PAUL HUTCHINSON has praised Pudsey St Lawrence for suffocating the cricketing life out of chastened Cleckheaton in Sunday’s one-sided Priestley Cup final at Undercliffe, writes LEON WOBSCHALL.
Saints dashed Cleck’s hopes of a famous trophy treble in 2014 with a comprehensive triumph, blowing away the Moorenders for 115 in reply after opening with 223-9.
Saints captain Jimmy Smith took plenty of gravitas for some astute bowling changes as Cleck lost six wickets for a paltry 11 runs to collapse to 115 all out, with Richie Lamb’s two overs yielding dream figures of 4-7.
Steve Watts, one of three spin options for Saints, also weighed in with 4-26 as John Wood’s side holed out on a number of occasions after falling behind the required run-rate thanks to some thoroughly economical bowling from the victors.
Saints’ opening knock after winning the toss was actually below-par, according to cricket chairman Hutchinson, with Smith’s side slumping from 193-3 to 200-8, with man-of-the-match Adam Waite hitting 94 – Tanzeel Altaf taking 4-50 for Cleck.
But a superb bowling and captaincy exhibition won the day for Saints with jubilant Smith lifting the cup for the second time in four seasons.
Hutchinson said: “It was nice to make it as easy as that as if it had been a little bit closer, I think I would have been a nervous wreck!
“James had a good day and got his decisions right. We won the toss and batted first on a good wicket; I actually think we were a bit under-par as par was about 250 on that pitch.
“But we did well in the field and added scoreboard pressure and as soon as they got near 60, they knew they had to keep playing shots or they were out of the game and that was when the wickets came.
“We held Lamby back as we know he bowls well towards the back end and he just came and blew them away.”
Hoping the win is the springboard for a positive 2015 after a season which has seen them fall off the pace at the top of the first division, Hutchinson added: “We have let it slip in the league.
“I don’t think we would have been in a position to fully chase Cleck down, but to give it up in the way we have in the league has been disappointing.
“So to put on a performance like Sunday gives the boys some confidence.
“It gives us a good platform as I don’t think there will be many changes to the squad we have got and hopefully we can retain the squad and promote and develop some others and grow the belief in the squad.”
There was also cup joy for Morley on Sunday, after they won the Crowther Cup for the first time in 57 years following victory over New Farnley at Methley.
Despite their Priestley Cup disappointment, Cleck remain firmly in the box seat for title glory and need just 16 points from their final two league matches to reclaim the top-flight title.
The Moorenders saw off Lightcliffe comfortably enough on Saturday, with spinner Andrew Deegan taking a marvellous 7-22 to help dismiss the visitors for 152.
Cleck had earlier opened with 210-7, with the inimitable Altaf continuing his majestic season, smashing 55 from just 26 balls.
Suleman Khan provided resistance for Lightcliffe with an impressive 61, but it was Cleckheaton’s day with Wood’s side visiting Farsley this coming weekend.
Second-placed Woodlands, who go to Pudsey Saints on Saturday, kept up the pressure and are waiting to strike if Cleck somehow slip up after a weekend victory over struggling near-neighbours East Bierley.
Pieter Swanepoel’s side opened with 147, with the skipper top-scoring with 31, Richard Atkins taking 4-29 for Bierley.
But, replying, Bierley, who would be forgiven for just wanting the season to end, were skittled for a mere 92.
Scott Richardson jnr (5-13) and Chris Brice (5-15) cleaned up with aplomb, despite spirited resistance from ex-Woodlands player Dan Shuffe (42).