Sunday 22nd January 2017
'Happy New Year to all at Woodlands!' and what will hopefully be another successful year at the club!
Reflecting on the 2016 season, I am personally delighted with the club's achievements. Whilst we are unapologetic for wanting to win all competitions, the fact we secured prestigious silverware, namely the Priestley Cup, should be regarded as a successful season. Factoring in a triumphant 2016 for the 2nd XI allows us all at the club to be proud of Woodlands achievements.
What was evident in the first team was that no one player had an outstanding individual season (although perhaps Bricey and Kez could argue this point), but more often than not it was the contributions of all players at times that led to exceptional team performances. This could not be better illustrated than in the Priestley Cup final when the whole team played its part in producing an emphatic victory against a strong PSL side. Inconsistency in the league meant that we never really looked like challenging for the title, despite some impressive performances along the way (particularly home games against the two Pudsey sides and at home to rivals Cleckheaton). Whilst it is unacceptable for Woodlands not to challenge for championship spoils, the aforementioned does act as a tasty tonic! Speaking at the club dinner I mentioned that finishing 2nd in the league and losing in the Priestley Cup final would have been a disappointing season - only winning counts and this is the stance I take at a club like Woodlands! The Priestley Cup is now ours to defend and having been starved of a title for four seasons this is our goal for 2017.
Preseason is due to get underway shortly with a much anticipated trip away for the boys followed by a series of fairly intense yet enjoyable indoor training sessions. However, much has happened in the winter period and it is a great shame to see Jordan Laban and Logan Weston move on, both of whom were vital members on and off the pitch. I know I speak on behalf of all the lads (and members of the club) when I say they will be greatly missed and they are always welcome at the club, whether it be a long journey from Methley or a short journey from Sydney!! It is impossible not to mention Saffy who is simply one of a kind - no more can be said. I am, as I know the club are, incredibly grateful to these three for their hard work and commitment over the years. This has therefore led to a busy recruitment period, nevertheless one which we are extremely satisfied with.
It is not without merit that Liam Collins joins the ones for 2017 as a top order batsman, who as we have already witnessed in the firsts is a more than useful left arm spinner. Liam is a big game player who seems to play without nerves and great freedom. I am delighted he will receive his opportunity, which is totally deserved for such a talented youngster.
Mark Lawson needs little introduction to most. Mark is an experienced Bradford League stalwart, he remains one of the leagues very best and is certainly an impressive all rounder who has much to offer a Woodlands side looking to add fighting spirit. I am excited to have Mark on board and I know he will be a key member of the team and club.
Jamie Pickering is another much anticipated signing having spent seasons in Australia and having scored heavy runs in the Airedale and Wharfedale top division. I am pleased to be reunited with Jamie having played with and against him many years ago. His talent is unquestionable and I am keen to see him in action again. Jamie is a great character, good clubman and someone who I'm sure will make a big name for himself in the Bradford League. I do feel that the players we have signed make up a perfect balance to the side, equally strong with bat and ball with several options available. The blend of youth and experience is something which matches up to those sides who have historically won titles and with many of our players in the prime (including Kez and Bricey) we are in a very strong position entering 2017. It is our aim, having invested in our playing surface (which will continue to improve), to build a settled side full of character and quality.
I would like to thank the players for their efforts throughout the 2016 season and for the support they have given me in my first year at the club. Likewise I would like to thank all at the club not just those mentioned at the dinner for making Woodlands such a welcoming and pleasant place to play (on and off the field)!!
Friday 12th August 2016
Inconsistency the downfall for Woodlands failed league campaign! It has continued to be an up and down last few weeks with losses against East Bierley and Congs, but then an impressive much needed response versus neighbours Cleckheaton lifted spirits.
All too often Woodies have either batted or bowled well but without completing the job; never was this more apparent than against struggling East Bierley. Having kept Bierley to a modest 146 at home, a dismal batting display followed with none of the batsman making a telling contribution.
Bad decisions at crucial times especially for Sam and Greg certainly didn't help, but despite these set-backs Woodlands simply needed to find a way to get over the winning line. Inconsistency on the pitch but also in getting the same eleven out each week has also contributed to Woodlands erratic performances.
Visiting Congs on a warm day the week before and playing on a good batting wicket; having lost the toss Woodies worked hard to keep a talented Congs batting line up to 200 from the full 50 overs. Kez Ahmed bowled particularly well against his old side as did reliable Saffy who enjoyed the bounce from the true wicket. In reply Woodlands were at one point 100 for 0 after 25 overs. What followed is hard to describe (bordering on embarrassing) and something which is uncharacteristic of a Woodlands side that everyone associates with. It was important that myself or Sam went on to see the game home after spending time at the crease to make half centuries. Nevertheless with enough time on a good pitch against a spirited but not devastating Pudsey bowling attack, for Woodlands to panic like we did and finish only a few runs short of the total was criminal. What was so infuriating was that Woodlands had actually been the better side and played so well for 80% of the game.
Following these two defeats against relegation battling sides any hopes of finishing in the top spots ended. In contrast minds started to focus on avoiding the inconceivable drop ourselves. As a result a good performance was essential which is exactly what spectators were treated to at home to Cleckheaton. There is always a bit of needle in this derby, between two sides who enjoy the bragging rights and quite honestly Cleck never stood a chance this last weekend. Woodies piled on the runs against a lackluster Cleck, although it was superb chance-less hundreds from Sam and Logan that stole the show and left smiles on faces. Woodies finishing on 288 for 2 was always going to be an unlikely chase for Cleck but no one could have hoped for a better start than reducing the visitors to 35 for 6.
Excellent accuracy from Elliot particularly and from Saffy (in his energy conserving spell) gave the opposition a lesson and allowed Kez and Scott to clean up rest. Having come from Cleck it was difficult to witness such a colourless display from former champions (with demons of the pitch creating demons in their minds). However, these niceties are forgotten once crossing the line, no one was more pleased than myself with the victory and nothing should be taken away from an exceptional team performance. I was particularly pleased for Logan who by his own high standards and own admission has underachieved this year managing a big score against his nemesis Cleckheaton. Naturally I am delighted Sam got what he deserved hitting a sparkling ton which was so pleasant on the eye. A 200 run victory has to be one of the largest winning margins in the BCL 1st Division this season, illustrating the capabilities of this talented side. Truly a perfect performance that only leaves us wondering why this hasn't occurred more frequently. There is hope that this will be the springboard for a run of superior, confidence building, performances that will be the ideal preparation for the Priestley Cup final. Huge congratulations to the second team for their Priestley Shield success and it is now up to us to complete the full set of Priestley Cups!
Sunday 1st May 2016
Yesterday's top of the table clash was a little disappointing in terms of the result but there were positives to take from the game. Having won the toss on what looked like a wet wicket Hanging Heaton batted well aided by our bowling not being quite on the money. Despite the wicket being much better than expected (which bodes well for the rest of the season) 250 was a big score (especially in a reduced 40 overs game) and in the end proved a stretch too far.
I did feel we didn't quite have the rub of the green with Fellows escaping an LBW decision first ball of the game (the umpire reluctant to give a big decision first ball?!) and also Atkinson's caught behind looked a poor call. An early run out which was extremely tight was again baffling that it was given and would have needed technology to determine whether it was out. However, despite what might seem as excuses the bottom line was we were not quite good enough on the day and Hanging Heaton were deserved winners!
There were positives to take away from the game with Sam, Alex and Logan continuing their fine form with the bat and our new signing Kez Ahmed was the pick of the bowlers picking up 3 good wickets. Scott Richardson managed to get some overs under his belt and at times showed the control and skill he possesses. Saffy also managed to shake off those cobwebs with the ball and batted superbly for a quick fire 60 which almost won the game. If we are going to lose games, picking up 8 points could be worse and looking at the early season table 28 points keeps us in touch of Lawrence and Cleck who have won both games however without gaining full points and it is those teams who I see lasting the pace and whom will be our main contenders for the title. This early defeat however does add extra pressure when facing Lawrence next week and things won't get easier when we face a strong Congs batting line up the week after.
