These are difficult times for Pudsey Congs. The club who once dominated the Bradford League to such an extent that they won five Division One titles in a row a decade ago, now find themselves bottom of the table without a win in their first eight matches.
Yet skipper Gareth Phillips is confident that his team can get out of trouble Phillips, speaking after an 11-run defeat at Lightcliffe, said: “We have had three games rained off and at least two or three of the others we should have won.
“It is down to poor decision-making by our players. We come close every week and then throw it away.
“We just need our first win and we should have won this match to kick-start our season. It was an opportunity lost.
“But I have 100 per cent faith in our players – we just need to show our ability.”
On a damp, turning pitch, Lightcliffe’s four-man spin attack proved too much for the visiting batsmen, although it was mighty close.
A dramatic finish looked to be on the cards when Congs needed 12 runs to win with two overs remaining but only one wicket left.
Unfortunately for them, Mubtaba Aktar – who had done so much to bring Congs back in the game with a pugnacious 35 – got a leading edge to a ball from slow left-armer Suleman Khan and gave a simple catch to Josh Wheatley to seal Lightcliffe’s win.
If there had been a man of the match award, Khan would surely have won it. His fourth-wicket stand of 76 with skipper Jonathan Wilson (34) proved to be crucial as Lightcliffe reached a competitive 183, despite losing their last six wickets for 16 runs in the final five overs.
Khan hit three sixes and six fours in his 58 and then took 5-32 in 14.1 overs to seal Lightcliffe’s victory, while fellow slow left-armer Chris Greenwood gave good support with 3-45.
Congs made a bad start, losing opener Basil Akram to a direct throw from Evan Edwards without scoring, and when opener Callum Geldart was fourth out at 48, Lightcliffe were in control.
Phillips (30) and Andrew Bairstow (35) staged a revival with a fifth-wicket stand of 33 and then Bairstow shared a sixth-wicket partnership of 42 with Joe Greaves before he was given out leg before trying a reverse sweep off teenager Danny Ahmed to leave Congs on 123-6.
Greaves (26) and Aktar kept Congs in the hunt with a flurry of boundaries but Lightcliffe took some vital catches and held their nerve to win.
Phillips said: “We needed more from our top three or four. We gave away our wickets at vital moments but there were two poor decisions – the early run-out of Basil Akram and Andrew Bairstow’s lbw.
“Andrew’s was a key decision. Had he stayed we would have won the game.”
Lightcliffe captain Jonathan Wilson said: “Their batsmen came in and smashed a few sixes and it looked as if it would go down to the wire.
“We knew they had experienced batsmen in their side but we have got four top-quality spinners and our bowlers stuck to the plans we set.
“We kept the runs down, which created pressure, and took some fantastic catches.”