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Woodlands celebrate Bradford League title after taking four late wickets
Skipper Pieter Swanepoel praised the never-say-die attitude of his players as Woodlands won their sixth title in eight seasons on a dramatic final day of the Bradford League season.
Woodlands were facing defeat as Bradford & Bingley needed just five runs to win with four wickets remaining while chasing the hosts’ all out total of 153. But the visitors lost all those wickets without scoring to give the champions a four-run victory.
Top scorer Matthew Duce (58) in his last innings for the club and Harry Smallwood had taken Bingley to the verge of victory with a seventh-wicket stand of 50 before slow left-arm bowler Chris Brice began the collapse by removing Duce. Then off-spinner Grant Soames claimed the final three wickets to ignite the celebrations.
The last wicket to fall was teenage pace bowler Jack Hartley, brilliantly caught on the ropes by Scott Richardson junior as he attempted to hit a winning boundary.
Swanepoel said: “I thought the game was over when they needed five runs with four wickets in hand. But the spirit of my team and the Woodlands teams before prevailed. We never give up and in tight games we close it out.
“We had been on a bad run, losing our previous three matches, and when Jack Hartley hit it I thought it was going for six. But young Scott took a good catch low down. Had he missed it it would have gone for four and levelled the scores. It’s all down to small margins.
“We have had no luck in the last four weeks but our luck turned a little here. I really felt the pressure after we were beaten by Farsley , and we went into the last day as underdogs in the title race, but the lads pulled together.”
Four teams went into the final day with the chance of finishing top after Woodlands, who were 45 points in front at one stage, let their rivals back into the race with the those three defeats in a row.
Woodlands were in big trouble after being put into bat on a helpful pitch and at one stage had slid to 34-5. But 21-year-old Liam Brearley led their revival with an innings of 52, putting on 62 for the sixth wicket with Brice (37) and then adding 54 with Tim Orrell (25), playing his last innings for the club.
Before Woodlands snatched victory with those last four wickets, Lightcliffe had hopes of clinching a maiden championship after taking maximum 20 points from their 119-run win against bottom club Undercliffe .
Chris Taylor (87) and Alex Stead (86) shared a second-wicket stand of 144 as Lightcliffe posted a challenging 256-3 against Undercliffe before bowling out their relegated opponents for 137, off-spinner Josh Wheatley taking 6-44.
Bierley surprisingly put St Lawrence in to bat but bowled them out for 110, off-spinner Kez Ahmed taking 5-18, before coasting to victory. But Cleckheaton ’s challenge petered out as they lost by three wickets at Pudsey Congs.
Cleckheaton’s total of 210-7 always looked to be vulnerable and Congs won with four balls to spare thanks to opener Nick Lindley (79) and Andrew Bairstow (53).
Hanging Heaton banished any fears of relegation with a seven-wicket home win over Saltaire . Openers Rob McFarlane (102) and Mark Lawson (93) shared a stand of 198 as Heaton raced past Saltaire’s 223-8 with 15.1 overs to spare.
Farsley were relegated to Division Two following a four-wicket defeat at Manningham Mills after being bowled out for 144.
Yeadon went into the match knowing that 16 points would enable them to take the title but they were bowled out for 127 and skipper Matthew Baxter led Morley up with an unbeaten 59 as he shared an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 80 with Richard Jubb to leave Yeadon in third place.