Bradford Cricket League preview: In-form Congs eye charge up the table

Babar Butt of Pudsey Congs.

Babar Butt of Pudsey Congs.

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PUDSEY CONGS are living proof of the maxim that it is not about how you start the season, but how you finish it.

The first half of the Bradford League campaign was one of the most wretched in the club’s history, with the Britannia Ground outfit – who enjoyed peerless success in the early noughties – plumbing the depths at the foot of the Division One table.

Incredibly, their first league win didn’t arrive until their tenth game on June 14, when they beat Bradford and Bingley. But a bit like London buses, they have arrived with regularity since.

Tight wins over East Bierley and Morley were followed up by a superb 48-run triumph at champions Cleckheaton, with pronounced progress also to the latter stages of the Heavy Woollen Cup and Dyson Energy Services Twenty/20 Cup, with only the weather checking their momentum at New Farnley last weekend.

Next up is a home clash with Woodlands, with the pair fighting it out for honours for most of the current century, with Congs, up to fourth from bottom, eyeing a charge up the table – they are a far from unbreachable 40 points behind their second-placed visitors with seven games to go.

On their much-needed upturn, spokesperson Ralph Middlebrook said: “We are very optimistic with seven games to go that we can finish rather ‘comfortably.’

“Anybody could have a late surge and we could have a late surge and knock one or two out of the way.

“Woodlands have got some strong ammunition, but we reckon we are playing and practicing well together and the two cup runs have done us good and given us a bit of a focus to justify the faith Michael Hirst, our chairman, myself and the rest of the club have got in them as players.

“It could well turn out to be a decent season. The second team are also at the top of their division and the under-17s and under-11s have both won their way to cup finals and our other two teams are at the top of their division.

“If the first team can continue their form, we will be able to say in September ‘It’s been grand.’

“The captain (Gareth Phillips) is making some good decisions and batting well at the end and there’s a lot of endeavour and quality and as usual when things turn around, things start to drop your way.

“We were obviously very pleased to outplay the champions and league leaders with an outstanding contribution from Babar Butt, who played the spinners beautifully. It was a really quality innings.

“Mubtaba (Akhtar) is also coming on and came and scored rapid innings when we needed 250-plus for maximum points, with Glenn Roberts also moped the innings up and we caught some good catches.”

Cleckheaton, with a 25-point cushion at the top of the table, visit New Farnley tomorrow, with Pudsey St Lawrence, two points behind Woodlands in third spot, making the trip west to Lightcliffe.

Rock-bottom Yeadon head to fourth-placed Farsley, while fifth-placed Hanging Heaton call in at third-from-bottom Morley. East Bierley host Bradford and Bingley, with runaway Division Two leaders Undercliffe visiting in-form Hartshead Moor.

Two key clashes take play at the top and bottom of Division One of the Aire-Wharfe League, with leaders Otley – on course for a league and Waddilove Cup double – hosting third-placed Bilton. A big relegation scrap sees Pool host Rawdon. Elsewhere, Beckwithshaw and Burley head to Steeton and Guiseley respectively, while Collingham welcome Ben Rhydding. Kirkstall visit Ilkley.

Game of the day in the Premier Division of the Central Yorkshire League sees frontrunners Methley host old rivals Townville tomorrow, with the record standing at 1-1 between the pair this season.

In the ECB Yorkshire League, the top four square off with leaders Yorkshire Academy visiting third-placed Barnsley and second-placed York going to Doncaster Town, in fourth place.

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