CLASHES between silverware rivals and near-neighbours Woodlands and Cleckheaton are invariably dramatic and last Saturday proved no exception.
Moorend witnessed a thriller as champions Cleck had to settle for a tie in a pulsating top-flightencounter with Woodlands, desperate to wrestle back to title they surrendered last season.
The final day of 2013 proved a heart-stopping one for Cleck, who claimed the championship for the first time despite losing at Albert Terrace, watched by Yorkshire duo Andrew Gale and Tim Bresnan and the rival’s latest battle was also one to savour, especially for the neutral.
Cleck had looked set fair for victory after a destructive penultimate over which saw Mally Nicholson take 24 in boundaries off the bowling of Pieter Swanepoel before keeping the strike with a single off the last ball.
But on 87, Nicholson fell to wily paceman Sarfraz Ahmed, who then provided the final twist by taking the last wicket of Andrew Deegan to dismiss the hosts for 194 in 49.2 overs, with John Wood’s men needing just one for victory.
Earlier, Woodlands made the same score for the loss of nine wickets, with Sam Frankland (46) top-scoring and Ahmed hitting a typically explosive 37 and Deegan taking 3-19.
While both had to settle for a draw, it was a day when league cricket was the winner, according to Woodlands secretary Brian Pearson.
He said: “It was a marvellous advert for Bradford League cricket.
“Two teams went head to head in a game which ebbed and flowed and it was what cricket is all about. You couldn’t write the script.”
Another captivating and competitive game also ensued at the weekend between Farsley and Lightcliffe, where supporters were treated to another thrilling fashion, with Pearson - like many on the league circuit - expecting 2014 to be the most closest fought at the top end for years.
He added: “I think six or seven teams can look at being competitive at the top - Cleckheaton, Pudsey St Lawrence, ourselves, Farsley, Hanging Heaton and New Farnley, while beyond that there are other good sides such as Pudsey Congs and Bradford and Bingley.”
A cracking finale at Wakefield Road saw early pacesetters Farsley nick a one-wicket victory at Lightcliffe, replying to a home total of 182-6.
They reached 183-9, with ex-Headingley opener Joe Sayers (37) and skipper Mark Harrison (38) being their top-scorers. Earlier Jonathan Wilson (55) top-scored for Lightcliffe, with Harrison bagging 3-50.
Surprise packages in second spot behind Farsley are Morley, tipped by many to struggle after a brush with relegation at times last term.
The Scatcherd Lane outfit impressed with bat and ball in a 76-run success over Pudsey Congs, none moreso that new opener Matthew West, who hit a superb 76 in their opening salvo of 157, with Glenn Roberts taking a cracking 6-27.
Replying, Congs capitulated in wholly disappointing fashion and were all out for just 81, with Kashif Naveed pocketing 3-9.
After going so close to the title last term, Pudsey Saints (217-6) are showing intent to go one better, claiming their second straight win after turning over East Bierley (113) by 104 runs.
The ever-reliable Mark Robertshaw led the way with a typically accomplished 87, well supported by James Smith (63) and Callum Goldthorp (41) before Bierley were dismissed way short.