We are fortunate to have a game on Monday and an opportunity to put things right and build some confidence for games ahead. No one could argue that it wasn't an entertaining encounter yesterday and hopefully those close encounters are ones we will come out on the right side of as the season goes on.
Monday 30th May 2016
It is hard not to be a bit aggrieved by last weekends abandonment which significantly favours those that play. This is something which the league needs to address if it is to remain as one of the country's premier leagues. Following a rain affected washout at East Bierley that fell kindly into the hands of table topping Lawrence and other title challengers it was a big weekend for Woodlands.
It was a weekend of mixed fortunes as far as Woodlands were concerned that leaves us a couple of wins away from the top, where we aim to be, come the end of the season. After a disappointing day on Saturday against rivals Cleckheaton it was important to bounce back strong and a professional performance on Monday saw the team win comfortably against a spirited Morley side. On Saturday at Cleck a combination of a some good batting, a good wicket and not our finest bowling display saw our near neighbours reach a 300 total which created significant pressure in the second half. Our top order were worked over by some initial good bowling and an eagerness to get off to a quick start which ended up having the opposite effect. There were some positives to take away from the game demonstrating our ability to bat all the way down the order and once again Greg Finn showing his steeliness and talent to guide us beyond the maximum batting points. Kez Ahmed batted well for 50 and I would ask the question - how many sides could get to a 230 total after losing their top four for 40 runs? Those batting points gained after what looked like embarrassing collapse could be vital at the end of the season.
The display against Morley was positive across all departments. Woodlands reduced the guests to 60 for 6 without the services of Saffy with a good opening spell from both Richardson's. Chris Brice was the pick of the bowlers gaining 4 victims in his miserly spell during his full allocation of overs. Morley to their credit batted aggressively lower down the order and some well struck shots helped them to a respectable 170 total. Scott Richardson particularly bowled well at the death and helped Woodies secure maximum bowling points. Perhaps not the most entertaining of run chases but a no drama batting performance saw us cruise to an 8 wicket win with approximately 6 overs to spare. Sam Frankland looked untroubled and in fine form for his 76 and a solid partnership between unbeaten Logan and Alex ensured the job was completed efficiently. The bank holiday win will increase team confidence as we face further challenges to come - not least of all two tasty clashes against New Farnley and Cleckheaton (Cup) in the next fortnight.
This weekends double header has once again proved that the Bradford League this year is incredibly competitive and unpredictable with few sides running away with proceedings. Everyone is beating each other in a tightly packed table. Pudsey St Lawrence will fancy their chances after their success last season and are the only team to have lost only one game. I am expecting them to last the pace being the team to beat for the title. However any side that can string together a series of wins will have the opportunity take it down to the wire and be crowned 2016 champions!
Monday 25th April 2016
I am delighted to get the first win on the board especially with maximum bowling and batting points. I believe the margin by which we won the game also sends a message out to all our opponents. We knew coming up against Scholes in their first top division game would be tough, especially on their own turf, and despite what the scorecard might say we had to battle hard to put a very good score on the board. Scholes to their credit bowled very well particularly in the first 15 overs on a wicket that did offer some assistance. I believe Woodlands gave a very professional display, showing patience at the beginning with the bat and then accelerating later on with wickets in hand. The bowling display was also first class. Saffy 'seamed' to find his rhythm early on which is a great sign for the rest of the season and once inroads had been made the spin combination of Chris Brice and Kez Ahmed (which we have talked so glowingly about) managed to do a fine job to take all 10 wickets without conceding a batting point.
This was a real team performance with no stand out performance (although I'm sure Chris Brice would have something to say about that with remarkable figures of 4 for 2 off 10 overs - actually on a wicket that didn't turn). I thought Logan batted well making a quick and valuable 34 runs to continue his good form shown when playing Yorkshire and Oxford MCCU. However, I cannot praise the two new signings enough for their contribution to the victory; Alex Atkinson batted superbly on a difficult wicket to just come and score and his rapid 41 not out ensured maximum batting points. I am really pleased for him to get some runs under his belt early doors and I think we can all look forward to him spending more time at the crease this season. Alex and Logan at 3 and 4 respectively could confirm my suspicions that these two might be the strongest 3 and 4 in the league. Also, Kez Ahmed made a fine debut for the club, capturing 4 vital wickets and ensuring the match did not continue into what was becoming a very gloomy rain threatening evening. Kez bowled with great control and experience. In partnership with Bricey he was simply a handful with every delivery - congratulations to him also for preventing a Chris Brice 5 for (we might never have have heard the last of it)! Well done to Sam for a well fought and patient 70 for which he showed all his experience and later in his innings class. I look forward to more opportunities to open the batting with Sam.
Well done to all the lads, this was a convincing win with all of the team playing their part which bodes well for the rest of the season. The one negative to come out of the game was the injury to Elliot which we hope is not too serious. We wish him well and look forward to his speedy return!
Tuesday 5th July 2016
It has been a positive last few weeks on the whole for Woodlands despite the weather dictating proceedings and causing havoc in both the league and cup.
Woodlands arrived at Farsley on 18th June after heavy rain on Friday to discover a poor pitch and having lost the toss it was apparent batting first just how difficult it was to score. Battling to get 140 on the board which was in fairness about 20-30 runs short, it made it easy for Farsley to come out and play an attacking style. They certainly rode their luck (especially against Kez and Bricey) but to their credit playing in a positive manner they deserved it and despite a couple of late wickets, Farsley were able to canter home with 4 wickets remaining.
Having been knocked off our perch it needed a strong comeback from the lads when meeting Cleckheaton the following day in the vital and eagerly awaited Priestly Cup fixture. Cleck were put into bat and were quickly reduced to 40 for 4. Saffy initially provided a couple of breakthroughs, however all the bowlers chipped in with key wickets and in the end Cleck were all out for 98. Rain was looming and some gamesmanship took place during the beginning of the Woodlands innings preventing the home side completing the mandatory 10 overs. Woodlands although not starting well on 14 for 2 would have been confident to complete the run chase (as we bat down to 11) but the rain once again halted progress. Coin tosses and bowl outs were mentioned and as a Woodlands fan it did make you question is this really going to be our season and are we ever going to have any luck? It was agreed eventually that a bowl out in the indoor centre would be preferable and to some extent leave matters down to skill rather than fate despite ultimately being a lottery! Cleck initially took the lead but our hero Sam Frankland (who it has to be said fancied hitting and replaced Saffy in the 5 bowler choices) hit to level the scores. Cleck did have a chance to win when Curtis Free stepped up as the final bowler, but thankfully he missed to take the game to sudden death. The experienced, reliable and bald Chris Brice (aka Voldemort) held his nerve or wand and hit the stumps to apply all the pressure/wizardry on all rounder Zimmy. It was to be Woodalnds day and well deserved after bowling Cleck out for 98, setting up a quarter final home tie against Baildon.
The cup performance lifted spirits and gave momentum going into another double gameweek starting at home to Lightcliffe. Another strong bowling display on a good wicket saw Lightcliffe reduced to 110 for 7 with only a few overs remaining. Yet again it rained and the opposition were keen to come off not even accepting an early tea feeling they were already a beaten side. The weather Gods were not on our side (not for the first time) and no further play took place. Having games rained off whilst in strong positions means that the table is cluttered and we are unable to break out of the mid table cluster of sides separated by only a few points.
