SKIPPER Pieter Swanepoel bemoaned Woodlands' inability to build on a great start as they slipped to a four-wicket defeat at defending JCT600 Bradford League champions Cleckheaton and lost ground on early Division One pace-setters Pudsey St Lawrence.

After an opening stand of 93 between Duncan Snell and Sam Frankland, Woodlands looked to be on course for at least 250. But once Frankland was out, caught behind for 41 off Ian Wood, Cleckheaton took charge and bowled the visitors out for 200 in 48.1 overs.

Only one of the remaining nine batsmen – Jordan Laban (28) – made double figures as the last eight wickets fell for 88. Snell, fifth out at 159, was top scorer with 82, including 11 fours and two sixes, overseas leg spinner Tanzeel Altaf taking 4-58 and paceman Curtis Free 3-38.

Cleckheaton began positively and openers Tim Jackson and Andrew Gorrod saw off opening bowlers Swanepoel and Sarfraz Ahmed, leaving slow left-arm bowler Chris Brice and off-spinner Grant Soames to make the breakthrough.

Tim Jackson was caught at deep mid-on at 48 in Brice's first over for 24 and Gorrod followed 20 runs later caught at slip in Soames' first over for 36.

But skipper John Wood showed an aggressive approach at the other end and although Nicholson brothers Ian and Michael went cheaply, Wood took Cleckheaton to within sight of victory with a belligerent 65 off 52 balls – including three sixes and seven fours – until he was caught at deep mid-on off Brice at 167 attempting another big hit.

Cleckheaton also lost James Lee at 175 to give Brice his fourth wicket. But Altaf and former Yorkshire and Scotland World Cup pace bowler Iain Wardlaw guided them to their target in 43.5 overs.

Wardlaw sealed their four wicket victory in the grand manner by straight-driving Sarfraz Ahmed for six – and not many batsmen have done that in the 15 years the overseas pace bowler has played in the Bradford League.

The result means that Woodlands drop into third place, 22 points behind leaders Pudsey St Lawrence, while Cleckheaton – who began the season slowly with an opening-day defeat at Bradford & Bingley and two abandonments – are now fourth, just one point behind their opponents.

Swanepoel said: "Losing is never nice because we have thrown this one away. We let ourselves down in the middle of our batting when we were well set.

"We kept the pressure on in the Cleckheaton innings but we didn't have enough runs to play with on a good batting wicket and we were one bowler short because Elliot Richardson was ill.

"But this is going to be a tough league and there is a long way to go."

Wood responded: "We did well to restrict them to 200. I thought we would be chasing 300 but we bowled well.

"We probably played some silly shots in our innings but we were always in control. Woodlands bowled well. They are always hard-fought affairs."