A 27-year-old man was locked up for eight years for a sophisticated plot to smuggle heroin into Bradford from Pakistan in cricket balls.

Jailing Liaqat Ali for his “cynical and deliberate” part in the crime, the judge praised West Yorkshire Police for cracking down on international drug traffickers.

Bradford Crown Court heard yesterday that police and Customs officers seized around 200 grams of pure heroin hidden in 48 cricket balls addressed to Ali’s home at Lynton Avenue, Heaton, Bradford.

Prosecutor Ian Howard said the first package was delivered to the house on June 22 last year. It was addressed to Tariq Mahmood, Ali’s former tenant, who had moved out six months earlier.

Three days later, a similar parcel was intercepted by Customs officers at Heathrow Airport. It was posted in Pakistan and destined for Ali’s address in Bradford.

Inside one of the cricket balls was a rubber package containing heroin.

West Yorkshire Police delivered a dummy package to Ali’s address and he signed for it.

Police swooped on Ali’s second address, in Beaumont Road, Girling-ton, and seized the contents of the first package.

They found cut-up cricket balls and packages of heroin.

In all, heroin with a street value of £36,650 was seized, Mr Howard said.

Ali pleaded guilty to two charges of being knowingly concerned in the importation of heroin.

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC told Ali: “You are a man of good character who fell into crime.”

During trips to Pakistan, Ali became significantly involved in a plot to smuggle heroin into Bradford – whose streets were already blighted by sales of the class A drug.

“You embraced actively, cynically and wilfully the opportunity to import this killer drug,” Judge Durham Hall said.

After the case, Detective Inspector Noel Devine, from West Yorkshire Police Crime Division, said: “We welcome the judge’s comments on the way that police are dealing with the problem of the importation of heroin into Bradford from Pakistan.

“This is another case where drugs have been concealed inside inanimate objects but this investigation shows that no matter how the criminals try and hide drugs, we will find them.

“We will continue to work with our partners to disrupt drugs supply in the county.”