Sunday came quickly and there was a wave of anger from the day before that startled Baildon as Woodlands were ruthless and devastating with the ball. Baildon quickly discovered the gap between the second division and a top tier side and quite frankly it was men against boys. Elliot Richardson was simply too quick and accurate producing a match winning spell of 8 for 24 which perhaps deserved better. It took only 7 overs to complete a 10 wicket win which allowed Woodies to sit back and watch the others fight for a semi final spot. What was frustrating was that Undercliffe virtually conceded against Pudsey St Lawrence and didn't attempt to beat the Lawrence aggregate run rate in the first 10 overs before being rained off. Despite Lawrence mounting a formidable 357 off 50 overs, just over 70 runs from the first 10 overs regardless of how many wickets were Undercliffe lost would have been enough to see off many peoples favourites for the league and cup double. In the end it transpires that Woodlands will face tricky opponents and defending champions Bradford and Bingley (a place we have already lost this season) but a team we are keen to beat to make the special finals day. Lawrence will face Lightcliffe in another exciting fixture should they overcome Scholes this weekend.
This weekend the momentum carried forward particularly with good bowling displays in recent weeks saw Woodies keep relegation ridden Scholes to 99 off yet another weather affected 26 over game. Elliot bowled particularly well and with confidence following his 8 wickets in the cup picking up another 4 off the Scholes top order. Saffy was as always economical and picked up a couple of victims before Bricey claimed the rest. The run chase never looked in doubt as Logan and Sam saw us past 50 without loss. A couple of late wickets fell as Woodies were in a hurry to get the game finished before any potential downfall. Sam batted particularly well for 41 runs.
As we have now moved into the second half of the season and into the business end, we face tough fixtures particularly in the next couple of weeks against rivals Hanging Heaton and Lawrence. We must continue our recent improved performance and ensure steps are taken to climb the table. It is essential that the side sets up a Priestly Cup final which is a great achievement and event for any club. This Bradford and Bingley fixture is now only a fortnight away!
I would also like to comment on the superb effort made by the 2nd Team who are currently a few points clear at the top of their league. They have always provided quality replacements for the 1XI and I wish them well for the latter half of the season.
Sunday 23rd July 2017
'Battling displays leave Woodlands in the hunt!'
It has been a fantastic last few weeks for Woodies who have got themselves on a roll. This began with an away win to title contenders Farsley (their first defeat of the season) following a dogged performance from Woodies. Batting first on a good pitch Woodies were in serious trouble at 20 for 4. Newly promoted Greg Finn however seized his opportunity to compile a brilliant innings of 72. He was well supported by free flowing Liam Collins who made his first league fifty of the season. Woodlands score however seamed to be petering out around the 190-200 mark before a vital 45 runs from Scott Richardson ensured a competitive 221 total was set. With the feeling though that this was below par, Woodies needed to come out firing. Two early wickets put the pressure on and when Farsley lost their third wicket with the score on just 63 Woodies became slight favourites. An excellent stand from in form Ryan Cooper and James Logan however put Farsley on top at 149 for 3. Mark Lawson turned the tie again breaking the partnership, bowling superbly thereafter to cause a collapse as a panicked Farsley were dismissed for 190. Mark finished with 5 for 64 and Kez Ahmed was miserly conceding just 25 runs from 11 overs and picking up two wickets. Chris Brice and Elliot also had good days with the ball.
The next game saw Woodies host Batley, whom despite being at the foot of the table have remained competitive and hopeful of survival. On a slightly damp wicket Woodies were put into bat and were 61 for 3 before an excellent partnership between Jamie Pickering (75) and Jack McGann (43) gave real hope of a substantial score. When the partnership was broken Woodies slumped to 188 for 7 before Scott Richardson 29 not out and Chris Brice 25 not out ensured that maximum batting points were achieved. Chasing 229 Batley struggled at first but soon picked up the tempo to reach 130 for 2. Muhammad Khan looked a fine player making 44 and Muhammad Hafeez rode his luck to make 56. Kez and Bricey however found a way to change the game. Two wickets in an over from Kez turned the game on its head and with Bricey also picking up 3 wickets another win looked likely. Batley never gave up however and when big hitting Muhammad Shahnawaz smashed a quick 29 the game could still have gone either way. Elliot Richardson did a good job with the tail to ensure Woodlands got over the line with a slender 18 run win.
Pudsey Congs were next to visit Albert Terrace and following a week of terrible weather Woodlands had a very wet wicket to contend with batting first. Several batsman made starts but no one managed to convert and the rate of scoring was slow going. Sam Frankland made a fine 40, but it was Mark Lawson and Scott Richardson 35 and 29 respectively that added real impetus and swung momentum in the final few overs Woodlands way. At half time we were quite happy with 201 on a tricky surface. When Congs lost a wicket in the first over there was a feeling around the ground that the game would become a procession, but on an improving deck James Ford 49 and Zahid Nissar 59 had other ideas. Congs were cruising at 139 for 3 but once losing both batsmen who were set, panic set in and nerves got the better of a side lacking confidence and know how. Danish Hussain looked to have given Congs an unlikely win when he made a crucial 35 to take the score to 200 for 9. Unfortunately it was he that played an inexplicable scoop shot when needing just 2 runs to win; Scott Richardson the grateful receiver and match winner cleaning up Danish to end with figures of 3 for 39. A 1 run win was the finest of margins that kept our league chances alive and perhaps may haunt Congs come the end of the season. No one would want to see such a prestigious club leave the top flight and we wish them well in their remaining fixtures.
There was a good feeling from the fighting spirit shown against Congs when visiting near neighbours Cleckheaton this last weekend. Cleck won the toss and elected to bat on a good surface but their top order, which was clearly lacking confidence, struggled as they were 65 for 3 at drinks. At 77 for 4 it would have been hoped that Woodies could have steamrolled through the Cleck middle order with what can be described as a long tail to follow. Resolute efforts from son and dad duo Ian and Neil Nicholson showed grit and determination to propel the Cleck total up to 195 for 5. Whilst this was frustrating for Woodies the total was well below par and one we were happy to chase at half time. Cleck came out firing, bowling in good areas and our top order faltered once again leaving us reeling at 36 for 4. Greg Finn often an unsung hero played an elegant and sensible knock of 94 not out which was simply match winning. Liam Collins was also superb with his 54 but a rush of blood from him and Mark Lawson gave Cleck a sniff, leaving it to Greg and Scott to see us home. Greg picked up the pace nicely to see Woodies comfortably over the line in the end. Not many could argue that Woodies still possess one of the best bowling attacks in the league (particularly with strong spin that very few can play) and with a batting order that goes all the way down to eleven. There is no doubt that this Woodlands side has quality throughout and not many sides could produce the fighting displays that these last few weeks have shown. It is no coincidence that time and time again even with the odds stacked against us that Woodlands find a way to win. This is something you can't buy or teach and must come from within each persons character.
The weekend was made complete when we beat Townville on their home soil in a heated semi-final encounter. Batting first we were able to combat the constant barrage of flack received from a spirited Townville team and spectators. It is this sort of enthusiasm which does Townville great credit, making it an exceptionally difficult place to go and win. After a strong start we were able to post 242 despite a stutter in between. Greg Finn made a hard fought and well made 35 and Scott and Elliot Richardson batted magnificently at the end to give Woodlands 20 or 30 more runs than expected. Townville unfortunately received a 15 run penalty for slow over rate in red hot conditions. With 257 to chase Elliot and Mark Lawson particularly bowled tightly reducing Townville to 36 for 2 off 12 overs. When Scott Richardson removed the dangerous Jack Hughes with the score on just 45 it was always going to be an uphill battle for the hosts. At drinks Townville were just 75 for 3 and despite a cultured knock of 58 from Brayden Clark and a captains innings of 56 from Nick Bresnan who chanced his arm, Townville were always behind the rate. All our bowlers produced tidy displays, Scott Richardson picking up 2 wickets for 40 runs off his 10 over spell and Mark Lawson the pick of the bowlers showcasing all his skills to finish with 3 for 29 off 10 overs. Townville who were gracious in defeat are also getting behind Woodlands in the final wish promises to be a great game versus a talented and dangerous Hoylandswaine outfit.
