Woodlands skipper Pieter Swanepoel hails return of talisman Chris Brice

Back in the groove: Chris Brice has made a strong impact for Woodlands on his return from injury

Back in the groove: Chris Brice has made a strong impact for Woodlands on his return from injury

First published in Sport

Woodlands skipper Pieter Swanepoel is delighted by the way star performer Chris Brice has returned following long-term injury.

The all-rounder missed more than half of last season after rupturing an arm tendon but has played a key role in his side’s rise to the top of JCT600 Bradford League Division One this year.

Brice’s value to the Albert Terrace outfit was underlined by his 50 and 6-16 in the recent win over Farsley which moved Woodlands to the summit.

Ahead of his side’s trip to East Bierley tomorrow, Swanepoel said: “It’s great to have Chris back. He is the heartbeat of the team and any side would miss him.”

Swanepoel has been imp-ressed by Brice’s resilience in getting back to fitness.

The skipper said: “He hasn’t stood still while he was out. He’s put a lot of hard work in during his rehabilitation.

“Sometimes players have to feel their way back in but he has hit the ground running.

“He has come back from a knee operation in the past and he is a tough bloke.

“After missing much of last season he is hungrier than ever.”

Woodlands are the only side in both divisions still unbeaten and Swanepoel believes there is more to come.

He said: “We’re still playing in third or fourth gear at the moment.

“We’re still looking for that perfect game of cricket, but so far everyone is contributing.”

Having dismissed their previous two opponents for under three figures, it is no surprise to see them top the bowling bonus points column.

Spearhead Sarfraz Ahmed took 5-9 as Bradford & Bingley were shot out for just 47 and has been bowling quicker than ever, according to Swanepoel.

The skipper – also in good form with the ball – added: “I’ve overcome my shoulder problem, while Scott Rich-ardson is bowling well.

“We also have Duncan Snell, Sam Frankland and Grant Soames, so we have lots of variation.”

In contrast to Woodlands, East Bierley have made a slow start to the current campaign and find themselves fourth from bottom despite last week’s win over Morley.

Swanepoel is surprised to see them there but expects them to come good.

He said: “I don’t know why they’ve not been performing but you can’t underestimate them with players like Gavin Hamilton, Kez Ahmed, Danny Shuffe, Andrew Rennison and Luke Jarvis.

“Their overseas player is also an unknown quanity.

“We just need to worry about our game but those players are good enough to get in any side and I expect them to pull away.”

Elsewhere, second-placed Cleckheaton will look to keep the pressure on the leaders at Lightcliffe, while third-placed Pudsey St Lawrence host Morley.

At the other end of the table, bottom club Pudsey Congs are aiming to leapfrog their hosts Yeadon by claiming their first win of the season.

In Division Two, leaders Undercliffe have a tricky test at Gomersal, while Saltaire travel to Spen Victoria.

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