IF CLECKHEATON needed any reminding that they are the scalp that is the most prized by rival teams this season, they received it on Saturday.
The Moorenders, favourites to make it three top-flight titles on the spin, had a first day at the office they would rather consign to the dustbin after being humbled by 164 runs by rampant Bradford & Bingley.
Chief architect of their demise was highly-rated paceman Jack Hartley – son of ex-Yorkshire seamer Neil – who took a splendid 7-47 to skittle John Wood’s title holders for just 80.
This arrived after B&B opened with 244-9, with the only redeeming features on a poor day for Cleck being an encouraging performance from newcomer Curtis Free, who took 3-54 on his debut and Iain Wardlaw claiming the two wickets he needed to reach 500 in Bradford League cricket.
On a sobering opening day otherwise, Cleck spokesperson Kevin Mitchell: “The way we look at it is that if you are going to win the title, as the competition is so fierce, you can only afford four defeats in a season.
“We are cutting down the margin for error with every defeat and we didn’t even make a fist of it and lost batting points.
“It was a timely reminder that competition is strong in an unforgiving league.
“I think there’s a bit of a psychological thing here too as well with the lads saying we are not very good at batting second.
“I think when you say that, you are putting doubts in your own minds.
“Andy Gorrod was out first ball without playing a shot and that set the tone and chasing 244, we were instantly up against it.
“Tim Jackson dug in for his 39, but the rest of the lads don’t need the likes of me telling them they weren’t at their best.
They know they can do better.”
Elsewhere in Division One, Pudsey Congs (240-7) made a clear declaration of intent by overpowering promoted Undercliffe (113) by 127 runs, with paceman James Pearson (5-13) and skipper Gareth Phillips (113) outstanding for the victors, alongside Nick Lindley (77).
Pudsey St Lawrence (283-5) triumphed in a high-scoring game at East Bierley (269-8), with James Smith smashing a superb unbeaten 126 for the winners.
Bierley captain Dan Shuffe’s belligerent 110 was in vain for the hosts.
Woodlands (185-9) held sway in a tense 13-run win over New Farnley (172), for whom Nick Walker (72no) excelled.
Key duo Chris Brice (5-65) and Grant Soames (45) made important contributions for the hosts.
Aussie opener Nick Connolly (106no) and left-arm spinner Ben Elvidge (7-57) were the star turns for much-fancied Hanging Heaton (252-5), who had too much in their armoury for Saltaire (207).
It was a low-key first day for much-changed Farsley (142), second best to Lightcliffe (180-8), despite the efforts of Chris Henry (4-38) and James Wainman (41) and Greg Pickles (37).