It has been 7 straight wins in the league now, following the wins in the last 7 days against East Bierley & a fantastic performance at Pudsey St Lawrence which has put Woodies well in contention for the title. With Hanging Heaton and Farsley both to play at home, there is all to play for!
It is a great sign that we are still winning games despite not playing our best cricket and this is what title winning teams do. Improved performances are needed to beat the very best and I'm sure these are around the corner as our side has another gear to go to as we enter the business end of the season. I'm delighted by the way the team is fighting with every member of the side contributing. There is a collective desire to achieve and a confidence which is growing with every win. We will however take it one game at a time and continue to give 100% to ensure our winning streak is maintained.
Good luck also to the second team who are an incredibly strong unit and remain well and truly in the hunt to land all forms of silverware.
Saturday 16th April 2016
First of all, I am delighted to be captain of one of the top Bradford League clubs which is now part of the prestigious ECB Premier Leagues set up, confirming popular opinion that the Bradford League is one of the best in the country. Since arriving at Woodlands I have been impressed with the organisation and support behind the scenes and this year there have been a few forced changes to the side. With Duncan, Soamesy and the irreplaceable Swanny leaving the club (the latter two for fitness reasons) it was important that recruitment progressed swiftly in order to acquire the very best.
I could not be happier with the two signings made; Alex Atkinson is not new to the league having some seasons ago proved his talent at Bradford & Bingley and since then his ability has only developed further having spent seasons in Australia. I have no doubt that Alex will bring stability to the top order and at times will take the game away from the opposition with his stylish attacking play. I can see Alex and his good friend Logan Weston being a formidable and arguably best number 3 and 4 partnership in the league. Alex will also bring a level head to the dressing room. Kez Ahmed, whom the club are thrilled to have secured, has established himself in the Bradford League as one of the top spinners and who is certainly no mug with the bat. For many years Kez spent his time at East Bierley where he and Luke Jarvis formed a spin partnership that struggled not just to be combatted but also has never really been successfully replicated. Now with the addition of Kez alongside league legend Chris Brice the Bradford League could see something special and a spin attack that will undoubtedly cause opponents real problems. Kez makes no secret of the fact that he loves his cricket also representing the MCC on numerous occasions throughout the season and he will bring great talent and experience to the side.
The rest of the side looks incredibly strong. I am personally looking forward to batting with Sam who is a quality player. I have been impressed with how technically sound he has looked in pre-season and he has consistently proved himself as a top Bradford League opener. We are lucky to have a dangerous batter in our side in Jordan Laban who showed his potential against PSL last season. Jordan is still a young member of the side and in his second season now will be keen to make his mark in the Bradford League. Greg Finn is also someone who will have his opportunities to show the league what he is capable of with the bat. Greg has also looked technically very sound in nets and as a model professional works tirelessly on his game. Last season he showed his class behind the stumps and with a strong bowling attack he can look forward to plenty of victims.
Chris Brice speaks for himself - literally! Last year yet again he astonished taking over 60 league wickets, I am expecting great things once again from Bricey and his spin partnership with Kez. I am keen for Chris to contribute more with the bat this season, it should not be forgotten that it was not so long ago that he won the league batting trophy and Chris has much to offer in this department. Saffy returns for perhaps what might well be his last season. The aging pro never fails to disappoint and has well earned a reputation for being the leagues very best. Having spent a decade at Woodlands Saffy spreads fear into his opponents and makes the impossible possible both with bat and ball. I am hoping that Saffy will reach the 800 league wicket milestone which he is just 40 short of as well as provide match winning destructive innings which have become a customary part of his game.
Lastly I am personally very grateful to both Scott and Elliot Richardson for the welcome I received to the side. They are both essential members of a talented side that values their skills on the pitch and I am excited by seeing both of them develop into even finer players. Scott is a real bonus for me as a Captain. He has exceptional control with the ball and is able to swing the ball both ways which is a very rare and fine talent. Scott has already proved himself with the bat at the highest level and as his game develops further he will have greater opportunities to establish himself as one of the leagues best all-rounders. Elliot too has lots to say for himself but backs it up with his love and talent for cricket. The recent top gun specilaist will simply be too hot for ladies I mean lads to handle and will beat players for pace. Elliot works hard on his game and is homing his accuracy, control and ability to swing and seam the ball.
Overall I am delighted with the balance and talent in the side which promises to maintain that Woodlands never give up attitude. This combination provides every possibility for cup and title winning success.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone at the club for their continued support and look forward to rewarding the fans with positive cricket displays.
Wednesday 8th June 2016
Another close but difficult defeat to accept for the boys against lowly Bradford and Bingley leaves Woodlands playing catch up. Having batted first on what appeared to be a good Bradford and Bingley surface, it became apparent that hard graft and time at the crease were needed to post a reasonable score. After losing myself, Sam and Alex with the score not yet on 50 a good rebuilding job from Jordan and Logi dug us out of a hole and allowed us to reach 117 before Logan was dismissed for the fourth wicket. Noman Ali bowled superbly to end his spell with 3 wickets miserly conceding only 25 runs. However, after seeing the dangerous Ali off and having 10 overs left with 6 wickets remaining, it was criminal to collapse as we did only adding 23 more runs and even gifting the opposition some overs.
140 was at least 20-30 runs short but nevertheless a score which could be defended on a bowling friendly wicket. We didn't help our cause conceding an easy 40 runs but once Kez Ahmed provided a breakthrough and the heavy roller wore off the spin combination of Kez and Bricey devastated the Bingley batting line up reducing them to 76 for 7. During this time some poor fielding and crucial dropped catches meant the game was not over when Kez and Chris came to the end of their allocated overs. With the seamers not able to provide the same threat and with Charlie Best well set Bingley were able to creep over the line 9 wickets down. This is one game this season that Woodlands could not afford to and should never have lost! I was however delighted to see Jordan bat so well and find his form in a well made 56 and also once again see Kez prove what an asset he is to the side taking another 5 wickets to remain the leagues highest wicket taker.
Woodlands have nevertheless marched on in the T20 cup with a convincing win against Hartshead Moor. Scoring a whopping 267 after a superb 136 not out from Sam it was an impossible task for the visitors who perished for around 100. Jordan having gained confidence from Saturday made a brisk 70 which bodes well for the weekend ahead.
Put in simple terms this weekend is a season defining moment. Two wins keeps our hopes alive in both competitions whereas two losses may bring about a premature end to the season in terms of chasing silverware. Either way there will be plenty to play for; each week in the Bradford League brings about its challenges and this weekend will be no different as we face competitive and quality opposition.
Monday 9th May 2016
This weekend was again a very disappointing outcome having lost to arch rivals Pudsey St Lawrence in the league and then as holders being knocked out of the Heavy Wollen cup to New Farnley. It has been a frustrating start to season with very little going our way, although questions do need to be asked about the teams performance at the moment with every member of the side needing to up their game. We have played some very good cricket at times, putting in a professional performance against Scholes, batting well against Hanging Heaton and bowling well against Pudsey St Lawrence, but unfortunately we have all too often only done half a job.
Against New Farnley we were 40-50 runs short on a good pitch despite heroic efforts from Elliot and Liam with the bat to get us up to a competitive 200. We have also been undone by 3 very good batters in separate games, Gary Fellows (Hanging Heaton), Mark Robertshaw (PSL) and Simon Lambert (New Farnley), without there being any serious contributions from our own top 4 in those games. However, I am convinced that the tide will turn as the team is blessed with talent and one win will likely set the ball rolling for a string a good performances. What is incredibly pleasing to see is that when players are missing in the 1st XI quality replacements are found and that was again apparent on Sunday when Liam Collins backed up his previous good performance in the 1's against Shepley with 10 superb overs and 25 not out against New Farnley. I was also impressed with Liam Brearley who came in at a difficult time in our innings. He looked composed at the crease, technically sound and capable of adding stability to our batting line up. Cieran Garner also deserves a mention - he is a talented player and a favourite at the club. I wish him well in his recovery from injury and hope to see him back on the pitch soon.
