ON PAPER, Woodlands’ first-round National Club Championship tie against Wakefield Thornes was a tough one.

While Woodlands are third in the Bradford Premier League’s Premier Division, Thornes had won all five matches in the Yorkshire Southern Premier League and were, not surprisingly, leading their table.

In reality, the day went well for the hosts from Albert Terrace, with only skipper Brad Schmulian’s leg-breaks proving tasty fare for Thornes, who won the toss and opted to bat.

Using the same wicket that they beaten Cleckheaton on the day before, Woodlands restricted Thornes to 197-7 from their 40 overs, with the classy Joe Billings, who made a run-a-ball 67, and opener Kieran Donnachie (27) adding 86 for the second wicket.

Kez Ahmed only conceded 21 runs from his eight overs and took two wickets, and Muhammad Bilal weighed in with 2-29, while Scott and Elliot Richardson and Tom Clee (2-36) also kept the run rate down.

Wakefield Thornes’ total always felt slightly under-cooked, and that emphatically proved the case when Sam Frankland (88) and Tim Jackson (84no) put on 166 for the first wicket.

Instead of skipper Schmulian coming in at No.3, Liam Collins was sent in and helped Woodlands, who were invited to compete as Bradford League champions, to a nine-wicket victory with 25 balls to spare.

Frankland, although annoyed not to post three figures, said of the national competition: “I am very excited about it. It is my 15th year at Woodlands and it is another competition to go for.

“We strive to win as much as we can, and personally as well. We try to play the game hard.”

As for Thornes, he said: “They are a bit of an unknown. We know that they are rebuilding and have a few young players and we knew that they were top of the league.

“We didn’t know too much about them, apart from the opening bowler (Matt Taylor) and the off-spinner (Matt Varley), and I was really impressed with their No.3 (Billings).

“He looked a really good batter and he has had some county cricket (with Leeds-Bradford UCCE and Sussex Seconds), and you could see that.

“They are building for the next phase but we were pretty happy with what they set us.

“We were playing on the same wicket as Saturday, and we chased 228 then, so we thought that they were slightly under par.”

The bustling Clee has only bowled seven overs so far in league matches for Woodlands this season, but Frankland said: “Tom has got a really good character and personality to improve and is not scared of putting the hard yards in and he will do what the captain wants him to do, and that is great.”

As for a game-plan, Frankland said: “With the top three, and I know that Brad didn’t bat three, we are looking for one of us to go on and set a benchmark, and it was a shame that I couldn’t see it over the line.

“Early on there was a bit with the new ball, but once the shine went off it it didn’t do as much and was quite a low, slow track.

“We tried to be aggressive as we could against the spin, and the fielding restrictions probably helped us with a bit more space. We tried to push it around and wait for the bad ball, which we put away.”

On his dismissal, Frankland admitted: “It was a lack of concentration really - probably trying to push on.

“I would take an 88 at the beginning of the day but once you get there I am experienced enough and you have done the hard work and should go on to make it to three figures.”

As for Collins, the opener said: “Liam has got shots that a lot of other players in our team don’t have. We have our slight frustrations because we know the kind of player that he could be, and it is just himself and his mental side.

“Hopefully this year he can put pressure on to play in our middle order.

“It was a bit easier than we thought, even with being a bowler down without Chris Brice (at a christening), who could be a big miss.”

As for the Bradford League title chase, Frankland said: “This year, from what I have seen so far, will be closer with more teams beating each other.

“With the Yorkshire Academy not having a Saturday team, players like Will Luxton, for Bradford & Bingley, made a magnificent hundred against us.

“There are match-winners in each team and it is going to be an exciting season.”

Next up for Woodlands in round two on Sunday, May 29 are 2018 National Club Championship winners Richmondshire, whose skipper Gary Pratt (who famously ran out Ricky Ponting as a substitute fielder in the 2005 Ashes) made 73 in their 57-run win over Hetton Lyons.