Woodlands CC

4 Titles in a row

Knowing just what they needed to reinforce their challenge for 2005 Woodlands made two key signings all-rounder Paul Winrow and former Yorkshire seamer Pieter Swanepoel. 

This gave the team extra firepower in the seam bowling, and strengthened the batting considerably. South African Swanepoel played two First-Class matches for Yorkshire in 2003 against Durham and India A. He also appeared in two Twenty/20, and three Pro40 matches for Yorkshire in the same year. He scored 20 first-class runs, with a best of 17, for an average of 6.66, and took three wickets with his right-arm medium pace.

He was more successful in one-day cricket, playing from 2001 to 2004 and taking 14 wickets at 20.09, with a best return of 3-9, and scoring 73 runs at 24.33, with a top score of 28 not out.

They were neck and neck with Pudsey Congs who were going for their sixth-successive title, and still dominating the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy. Ironically, they met in the Priestley Cup final again and the result was the same, but not quite as convincing for the Congs.

This could have been a huge psychological blow in favour of the Congs but Woodlands had the last laugh taking the title with a four- point margin after a dramatic final day which saw Congs lose at Baildon while Woodlands scraped a one-wicket win at Bankfoot.

Woodlands had a very solid look about their batting in 2005 with Winrow (735), Orrell (687), Murray (692), Rushworth (357) and Ahmed with his vital little cameos all scoring richly for the cause. The bowling was now as potent as any team's in the league with Ahmed (71), Brice (48) and Swanepoel (45) all restricting the opposition's batting.

As Pudsey Congs had relinquished their domination of the title after a sensational five-year period, it was up to Woodlands to hammer home their newly-found superiority. Firstly, they had to equal the Congs classic treble of Champions/Priestley Cup Winners/Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions successes of 2002 and 2004 to obtain the same sort of legendary status.

There was rising optimism at Woodlands in 2006 with Pyrah available more often and the rest of the title-winning side intact. In addition Scott Richardson was signed from Baildon to bolster the batting. Richardson played 13 first-class matches for Yorkshire between 2000 and 2003. After his release he turned out for Cumberland in the Minor Counties Cricket Championship from 2004 to 2006. 

A right-handed batsman, Richardson scored 377 first class runs at 17.95, with a top score of 69 against Kent. He also scored 68 against Somerset and 50 against Glamorgan. In league cricket he played belligerently, always giving the bowler a chance – but usually not before a rich diet of profitable cover drives has boosted the score. 

It was clear early on that it would be a three-horse race with the Pudsey teams snapping at their heels. Woodlands appeared to be determined to win the Priestley Cup after three final losses in three years as they made clinical progress to the final where they would play Second Division champions Bowling Old Lane in the first final to be played in coloured clothing. The first passage was straight forward enough restricting Old Lane to just 144, but they certainly wobbled in reply sliding home by two wickets with Swanepoel taking the plaudits as man of the match. 

Despite the unconvincing final performance a great weight had been lifted after their cup bogey and their relentless surge to the title proved to be successful. They won with nine points to spare over Congs with Pyrah carrying off the Learie Constantine All Rounders Trophy after a stunning season. He won the league's bowling averages with 48 wickets at 11.71, and top scored for his team with 573 runs. 

Pyrah made his one day debut for Yorkshire in 2001, but had to wait until 2004 for his First-Class bow. Although he has a first class score of 134not out and a best bowling analysis of 5-58, he has been regarded more of a one-day specialist by Yorkshire. As a bowler he has the invaluable ability of taking the pace off the ball in limited over run-chases.    

The bowling was unbeatable in 2006 with Brice second in the league's bowling averages with 37 wickets, backed by Ahmed (42 wkts) and Swanepoel (49). In the batting Richardson (616), Orrell (428) and Rushworth (429) had assisted Pyrah sufficiently. 

In the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy the passage to the final was relatively comfortable with wins against Fenners, Bilton and Honley. In the final at Hanging Heaton it would be against a strong Townville side. For a time Townville looked like getting a decent score with former county batsman Tim Walton very much on form, but when the unsung seamer Spittlehouse clean bowled him for 54 it was obvious Woodlands would prevail. 

Ahmed had the sensational figures of ten overs, four wickets for three runs. Woodlands chased down Townville's 178 in a canter with Murray unbeaten on 87 in his last innings for the club, while anchoring Richardson's quick-fire 50. The nine-wicket victory emphasis ed their superiority in a season where they performed the classic treble and caught up with the fabled Pudsey Congs.

For the historians who consider this team the best in Woodlands history the regular side was: Richardson, Murray, Rushworth, Orrell, Pyrah, Walwyn, Brice, Goldthorpe, Swanepoel, Ahmed, Spittlehouse.

Woodlands were red-hot favourites for the 2007 title and it showed with 21 victories and no defeats in a 26-match fixture list. Pudsey Congs were still their closest rivals but the gap had widened to 72 points. This was the season that Brice became their most influential player. 

He topped the league's batting averages with a massive 83.00 courtesy of ten not outs, and also took 37 wickets at 15.59. This inevitably led him to winning the Learie Constantine All Rounders Trophy - a feat he would replicate in 2010. Brice was never short on  giving advice on the field and this was part of the package of a priceless player.

Sam Frankland, who had been signed from Elland to replace Murray, was top run-getter with 552 runs. He took the steady role as opening partner to Richardson, but has the ability to play exquisite leg-side shots. Again the bowling was potent with Ahmed (55) and Swanepoel (54) taking the first two places in the league's bowling averages.

The 2007 title triumph became a notable double when Woodlands won a late-in-the-season Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Final at Hanging Heaton against their great adversaries Pudsey Congs. After beating Streethouse and Kirkstall Educational they met Barnsley in the semi-final at Shaw Lane. Woodlands scored a modest 175 batting first, but soon had Barnsley struggling with Ahmed making early inroads. The Yorkshire League side were beaten by 27 runs with Brice top scoring with 31, and also taking 4-32 to prove yet again that he was the man for the big occasion. 

In the final Woodlands showed great courage in battling without two key bowlers in Ahmed and Brice against a full-strength Congs side. To complicate things further, Rushworth dislocated a finger and had to bereplaced by Adam Goldthorpe behind the stumps. 

Congs had made a challenging 245-7 taking advantage of some makeshift bowling. At the half-way stage of the Woodlands innings they were definitely second favourites but a stand of 140 between Orrell (71no) and Goldthorpe (73) won the day in the gathering gloom. Sheer will to win won the day for a team with a developing habit of not knowing when they were beaten. For skipper Orrell it was five major trophies in two years after only eight seasons in the league with the club.

Woodlands had reached the stage where they were in range of replicating the Pudsey Congs feat of five consecutive titles. However, it was not to be as 2008 proved to be the last of their unbroken run. Congs had hit back with a vengeance and were only two points behind at the finish. 


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