On a positive note Kez Ahmed continues his good form with the ball and has fitted in extremely well in the dressing room. Saffy has also started the season incredibly well in what is likely to be his final year. The much-loved reliable Saffy bowled superbly against Pudsey St Lawrence (in one of the best spells I have seen) and managed to churn out another quality 10 overs the following day. Saffy also looks back to has very best and most dangerous self with the bat as he demonstrated against Hanging Heaton particularly.
I hope that both the club and fans will be patient and supportive in our bid to turn the corner and put a series of crucial wins together to keep our title and cup hopes alive. I know the boys will be doing everything they can to prepare for vital games ahead.
Monday 13th June 2016
Woodlands showed great character on Saturday to overcome a strong New Farnley side in a real battling display. Having been put into bat on a challenging wicket, a top order collapse saw Woodies be 60 for 6. Scott Richardson and Chris Brice led the recovery with some sensible cricket, the two ending on 52 not out and 28 respectively. Saffy managed to add a quick 23 and Kez batted superbly hitting a crucial 17 (12 from the final over) to take the total to 199.
Having gained the momentum going into the second innings, the rain halted our charge as the wicket gathered pace and the ball was wet, favouring the batting side. Our dangerous spin combination of Kez and Bricey was nullified as the bar of soap skidded on and didn't turn. Nevertheless our seamers came to the party, Saffy was simply magnificent only conceding 20 runs from his 15 overs and picking up 2 key wickets. We desperately missed Saffy last week. Elliot also bowled well particularly in his first spell with the new ball and was unfortunate not to pick up a couple of extra scalps. Scott bowled superbly throughout picking up 2 big wickets of Goddard and Walker, but more importantly held his nerve in the penultimate over surrendering only a few runs. Despite only picking up 6 wickets Woodlands were able to restrict New Farnley to leave the guests needing 14 runs to win from the final exciting over. This proved too big a task against the experienced Chris Brice to the longer boundary. With the odd well struck shot it left Farnley needing 3 runs to tie off the last ball. A scampered 2 left the visitors miserable for the second time in only a few weeks, losing narrowly to a fighting Woodies side.
This win saw Woodlands leapfrog up the table and would have given us great momentum going into Sunday's cup game against Cleck. Unfortunately the weather dictated proceedings and Cleck I'm sure will count themselves lucky after being thrashed on Saturday and turning up on Sunday with half a side missing. They will return next weekend in a more confident mood I'm sure and we will need to be at our best to progress into the next round.
Looking at the table it is frustrating that a bad loss to Bradford and Bingley and a wash out at East Bierley when others played leaves us well behind favourites Lawrence. I am delighted with Saturday's resolute performance as we search for consistency.
Tuesday 14th March 2017
'With 39 days and counting until the start of the season all is looking good for a successful 2017!'
The countdown to the season has begun (a new feature on our website) which I am personally enjoying but not staring at intensely like Greg Finn and Mark Lawson, both of whom are particularly looking forward to the cricket!! Pre-season is going well and to literally have such excellent facilities on your doorstep, with quality coaching available from within the club is a massive benefit to all of those in attendance. Players at all levels have been working hard to maximise their potential for the coming season; this will hopefully prove a significant advantage and transpire into Woodlands coming out of the traps hard.
I am particularly grateful to Chris Brice and Mark Lawson for organising such a professionally run winter nets programme and for keeping up the intensity at training with only a few weeks to go. New additions to the first eleven, Jamie Pickering and Liam Collins both look in good touch and have a steely determination to prove a point. Mark Lawson our most experienced recruit is getting back his bowling rhythm (and pain free) which is a incredibly pleasing. Mark is striking the ball nicely with the bat and having set his own personal targets, being a betting man I would not be surprised if he surpassed all expectations. Elliot Richardson should return with more maturity, having been put through his paces in Australia - we look forward to welcoming him back for his 21st birthday. I am also grateful to the younger members of the second eleven whose commitment to training has been superb. They have added real strength to the squad and I'm sure will be pushing for an opportunity to play at the top level. The rest of the team is also in fine fettle, chomping at the bit to kick off the season in fine style.
With a pre-season trip away planned as well as a post season celebration, there is lots to look forward to off the pitch. Several of the first team are heading to Newcastle before returning to a pre-season fixture against Lancashire team 'Ramsbottom'. Another fixture will follow on the 15th April to ensure final preparations are made before what will be a fiercely contested Premier League. With dominant sides from other leagues progressing through the Bradford League ranks, it could be argued that each year the top division improves bringing added excitement to the league.
The ground has undergone another serious winter schedule and is looking better than ever. A good turn out from club members to the cricket-force weekends should ensure top facilities and a great playing surface for all. There is little point publicising our targets as a team this season. This is Woodlands Cricket Club, we play to win and will be trying 110% to collect silverware in all competitions. It is however, our aim to play positive cricket in a very competitive manner that is both ruthless against the opposition and entertaining for our fans. It is hoped with a good mixture of youth and experience in our side that this will be a Woodlands team that can dominate, not just in 2017 but in years to come. It is vital that the team sticks together in order to accomplish these goals and that everyone has an understanding of their role in the side.
Thursday 19th May 2016
The first team had a very positive weekend against tough opposition winning two home games in completely contrasting manners. On Saturday Woodlands simply blew away Pudsey Congs batting first to surmount an enormous 313 with the top 4 particularly weighing in with sizeable contributions. I was delighted to see Alex Atkinson bat so well but also destructively playing has natural game to hit a breezy 65 which meant that 300 plus always looked likely. We bowled superbly in the first ten overs to remove both Callum Geldart and Nick Lindley with the Congs score having not yet reached 20 - in all fairness with almost 300 still to get and with the two classy Congs openers out the game was only ever ending one way. Bringing on Bricey and Kez Ahmed against the middle order allowed us to maintain control and also provide a threat at each end which ultimately got the job done. Kez bowled superbly against his old club (5 for 28) proving what a valuable asset he is and what a great signing he has been for the club. I am delighted that Kez is also playing an active part off the field taking it upon himself to organise social events for the lads.
Sunday's game against New Farnley proved a much greater test in a last ball thriller that saw our lads determination and team spirit shine through! This performance I believe represented everything good about Woodlands and demonstrated that never give up attitude that is instilled in the history of this club - this is simply priceless and something which money cannot buy! New Farnley lost 4 key wickets before reaching a hundred due to some initial good bowling from our boys, but some good middle order batting and some wayward bowling allowed Farnley to reach a very respectable 230 on a slow and low wicket. Our innings started brightly reaching 60 without loss, but once Sam was dismissed to a ball that shot along the deck the brakes were applied. New Farnley bowled tightly and pressure was applied which saw further wickets fall. At drinks the score was 94 for 3. Slow progress was made in the next 10 overs or saw which saw the run rate at one point touch 9 an over. We just about put our foot on the gas in time, with Logan Weston and Greg Finn expanding their range of shots both batting well for 50 runs apiece. Roughly 80 were needed in the last 10 overs but with only 4 wickets down. This then reduced to 60 off 8 overs but with Logan soon after being dismissed but having hit some key boundaries. When Saffy took to the crease he looked in the mood hitting a big six off his first delivery but then creaming the ball straight at cover. This brought together Greg Finn who was nicely set and Chris Brice who managed to keep up with the rate applying pressure on the bowlers who then bowled some useful extras. Needing 30 off 4 overs and later a run a ball off the last 16 deliveries the tide had turned in Woodlands favour. Bat on ball with the odd boundary thrown in meant that 5 runs were needed off the last 6 balls. Wickets in the last over and one before meant that neither Greg or Chris were at the crease and it was time for Scott and in the end Kez to stand up and be counted with the bat. The last delivery meant Woodalnds needed 1 to tie (which would have meant Woodlands winning due to less wickets lost). With the field very much saving the 1, the man of the season so far Kez Ahmed smashed the ball over mid on/mid wicket to claim what was looking at one point like an unlikely win. It was essential that we kept our Cup hopes alive, got one over New Farnley after they beat us in the Heavy Woolen cup and that we came out on the right side of a narrow game early in the season. Knocking off a size-able score needing a large run rate without Saffy doing the damage is a great sign for the club. These close victories bring about real confidence in the side and it is great to witness everyone in the team playing their part. What is also becoming noticeable is that we are beginning to figure out how best to play on our new wicket and where our strengths and weaknesses lie when batting and bowling. I strongly believe that we can make Woodlands our fortress like in years gone by.
