Bradford League: Gutsy offering is a proud moment for Middlebrook

Cleckheaton's Mohammad Khan at New Farnley. PIC: Paul Butterfield
Cleckheaton's Mohammad Khan at New Farnley. PIC: Paul Butterfield
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Pudsey Congs legend Ralph Middlebrook has described Saturday as a proud moment for the club following a gutsy five-run win over Preistley Cup finalists Woodlands.

“It never seemed possible,” he said. “Having posted 203 on a faultless wicket I thought we were a long way short. And then at 100-0, well, it just seemed that we weren’t in it.”

Batting first on what Middlebrook described as a 260 deck, only opener Callum Geldart raised his bat during a measured 65.

His team-mates chipped in around him, including Nick Lindley (27) and Joe Greaves (26), with whom he recorded partnerships of over 50, but it was a fightback with the ball that really earned Congs a vital 18-point win.

Joshes Holling (1-38) and Wheatley (2-34) were both miserly, Wheatley’s 15 overs going for less than 2.5 runs per over, and wrist spinner Joe Greaves took a late 4-35 to see his side to an improbable victory despite the efforts of Woodlands openers Tim Jackson (57) and Sam Frankland (58).

“We’ve got three seamers under 20, and to see players like Josh Wheatley and Nick Lindley show that sort of fighting quality against quality players like Tim Jackson was wonderful.”

Alongside the efforts of his team’s younger players, Middlebrook, father of former Yorkshire and Essex twirler James, paid testament to the experienced Babar Butt on his return to the side.

Butt is something of a club legend, having played in each of their five consecutive league titles between 2000 and 2004, and is back after a dalliance with Aire Wharfe outfit Kirkstall.

“Babar is a life member and a member of the ‘famous five’, and his experience was vital I think,” added Middlebrook. “You could see that he was really helping the captain with a few things, and his influence was a revelation. He came in and batted cleverly, too, pushing singles, which isn’t bad for a 50-odd year-old!”

The win pulls Congs out of the relegation zone and into ninth, leapfrogging fellow Bradford League big names East Bierley and Bradford & Bingley in the process. Not one to get carried away, Middlebrook was keen to stress that the team knows what they need to do to wheel themselves further away from danger.

“We dread being in the bottom half. We’ve suffered from a lack of application in the batting and because our pitch is, in my opinion, the best in the league.”

“You look at other teams in the Bradford League and players like (Gary) Fellows and (Mark) Robertshaw, they’re batting for long periods on good pitches.

“That’s what we need to do. We need 100s, big scores. All of the top six are capable of doing that. We’ve got to bat long.”

“We can’t fathom, with the talent at our disposal, how we are in the position that we’re in. But we’ve not been particularly unlucky and the table doesn’t lie. Players come to play for Pudsey Congs to play on a great pitch and to win things, and that is very much the ethos of the club.”

Saturday was Gareth Phillips’ side’s first win in six, and they will be expecting to record back-to-back victories when they take on Scholes this weekend. The Bradford League new boys are rock-bottom in the league and look consigned to relegation.

“It’s a game we would expect to win,” said Middlebrook, “we won’t be taking anything for granted, but hopefully we can get some runs under our belt and go on a little run from here.”

Further up the table, the defeat had no effect on Woodlands’ league position, although it does put the fifth-placed side further out of reach of the top four, 27 points back on the in-form New Farnley.

The Bradford side take on Congs rivals Pudsey St Lawrence in the final of the Priestley Cup on August 28 in what could well be a season-defining encounter.

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Pudsey Congs’ celebrations after beating Woodlands will have been lifted further by the news that relegation rivals East Bierley were edged out at Farsley.

Skipper Arthur Price (75) led the charge for the home side alongside Greg Pickles (32) as the third-placed side set 224-9 despite the efforts of Danish Hussain (4-49) and Luke Jarvis (3-63).

East Bierley stuttered to 97-6 before Bjorn Taylor (48) and lower order batsmen Matthew Lumb (32) and Luke Jarvis (32) took them to a respectable 201.

An eighth-wicket partnership of 70 between Sam Wilson (17) and James Lee (59) pushed Cleckheaton to 161, of which New Farnley made light work thanks to Mark Lawson (62) and Lee Goddard (83*) to win by six wickets.

