THE forecast was for cloud all day and there was dew on the ground initially, which meant that a cloth was necessary to dry the ball.

That was the scenario at the start of the Yorkshire Premier Leagues’ play-off final between Sheffield Collegiate and Woodlands at New Farnley.

So, what would you do if you won the toss? Bowl or bat?

Collegiate captain Josh Varley chose to bat, and they were dismissed for 76 by an unrelenting Woodlands attack, leaving 19.3 overs of their 50 unused.

Woodlands were 24-2 in reply, but won by six wickets, with Tim Jackson 29 not out.

An obvious question to ask Woodlands skipper Brad Schmulian afterwards therefore was: “What would you have done if you had won the toss?”

He said: “We would have batted first. I don’t think that the wicket changed much during the game, but we bowled well and took our chances, as did they when they bowled and put us under a bit of pressure.

“I don’t think that the scores necessarily reflected the pitch, but that was probably the best that our opening bowlers (Muhammad Bilal and Elliot Richardson) have bowled as a combo in a while, so hats off to both.

“The ball seemed to swing a lot for both teams, and the overhead conditions might have resulted in a bit more sideways movement.”

Schmulian added: “You should win chasing 76, but we got ourselves into a bit of bother at four down with a few still to get, but we bat down to 11 so were always confident of winning the game.”

So, Woodlands’ most testing season has ended with them retaining both the Bradford Premier League Premier Division title and the Yorkshire Premier Leagues’ play-offs.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Woodlands pose with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson after victory over Sheffield Collegiate.Woodlands pose with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson after victory over Sheffield Collegiate. (Image: Ray Spencer.)

Schmulian said: “I would take those two over any of the others that we have missed out on, such as the cup finals.”

However, he confessed: “August was a tough month for us, and we stagnated a little bit and got into a bit of a rut, and that filtered into the last few games.

“We also got a bit stale playing so many home games (an incredible 11 out of 11 in cups), but we got our heads down and stuck together, and our bowling and fielding has got us over the line in the last few games rather than our batting.

“Our performances showed that we played too much cricket but if you want to be the best, you play the most games of cricket in the Yorkshire competitions and the National Club Championship.

“In hindsight we probably did play a few games too many, but if you don’t enter them or get knocked out in the first round of the Priestley Cup then you have free Sundays.

“Next season we might get knocked out in the first round of the Heavy Woollen Cup. We will have a look at our schedule over the winter, but it is odds-on that you are going to lose early in one cup competition.”

Schmulian added: “Winning the league, even though we lost to Farsley, allowed us to take a big deep breath and relax a little, and we put in a nice performance against Hanging Heaton, and we had an awesome trip to Saltburn last weekend, which freshened us up a bit, in the play-off semi-final.

“They are two massive trophies and defending them makes it all the sweeter.”

Bilal (11-3-38-4) had the ball both swinging and seaming, and Richardson (9-2-17-1) gave nothing away at the other end either, with Yorkshire Southern Premier League champions Collegiate 47-4 after 18 overs when Woodlands made their first bowling change.

There was no let-up from change bowlers Tom Clee (6-2-10-2) or Schmulian (4.3-1-10-3), and there was a sinking feeling during the tea interval that yet another cup final would both finish early and be a damp squib, which has been a bit of a theme for 2023.

Sam Frankland (1) and player of the match Bilal (23 from 13 balls) were dismissed at 24 in the reply, but Jackson steadied the ship and, despite losing Schmulian for 10 and Clee for one, Kieran Collins (10no) helped Woodlands to their target in just the 16th over.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Tim Jackson's 29 not out was highly impressive in a low-scoring final. Tim Jackson's 29 not out was highly impressive in a low-scoring final. (Image: Ray Spencer.)

New Farnley did a superb job in staging the final with both Headingley (preparing for Wednesday’s ODI against Ireland) and Scarborough (ruled out on cost grounds) unavailable.