This Saturday sees us play bottom of the table East Bierley who are yet to win a game but will be keen to beat us near neighbours. The return of Gavin Hamilton will add strength to their side and with other match winners including Luke Jarvis and Fahid Rahman this game cannot be taken lightly. Last year East Bierley recorded some upsets, not least against ourselves bowling Woodlands out for 70. It is important that we build on last weekend and keep a winning formula and mentality going to see us rise to the top of the table.
Wednesday 20th July 2016
It was a fantastic weekend for the club which quite honestly couldn't have gone any better. Saturday saw both the firsts and seconds collect maximum points against arch rival Pudsey St Lawrence which will have rubbed salt into the wounds and both sides convincingly made it into the final of the cup.
The firsts inflicted a third straight league defeat on PSL who's heads will be spinning after being dead certs to win back to back titles. Having batted first each of the batsmen did their bit, but stand out innings from Alex Atkinson and a signature Saffy knock changed the momentum which meant Woodies posted 241 (which looked like being nearer 200). It was a body blow to PSL who saw 110 runs come from their last 10 overs. After tea Woodies continued that momentum, coming out firing with the ball quickly knocking over star man Mark Robertshaw. Once Bricey had the ball in his hands he showed all his class and fighting spirit to dismiss 3 top order batsman in one over including PSL captain Jim Smith for 0. At one stage Bricey was on a hat trick (which turned out to be not the only time that weekend). This devastating over left Lawrence reeling at 40 for 4. An intense and professional performance followed from Woodies, who were in need of a real competitive, grudge game before the cup semi final. Lawrence eventually perished for 150 with Bricey finishing with 5 and Kez 3 wickets.
Sundays game at defending Priestley Cup champions Bradford and Bingley followed fast, just about as quickly as Bingley's wickets fell. Eager to get revenge on the earlier close league defeat to Bingley, Woodies started strongly removing Jack Edgar in the first over. Bingley never really got going against what was a classy performance from Woodlands who took confidence from the day before. Bricey again at one point on a hat trick was the pick of the bowlers picking up 4 wickets, but he was well supported by the entire attack. Bingley scraped to a hundred setting a modest target that Woodies breezed past with 9 wickets remaining. The in form Alex Atkinson again the best batter on display. This victory sets up an eagerly anticipated final against the aforementioned Lawrence who like Woodlands will be keen to land the leagues top cup competition. This is a game that guarantees to get the juices flowing and could be the perfect end for league legend and gentleman Saffy. It will be sad to see the great man go but cup success would be the appropriate remedy.
Congratulations to the seconds who continue to be consistent which is what it takes to win titles and silverware. I have every confidence in their talented side, which obviously oozes great team spirit, and I hope they remain focused on the job in hand.
As the weeks wind down this is where Woodlands will no doubt once again show their true credentials.
Wednesday 3rd May 2017
'May a crucial month for Woodlands'
It has been a promising start to the season for Woodlands, winning opening fixtures against Pudsey Congs, followed by progression into the next round of the Heavy Woollen competition after beating a stubborn Yeadon side. In a strange game against Congs, early season rustiness and nerves meant that we achieved a below par score of 150 on a pretty good April wicket. Nevertheless, our team showed a real fighting spirit that will be crucial in mounting any title challenge; this allowed us to ruthlessly dismiss Congs for a modest total of 88. Scott Richardson was man of the match finishing with stunning figures of 5 for 9 off 9.2 overs. Scott simply had the ball on a string, swinging it both ways to remove the Congs middle order. Brother Elliot Richardson also took two early wickets along with Bricey to wrap up victory. Kez Ahmed had earlier made 43 vital runs to provide us with a competitive total after being 70 for 7.
Sundays game was much more comfortable. Posting an impressive total around the 280 mark, meant we were able to rotate the bowling and manage a comfortable win without several key players. New boy Jamie Pickering was the star of the show making an entertaining 88. Useful contributions followed from Liam Collins and Alex Atkinson both of whom made it into the 30's, before Mark Lawson capped a solid batting performance with a breezy 63 runs. Wickets were fairly spread although Liam Collins picked up 4 with his useful left arm spin.
A home derby against rivals Cleckheaton quickly followed this Saturday and again Woodlands were able to triumph as worthy winners. Having been put into bat and losing Sam relatively early, good partnerships followed with runs being shared amongst the top order. Jamie again impressed with a stylish 40 and Liam again showcased his talent with 48. The innings however did seem to be petering out around the 210 mark before (dare I say) a Saffy - esque cameo from Elliot Richardson who deposited the ball out of the ground several times to give Woodlands the upper hand. These 47 runs were a real body blow to Cleck who faced a difficult 267 run chase. Mark Lawson this time was the pick of the bowlers as he removed 3 of Clecks top order. Mark was well supported by the entire attack, Scott and Bricey again picking up a couple of wickets as Cleck's innings never really got off the ground.
I have been particularly pleased with how new members of the side have contributed. Jamie has settled well and will be feeling at ease after two fine knocks and Liam has too made a telling impact. The professional competitive nature of Woodlands has meant Mark Lawson has fitted in like a glove and already performances from him on the field are starting to pay off. I look forward to seeing how these three develop throughout the year as our side continues to re-shape with a new blood of ambition.
However what is even more important is that the side seems to be far more settled on and off the pitch. This is something that has been noticeable as a player but also from the boundary edge. Favourable comments have arisen from loyal spectators, voicing that there appears to be a visible togetherness that bodes well for a successful season ahead. One of the early positives is that so far everyone is chipping in and stepping up when given an opportunity. It is this kind of team performance that may see some silverware return to Woodlands.
Despite the 2017 campaign only just getting underway, May will be a crucial month in establishing the potential of this Woodlands side. A tough away game to East Bierley followed by a tricky first round away tie to Bradford and Bingley in the Priestley Cup are must win games and could halt momentum going into match-day 4 and 5 which sees Woodlands play Lawrence and Hanging Heaton back to back. Whilst any league loss at this stage would not end any title challenge, it is important to keep pace and also to progress in the prestigious Priestley Cup (which we are proud to be defending). A perfect May would see Woodlands at the top of the table, in the hat for the draw of the Priestley and Heavy Woollen cups and an added pressure put on those who share a similar desire for success.
I would also like to congratulate the second team for the start they have made to the season with two very convincing wins. It would have been easy after the previous season to lose focus, but their side looks balanced and strong throughout. I am pleased that some promising youngsters are also getting the opportunity to perform and this blend of youth and experience is a perfect formula. I believe there is a freshness and depth to their squad which makes them even stronger than last year - opponents beware!!
Saturday 10th September 2016
'Strong end to the season for woodies!'
As the season draws to a close, it is Woodlands once again who can hold their heads up high having secured the prestigious Priestley Cup in fine style against table toppers Pudsey St Lawrence in a comprehensive victory at Spen Vic.