There was further movement in the relegation scrap as Morley leapfrogged Bradford & Bingley to go eighth.

Only opener Jack Edgar (43) put up a fight for the Bees, who were rolled for 102 thanks to Matthew Dowse (4-26) and James McNichol (3-9), before a 22-ball 34 by Matthew Baxter saw Morley home four down. A place above Morley, Lightcliffe will be looking over their shoulder after table toppers Hanging Heaton knocked off their Alex Stead (84) inspired 214.

Fellow opener Ian Philliskirk scored 49, whilst Gary Fellows (4-43) and Muhammed Rameez (3-57) toiled for the leaders, who made light work of the chase thanks to Fellows (85*),

Nick Connolly (82) and Richard Foster (31*).

Whoever goes down will be accompanied by Scholes, who lost out to Pudsey St Lawrence. Mark Robertshaw batted through the innings for 106* and skipper James Smith plummeted seven maximums in a 42-ball 73 to post an unassailable 281-5. Tom Hudson took 5-21 as doomed Scholes were blown out for 109.

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A second consecutive century for opener Aqeel Mukhtar took Batley a step closer to the Championship B title on Saturday as second-placed Yeadon slipped up at Liversedge.

Makhtar (103*) resisted the efforts of Mushtaq Ahmed (4-31) to bat throughout the innings but received little support from his team-mates, with only Tariq Mehboob getting going on his way to 41. Their 195-8 was always going to be a test for a Baildon side with only 16 batting points this year, and their reply stuttered at regular intervals thanks to Aqsad Ali’s 4-31, only Jonny Reynolds (38) and Mounam Ejaz (38*) threatening.

And Batley had two other openers to thank as Liversedge’s top two put on 125 en route to surpassing Yeadon’s 176-7. Batting first, Yeadon recovered from 61-5 thanks to Zach Wheatley (59*) and captain Oliver Halliday (30), but it was Mark Hydes (62*) 125-run opening stand with the in-form Jessie Dinnie (74) that did the damage along with Jonathan Trevitt (30*).

At the bottom of the table, Birstall moved away from danger thanks to the bowling of Alex Debs’s 5-42 and Alex Drake’s 4-30, bowling Hunslet Nelson out for 99. Skipper Craig Wood batted through for 48*.

It’s looking increasingly likely that Idle will be following Aire Wharfe-bound Saltaire out of the league after they crashed out by four wickets to stay bottom of the pile. Four wickets apiece for Ijaz Khan and Tanzeel Altaf did the damage for Saltaire before Amjid Hussain’s 19-ball 44 and Adeel Ashraf’s unbeaten 48 took their side up to fifth.

Elsewhere Ossett hammered third-placed Undercliffe by 103 runs thanks to Shabir Rashid’s 122*.

In Championship B, Townville have one step in the Premier League after a fine team performance saw them surpass Altofts’ 176. Matthew Holstein’s 63 was Altofts’ only answer to Jack Hughes (4-38) and Conor Harvey (4-46) before Matthew Bremner (63*) and Jonathan Booth (63) saw the champions-to-be home.

There were no shocks at Wrenthorpe as they saw off bottom side Hartshead Moor by eight wickets. Greg Wood (5-28) and Matthew Race (4-40) rolled Moor for 136 before Darryl Hendricks’s 81 helped the home side home inside 19 overs.

Bankfoot leapfrogged Gomersal into third thanks to Neil Nicholson (55) and Marupuri Suresh (4-47), whilst Bowling Old Lane had Adal Islam (6-27) and Sadaqat Zaman (4-33) to thank as they wiped out Hopton Mills for just 62.

Methley’s 269-4 was always going to be too much for Spen Victoria, who were dismissed for 151. Hamid Khan (91) top scored for Methley, before Grant Soames took 5-19.

Elsewhere, 40s for Stephen Cooper, Farukh Allam, Ismail Patel and Tom Taylor saw Carlton to 220-5 before Allam (4-43) took the ball to see off Brighouse for 159.

Ralph Middlebrook.

Pudsey Congs plotting another big upset at league leaders Hanging Heaton