Bridgeholme skipper Chris Kibble has praised the team ethic of their man of the moment Nazakat Ali.
All-rounder Ali has fired last year’s Division Two champions to the summit of the Foster’s Halifax League’s middle section with successive outstanding bowling displays.
His seven wickets for six runs - including a hat-trick - shattered derby rivals Luddenden Foot, who were all out for 84 almost a fortnight ago.
That was an almost impossible act to follow, but Ali did his best last Saturday with seven for 29 away to former joint leaders Northowram Hedge Top.
Ali’s displays paved the way for maximum 12 point hauls and has taken the Eastwood side into a five point lead at the top.
Kibble said Ali was “on fire at the moment” and was grabbing his chance with the ball, having had to settle for a place batting down the order.
It was with the bat that Ali made his name in local cricket circles, hitting big scores as an opener for Illingworth in the Sunday Section.
Kibble said: “We are lucky that he came back to us last season - that was a big bonus.
“He is a very unselfish player. He goes in at eight or nine but he’s a top drawer batter as well.
“We’re completely overstacked with batting. I like to bat myself but I go in at eight most of time and our number 11 (Sajjad Mahmood) was a number six.”
Kibble said Ali bowled “medium pace with a killer slow ball.”
However, cricket is not always plain sailing, even when you are at the top of your game, as Ali discovered at Queensbury in the Parish Cup last Sunday.
Bridgeholme were beaten but not disgraced by the Premier side and Ali found it hard going trying to bowl into the teeth of a gale at one of the league’s most exposed grounds.
His first couple of overs from the bottom end went for “about 30”, according to Kibble, but Ali bowled much more economically when switched to the other end and picked up a couple of wickets.
Kibble is hopeful of back-to-back promotions.
“Last year was far too easy and I always expected us to be able to push again this year,” he said.
“We have had one blip, against Sowerby St Peters (bowled out for 65) and we needed that.
“Up to that point there was a feeling that we could turn up, play at 50 per cent and still win.”
Bridgeholme play Northowram for the second successive Saturday and Kibble knows the visitors to Eastwood this weekend will be hungry for revenge.
High-scoring games would normally be expected at both venues but 16 wickets fell for 214 runs at Hedge Top.
“It is normally a ‘road’ but it did a bit and it was not that easy for batting,” said Kibble.
“Sam Gardner took some wickets for them but we hit their weaker bowlers.”
Kibble said Northowram skipper Chris Conroy would miss the return and they were “quietly confident” of completing a quick double.
Kibble, who said Oliver Challis and James Hudson had been in good early-season form, believes his side are at a key point of the campaign.
“After the Northowram game we have Luddenden Foot away and then Sowerby St Peters at home.
“ If we can win those games we will put ourselves in a strong position,” he said.