With the second team having already captured the Priestley Shield is was pleasing to complete the set by crushing Lawrence in a magnificent team performance in the final. It truly was a case of everyone doing their job in a determined hard fought fashion rather than any particular stand out performance (although Chris Brice with 10 overs 3 for 17 might argue otherwise). Bricey was superb removing 3 of the top order, but others also made their mark. Kez Ahmed steamrollered the tail spinning the ball yards and bamboozling his way to 4 wickets. Sam Frankland also played his part by setting up a brisk opening stand and settling the nerves to reach 80 for 0 in under 20 overs. Despite Sam (and myself) not going on to make a size-able score it did nevertheless provide a good foundation and contribute to what was always thereafter going to be a competitive total to chase. Logan in his final cup game for Woodies batted sensibly for 49 which was crucial after stumbling somewhat to capitalise on the good start made.
Saffy was not only an added motivating factor for the rest of our side in his well publicised last game for the club, but he was also an inspiration on the pitch removing Mark Robertshaw early on and again miserly conceding runs from his 10 over spell. It was not to be with the bat for Saffy in this game but I'm sure he could not have wished for more than a 115 run victory and priestly Cup win in his astonishing 16 year stint at the club. It was a credit to all that witnessed the game and to Lawrence who were gracious in defeat, that all applauded and cheered Saffy on his way. For those who he has terrorised over the years, I'm sure they will be pleased to see him go, however not one person has a bad word to say about the great man who has been a shining example to all and who's ability to excite the crowd and change a game will never be forgotten. Saffy will simply be irreplaceable.
All the lads could be named for their contribution in the final, Elliot bowled well early on, Finny's keeping was terrific, however one person's unsung display was critical in celebrating the silverware. Scott batted exceptionally for a quick-fire 24 not out at the end of our innings which looked like it was petering out around the 190 mark. Breaking the psychological barrier of 200 but then getting a bonus 14 runs, left Lawrence needing 214 on a mediocre wicket with the pressure of chasing in a final with runs on the board. Perhaps the outcome may have been different otherwise and Scotty to boot bowled 10 cracking overs for only 30 runs.
All in all the final was a well deserved and great celebration for the club, the lads and also Saffy who is now at home spending time with his family.
As far as the league campaign is concerned the season comes to a timely end with nothing but pride to play for. Weather in the last 3 weeks particularly has halted any momentum and movement up the table. Wash outs against Bradford and Bingley, New Farnley and Farsley in consecutive weeks means our season is fizzling out with Woodies having no say on who will win the title. An inconsistent, stuttering league effort sees us only watching from the sidelines to see who will lift the first ever ECB Bradford League title - congratulations to those who do. Regardless, this should not distract from what has been a successful 2016 for Woodlands who should be delighted with two pieces of Silverware with the possibility on Saturday of the seconds securing the 3rd of 4 major trophies on offer. We wish them all the best for the weekend and hope to be celebrating their success on Saturday night!
Thanks to all who have been a part of a historic 2016 season at Woodlands cricket club.
Fact from the firsts: Sam Frankland has scored more Bradford League runs than Ian Botham has scored test runs.
Friday 15th July 2016
"Big weekend ahead for Woodlands!"
Having lost to title contenders Hanging Heaton last Saturday it has opened up the title race slightly as Pudsey St Lawrence's back to back defeats have given the aforementioned and outsiders Farsley a sniff of winning the ultimate prize. Another Gary Fellows ton was good enough to set a total (in a reduced 38 over game) that Woodies never looked like chasing down. In the absence of Bricey and Kez, it was difficult to contain Hanging Heaton as they cruised beyond 200. Elliot picked up 3 wickets and Sam Frankland did a good job when called upon, but in truth we didn't threaten enough and with some average fielding it was going to have to be a good batting performance.
Nevertheless just over 5.5 an over was doable on a small ground especially against a side who would admit their strength lies with the bat. Having lost Sam relatively early a breezy partnership saw us at one point reach 60 for 1 off only 12 overs. However, both myself and Alex having made a start, threw our wickets away in quick succession. It was these rash shots that changed the game in favour of the hosts and mounted pressure on the middle and lower order. David Stiff bowled economically throughout picking up key wickets and Heaton's overseas bowled much better in his second spell. Woodlands showed a little bit of fighting spirit with the bat as Logan batted well for 41 and both Scott and Liam Collins made it to the late teens. However, without the reputable Saffy bash Woodies in truth always looked a little shy of the score.
Following another league defeat it is essential that a good weekend follows. It has to be said that failure to reach the Priestly Cup final (with the league title out of reach) would have to be classed as a poor and miserable season considering the talent in the side. It would be great to narrow the gap on Lawrence and importantly try to spoil their success to ensure, as is usually the case, that the title goes down to the wire. Having lost narrowly already this season to Bingley on their soil it is crucial that our team is focused on what will no doubt be a hard fought contest against the defending Priestly Cup champions. Let's hope the weather is good and that the sun is shining on Woodlands this weekend!
Thursday 15th June 2017
'Frustration must act as a catalyst!'
In the last article I referred to May being a crucial month with an away Priestley Cup tie and games against Lawrence and Hanging Heaton, but it is June so far that leaves a slight sour taste in the mouth.
An away tie to East Bierley at the beginning of May was perhaps our most complete performance after wins against Congs and Cleck in weeks 1 and 2. Batting first on a good wicket we were able to take full advantage surmounting a whopping 312 total with a superb debut Bradford League hundred from exciting new signing Jamie Pickering. The East Bierley innings started strongly with a brisk 77 from opener Fahid Rehman however, Bierley became quickly unstuck to the spin of prolific wicket takers Chris Brice and Kez Ahmed. Kez will have been particularly pleased to secure his first 5 wicket haul of the season against his once old club. This win carried momentum on nicely into an opening Priestley Cup away tie to tricky opponents Bradford and Bingley. Woodies posted a substantial 256 after a good partnership between keeper Greg Finn and Jamie Pickering. Greg scored his first 50 of the season and Jamie also made a useful contribution with 37. Despite a few stutters along the way Scott Richardson 36 n/o and Chris Brice 40 n/o were both able to steady the ship to ensure Bingley had an uphill task. Elliot Richardson bowled particularly well and was unlucky to finish with just 3 wickets as overseas star Noman Ali made 60 but was dropped several times. Both Kez and Mark Lawson bowled economically and picked up 2 wickets apiece to wrap up a convincing first round victory.
The following weekend got even better for Woodies when a crucial double weekend against Lawrence and a second round tie versus Mirfield Parish went perfectly to plan. At home to rivals Lawrence it was a creditable bowling performance which only saw Woodlands take 5 wickets, but nevertheless restricted PSL to a very respectable but reachable total of 227. Mark Lawson on this occasion the pick of the bowlers with 2 for 39 from his 12 overs. However, it was our batting that impressed, which allowed the Pudsey tally to be achieved with relative ease with the loss of just 4 wickets. Great credit must go to Alex Atkinson who made a vital 45 sharing in a hundred partnership at a critical time in the game. Mark Lawson however took the plaudits with a quick fire 37 not out to see Woodlands comfortably over the line. After the celebrations on Saturday it would have been easy to neglect what was an expected home win against ex-Woodlands skipper, Tim Orrell's Mirfield Parish. This was not the case as Woodlands posted a 300+ score thanks to useful contributions throughout the batting order. Sam Frankland and promising youngster Liam Collins were the pick of the batters scoring 70 and 60 respectively. Scott Richardson batted well at the end to ensure the total crept past the 300 mark. Woodlands bowling was simply too strong for a spirited but depleted Mirfield side. Kez Ahmed picked up 4 victims and Mark Lawson 3 to complete the win.
At this point in the season it was a clean sweep of 7 wins from a possible 7 games. When Woodlands met Hanging Heaton who had started the season in a similar vein, something had to give. In a game severely affected by rain Woodlands were the side to falter, chasing a challenging 167 run total from only 20 overs, albeit on a good wicket and small ground. The loss of early wickets and scoreboard pressure meant that our innings never really got going, miserably ending on 88 all out. Chris Brice was the only man to salvage some pride ending on 30 not out. This defeat was accepted due to the cancellation of many games and the admission that Hanging Heaton were simply better on the day. What the following week had to offer was far less tolerable.
