and brothers Stephen and Nigel Pickles kept it in the family as Earby swept to the top of Vaux Ribblesdale League with two wins over the 'double-header' weekend as former leaders Barnoldswick, crashed to two defeats.

On the Saturday batting first Blackburn Northern scored 169-7 however it wasn’t enough as professional, Johnathan Harvey, scored 57 as Earby knocked the runs off for the loss of five wickets.

Earby 171-5 Blackburn Northern 169-7

On the Sunday however it was the Pickles brothers who set the weekend alight as Stephen scored 106 and Nigel adding 104 not out as they raced to 259 for one in their allotted overs. In reply Settle made no attempt to go for the runs, ending on 155 for six.

Settle 155-6 Earby 259-1

With only 5 games remaining Earby had gone top of the league on 91 points and with the Bank Holiday weekend approaching it was again a double header as Earby travelled to Whalley on the Saturday followed by a huge West Craven Derby match on the following day as Barnoldswick visited the Applegarth.

Rain took its toll on the game against Whalley as it was abandoned with Earby on 54-1 chasing Whalley’s total of 130-7

Whalley 130-7 Earby 54-1 (Match Abandoned)

The following day the rain had cleared and it was again brothers Stephen and Nigel Pickles in hot form as they followed last week's double century stand with another match winning performance.

Stephen scored 56 with Nigel on 75 as Earby clinched an eight wicket win over neighbours Barnoldswick. The Victory Park club's opener Ian Scothern was rock-solid in their innings, scoring 75, but he could not stop his side crashing to their fourth defeat in succession.

Earby 165-2 Barnoldswick 163-8

The final match of August saw Earby travel to Padiham and maintain their one point lead at the top of the table from Great Harwood with a five wicket win.

Batting first Padiham were restricted to 228 for 9 as professional Jonathon Harvey took 5 for 72. In reply Nigel Pickles with 72 and Stephen Hipgrave 58 not out saw Earby knock the runs off to claim victory.

Padiham 228-9 Earby 234-5

In the final part next week we take a look at the remaining 2 games of the season which includes a top of the table final day shoot out at the Applegarth.

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