BABAR Butt rolled back the years with a match-winning innings of 95 not out as Pudsey Congs continued their march up the Division One table with a fourth win in five games at the expense of leaders Cleckheaton.
The sole survivor of the Congs side which won won five titles in a row between 2000 and 2004, was joined in an unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 82 off 51 balls by Mubtada Akhtar after early contributions from Adam Patel (32) and Joe Greaves (28).
This enabled the visitors to post a formidable 252-5 which was the key to their 48-run win.
Then it was the turn of another of Congs' great servantsto take centre stage. Glenn Roberts, captain when they last won the title in 2010, wrapped up victory with 5-37 with his left-arm spin, while Akhtar followed up his valuable innings with 3-42.
Butt, who had planned to start to wind down his illustrious Bradford League career, said: “I wanted to take a lesser role at Pudsey Congs or even play somewhere else. Fortunately, I didn’t move to another club. Pudsey Congs is my club and when I received a call from them to help, I was only too pleased to do so.”
Butt also deputised ably as wicketkeeper in the absence of Andrew Bairstow. “I wasn’t looking forward to it, “he admitted, “but I got through it and we won the match.”
Congs were bottom of the table on June 7 with no wins from their first nine matches, but Butt always thought that was a false position.
“I truly believe we have turned the corner,” he said. “It hasn’t been one big performance – we have started to play like a team and now we have beaten the best side in the league.”
Cleckheaton overcame the loss of Andy Gorrod at 20 with a second-wicket stand of 63 between Tim Jackson and Ian Nicholson before Jackson became Roberts’ first victim, when he was trapped lbw for 32.
Skipper John Wood and Mally Nicholson followed cheaply, but, at 179-4 and with 13 overs left, Cleckheaton were on course for victory. But an extraordinary collapse saw the reigning champions lose four wickets for three runs, including potential match winners Ian Nicholson (66), James Lee and overseas player Tanzeel Altaf – caught on the boundary attempting a straight driven six – as they slumped to 182-8. At that stage, the game was as good as over although Iain Wardlaw hit a six to gain a fourth batting point before they were all out for 204.
Cleckheaton’s only consolation was that second-placed Woodlands also lost at Hanging Heaton and, like them, gained only six points from the match so they maintained their 24-point lead at the top, but an angry John Wood offered no excuses.
He said: “I thought we bowled poorly, fielded poorly and batted poorly. Fortunately, Woodlands lost as well and so we have maintained our lead, but had we won it is possible it would be nearly done and dusted. Now we have given everyone a chance again.”