Playing in the T20 competition midweek against Batley, Woodies were able to restrict the home side to 128 from their 20 overs, thanks to superb bowling displays from the Richardson brothers and an economical spell from eye-catching 2nd team all-rounder Jack McGahan. It was Woodlands batting display that floundered as all batters struggled particularly to hit boundaries with the number of dot balls also racking up. The continual loss of wickets from being 57 for 0 also didn't help leaving Woodlands slightly embarrassed to be exiting the competition in the first round. With key players Mark Lawson, Chris Brice and Jamie Pickering unable to play, the club has a decision to make as to whether it is worth entering this tournament in the future.
The performance didn't improve much either at the weekend when facing Bradford and Bingley on home soil. On a rain affected day, Bingley suitably enforced their right to bowl first. Our batting was again put under pressure at 26 for 3 and wickets continued to fall with few able to counteract the Bingley bowlers. It was Elliot Richardson and Jack McGahan who gave Woodlands some hope of victory sharing a last wicket stand of 60. These two laid claim to a higher batting position when playing proper cricket shots to post a 167 total. In the strange workings of the Duckworth Lewis system this left Bingley a trying target of 158 from 38 overs. In stark contrast our bowlers were unable to extract any help from the pitch as Bingley reached the total with ease. Useful contributions from those that did bat allowed them to inflict defeat for the loss of just 4 wickets. With Noman Ali (an unusual limited threat due to a pitch that didn't turn), huge credit must go to the Bingley seamers who bowled exceptionally despite some poor shots. Discounting some loose deliveries Jack Hartley bowled particularly well; he was rewarded for bowling wicket taking balls ending with 6 victims.
It was important the following weekend to put things right and get back to winning ways! Having elected to bat first, New Farnley at full strength fancied their chances away at Woodlands and they seemed to going well at 87 for 1. Enter Chris Brice! Bricey produced yet another match winning spell of 7 overs, 6 wickets for 12 runs. Chris along with Kez who also bowled superbly picking up 2 wickets and conceding few runs, managed to force a collapse which saw New Farnley dismissed for just 128 runs. Whilst Woodies had a slight wobble at 31 for 2 and 71 for 3, victory still seemed likely; Alex Atkinson this time the man to guide us home with 43 not out. On Sunday Woodies faced a difficult away test to Hanging Heaton to keep our hopes of retaining the Priestley Cup alive. Having lost the toss but bowling well we were able to restrict Hanging Heaton to 230 on a very good wicket. Woodies might have hoped for better after having Hanging Heaton 70 for 4 but Joe Fraser's fine knock of 79 and Hanging Heaton's depth of batting ensured a testing total was posted. Elliot bowled well throughout, capturing in form Nick Connolly early on and Kez Ahmed went for just 24 from his 10 overs. The discovery of Jamie Pickering's more than useful seam bowling is a real plus for Woodies, he too captured 3 wickets from his 10 over spell. At half time our side was confident of chasing down the total set, but hopes were almost over when a disastrous start left Woodlands reeling at 26 for 3. However the game turned on its head when a superb stand between Liam Collins and Alex Atkinson gave Woodlands real hope. When the score reached 105 for 3 with 27 overs still remaining there was little scoreboard pressure. The loss of Alex Atkinson shortly after fueled a collapse and when Liam Collins who was well set on 43 also perished the tide had swung again. Woodlands went from 105 for 3 to 133 for 7 needing just short of 100 runs for victory. A quickfire 19 runs from Elliot and a dogged 23 from Greg Finn allowed for some belief especially with experienced Chris Brice at the other end, however it was all in vain when Woodlands finished 37 runs short. Having being gifted 41 runs in extras it was extremely disappointing that on a good track we were only able to score 150 runs from the bat, especially factoring in that the quality of David Stiff and overseas bowler Rameez could only bowl 20 of the 50 overs! This was a huge game for the club and we only have ourselves to blame for a short 2017 Priestley Cup campaign.
As all the best sides have done previously it is important to bounce back and this is exactly what we had in mind this last weekend. With only the League and Heavy Woollen to play for it was essential that we walked away with back to back wins. Saturdays game was incredibly frustrating due to the weather playing a bigger part at Albert Terrace than most other grounds. Having been put into bat, the top order struggled against tidy bowling from newcomers Townville. From 48 for 4 Woodies showed their fighting spirit with a useful 20 from Mark Lawson and fine 30's from Alex, Greg and Scott to produce a more than respectable 195 total. Runs came particularly quickly in the last few overs from Scott and Greg to set a total that at many stages seemed out of reach. It was the feeling that momentum had swung Woodlands way and when Mark Lawson picked up a wicket in the first over it was the opinion of many that victory may have followed. It would certainly have been a tough chase for Townville on a tricky surface. The fact that all other sides played has created a gap between Woodies and the like of Hanging Heaton and Farsley. Despite an improved point system in the Bradford League it is senseless to award just 3 points to each side for an abandoned game! When losing a game teams would still expect to get 6-8 bonus points which far exceeds the amount awarded for a game called off. If other teams play and get 20 points then teams that have an abandoned game have lost out far beyond one game/win. It is widely accepted that the most you can gain from opposition is around 12-14 points in a week if you win and they loose. It must therefore be questioned why it is the case that a 17 point difference can occur if games are abandoned and others aren't. What is also apparent is that the choice for away teams to bowl first on rain affected days is a huge advantage and thus brings into question the leagues decision to remove the toss. It is only in first class cricket (and in the longer format of the game) that this rule applies when facilities far exceed those in the Bradford League. It is about time that these issues are addressed especially with the points system. Why we can't have a straight 20 points for a win, with the losing side only picking up bonus points or a straightforward 2 points for a win, 1 for a tie, 0 for a loss (rained off games 1 point) - I simply have no idea?? It is without doubt that the weather particularly has had a great influence on who has won the title in recent years.
A Heavy Woollen away tie on Sunday was Woodlands latest victory. Batting first against last years Heavy Woollen champions New Farnley, it was deja vu as top order wickets fell. Woodies went from 39 for 0 to 44 for 3, later in the game going from 111 for 3 to 114 for 6. Losing wickets in clumps is something that needs addressing quickly and will seldom lead to victory. Had New Farnley been at full strength the outcome may well have been very different? However, for the second day running the lower order were able to defy the odds and dig our side out of trouble. Sam looked in good touch for 29, but it was down to useful contributions from Alex Atkinson 39, Scott Richardson 22 and Elliot Richardson 30 which enabled 200 to be reached. In reply New Farnley lost in form opener Simon Lambert in the first over and never really recovered from this point. Wickets were shared between our bowlers, however reliable Chris Brice was the pick of the bunch taking 2 wickets and conceding just 4 runs from his 10 overs. His spell included 7 maidens and the wicket of danger-man Lee Goddard. New Farnley were dismissed for around 100 runs wrapping up a comfortable Woodies victory.
The frustration built up from exiting the Priestley Cup and with weather putting us further behind in the league, it is now or never for a resurgence in form that will see Woodlands progress up the table and challenge for the title. It is also imperative that Woodies win the semi-final of the Heavy Woollen to continue Sunday cricket and provide every opportunity of landing silverware this season. For this to happen our batting must improve and with the ball, taking early wickets must become commonplace. There have been spells when our side has played top level cricket but consistency as I referred to at the beginning of the season is what will determine our success this season.
I would like to finish this update by wishing the second team all the best for the rest of the season. They have started in superb form in all competitions and have every chance of recreating their spectacular 2016 achievements. I would like to thank those that have helped us out in the firsts this campaign, coming into our side playing a significant role rather than making up the numbers. It is great to have such a talented second team, with the ambition to put pressure on those of us in the ones. With much more cricket to follow from both sides, there is plenty to look forward to for players and spectators!