Even without playing, they were the team with no game this weekend, St Annes managed to keep well ahead of the chasing pack as closest challengers Netherfield and Blackpool could not win, the former earning a draw and the latter losing. Meanwhile wins for Fleetwood, Morecambe and Kendal means that there is only 22 points between second and sixth place with Darwen only four points further behind in seventh.
Netherfield need all the points they can muster if they are to put any late pressure on the leaders and failing to beat Leyland Motors on Saturday at Parkside did their cause little good. They batted first and declared on 188-9 with Craig Walmsley making a top score of 55 and Rishi Girdhari, 30, and Grahame Clarke, 23, chipping in as David Makinson took 3-28 and Peter Cummings 3-36. Motors then held on at 152-9 despite the best efforts of Nick White, 3-18, and Ryan Wilson, 3-51, as Cummings top scored with 34 as Tom Reece made 28 and Atif Ashraf 26.
Morecambe had a late start as a motorway accident delayed Blackpool but the home side made up for lost time as they dismissed the visitors for a paltry 97, which took 48 overs in the making. Only veteran Robin Bracewell, 35, made any headway with Tim Barry, 19, the only other batsman to reach double figures as Gareth Peddar took 4-17, Tommy Clough 2-11 and Mark Orchard 2-22. Morecambe lost five wickets in reaching 98 with Justin Kreusch taking three of them for 43 runs and Phil Dennison, 26, Mali Maketa, 25, and Orchard, 24, making the bulk of the runs.
Fleetwood had a scare against Leyland who made a brave effort to reach the home side's total of 205-6 declared but failed by just 11 runs, being bowled out for 194. Fleetwood lost early wickets before stand-in professional Mahendra Nagamootoo made 108 not out and was assisted by Andrew Clough, 26, and Steve Hill, 22 not out, as Steve Pallett took 3-73 and Adam Parker 2-43. The mainstay of Leyland's reply was Parker who made 65 and was helped by Alex Mercer, 37, and Nathan Pearson, 23. But in the end Tom Blundell, 3-15, won it for Fleetwood with the last two wickets as Clough had a good all-round day by taking 4-27.
Kendal won at West Cliff where Preston made 118-8 in a reduced overs contest. Paul Mann made 47, Glenn Johnstone 10 and Lukman Vahaluwala 15 but there was little support from elsewhere as Chris Miller took 3-30 and Kabir Khan 2-24. Kendal lost five wickets in reaching 119 for victory and Ikram Ullah's 59 was the most significant contribution as Khan came next with a modest 15.
Darwen were victorious at Barrow where the home side were indebted to Daryl Wearing for a splendid 78 not out that contained five sixes and seven fours. He was assisted by Tod Bamber who made 41 and Steve Glasgow who made 21 as Andrew Mercer took 4-30 and Neil Cordingley 2-45. Chris Lowe then made 55 and Keith Semple an unbeaten 64 as Darwen romped home by seven wickets at 172-3.
The game between Chorley and Lancaster was washed out and both sides took four points.
Scores in brief (home sides in bold):
Barrow 168-8 (Wearing 78*, Bamber 41, Mercer 4-30),
Darwen 172-3 (Semple 64*, Lowe 55)
Barrow 2 points, Darwen 12 points
Chorley v Lancaster - match abandoned - both sides 4 points
Fleetwood 205-6 dec (Nagamootoo 108*), Leyland 194 (Parker 65)
Fleetwood 15 points, Leyland 4 points
Blackpool 97 (Peddar 4-17), Morecambe 98-5
Blackpool 1 point, Morecambe 12 points
Netherfield 188-9 dec (Walmsley 55), Leyland Motors 152-9
Netherfield 10 points, Leyland Motors 5 points
Preston 118-8 (Mann P 47), Kendal 119-5 (Ullah 59)
Preston 1 point, Kendal 12 points