Cleckheaton's title defence is on course

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Cleckheaton pace bowler James Lee is third in the league batting averages Cleckheaton pace bowler James Lee is third in the league batting averages

CLECKHEATON have only been defeated once so far this season.

But opening batsman Tim Jackson reckons they can have another notch in the loss column over the next two weekends and still be in with a great chance of retaining their JCT600 Bradford League Division One crown.

The defending champions meet the rest of the top three over an eight-day period, with third-placed Pudsey St Lawrence visiting Moorend tomorrow before the leaders travel to second-placed Woodlands a week tomorrow.

Jackson said: "We have a small but handy lead of 11 points, which means we could afford to lose one of the next two and still be in with a very good chance of winning the title.

"That will also mean that we have played Woodlands and Pudsey St Lawrence twice each and they still have to play each other (August 30 at Tofts Road).

"Traditionally we start the season badly – we don't know why that is, whether we don't practice enough or don't have enough warm-up games – but we tend to finish it very strongly and can go on a run of seven or eight wins."

Cleckheaton have got a divisional best 29 batting bonus points and an equal best 38 (with Woodlands) bowling bonus points, which suggests the Moorenders have a well-balanced side.

That is backed up by the half-season averages, where they have four of the top 17 batsmen and three of the top ten bowlers.

Former Yorkshire player James Lee is third in the batting, with Mal Nicholson tenth, Jackson himself 14th and Andy Gorrod 17th.

John Wood, late of Lancashire and Durham, is third in the bowling, with Andrew Deegan fifth and overseas all-rounder Tanzeel Altaf tenth.

Lee at third in the batting with 51.75 may take some by surprise as he is best known as a pace bowler, but Jackson added: "James is batting extremely well and has had several not outs (four), which help massively when it comes to averages.

"But I prefer to look at the total of runs scored (Lee has 207 to Jackson's 195) and I'll soon catch him up!"

Left-arm off-spinner Deegan seems to take three wickets most weekends, and his tally of 21 is only bettered by team-mate and fellow spinner Altaf and Chris Brice (Woodlands), who have 24, and Brice's team-mate Safraz Ahmed, who has 22.

St Lawrence are the only team to have beaten Cleckheaton this season, taking a low-scoring encounter by four wickets on May 3.

Cleckheaton went from 72-1 to 130 all out but had Saints at 99-6 before Matthew Duce (56no) and Steve Watts (11no) saw the latter home.

Elsewhere, the day's key matches are Woodlands' visit to fifth-placed Lightcliffe and third-from-bottom East Bierley's trip to cellar dwellers Pudsey Congs.

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