Aire-Wharfe League: Burley must learn to adapt under pressure warns captain Brown

Nick Bulcock
Nick Bulcock
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Burley’s batsmen need to be more ‘professional’ and perform better under pressure if they are to overtake Beckwithshaw and win their first league title since 2010.

That’s the opinion of their skipper Eddy Brown, who’s side cruised to a five-wicket win over Collingham on Saturday, and get their season back on track after a torrid fortnight. The Hodson Park outfit had crashed to defeats against Otley and North Leeds before being dumped out of the Waddilove Cup by Beckwithshaw last weekend. They also lost in the Wharfedale T20 Cup final on Thursday, and Brown said that turning their form around was a task that couldn’t wait a minute longer.

James Lilley

James Lilley

“It was a difficult couple of weeks and it was important that we won the game well,” Brown admitted. “We let ourselves down in those matches and we were very honest about our performances afterwards.”

Big-scoring Burley have 57 batting bonus points, 12 more than any other side in the division, but Brown is looking to his run-getters to do the business when the pressure mounts.

“There were some harsh words spoken by some of the senior players after the Beckwithshaw game and our batsmen know that they weren’t good enough,” said Brown.

“We need to be more ‘professional’ and put our hands up when things are tough. It’s all very well going out and crashing the ball to all corners against some of the weaker attacks, but we need to realise where to adapt.”

Alex Lilley

Alex Lilley

It was their bowlers, however, who set up the near-perfect response in Saturday’s win as they bowled Collingham out for a below-par 135. Stalwarts Nick Brook (3-37) and Shane Etherington (3-25) starred, but it was twirler Nick Bulcock (3-13) who Brown singled out for special praise.

“Bully was brilliant,” said Brown. “We threw the ball to him and he stopped the scoring rate straight away, and picked up wickets quickly too. He changed the game for us, because 180 would have been a competitive score.”

Burley threw hard-hitting all-rounder Jason Wright to the top of the innings in order to attack a bowling unit dominated by spin, and he responded in kind, smashing 51 in just 38 balls including four fours and four sixes. Bulcock (25) and Red Bolton (29) also chipped in as Burley cruised home inside 24 overs.

The result saw them claw back a point on Beckwithshaw, who are 17 points in the ascendancy of what is beginning to look like a two-horse race.

“They’re playing well, and sometimes it feels like we’re running out of matches in order to catch them,” Brown admitted. “It might well come down to a shootout at their place.”

Their title rivals overcame an in-form Horsforth side by six wickets thanks to the efforts of Lilley brothers James (5-13) and Alex (50) as they knocked off 104 in 25 overs.

Otley, in third, were spun out 32 runs short of Bilton’s 192-9 by the leg-spin majesty of county trialist Kiel van Vollenhoven (5-46) and Mustahsan Ali Shah (3-26), who also struck 61. James Davies had earlier taken 5-49.

A place further down the table are Guiseley, who hammered mid-table Pool by 116 runs to stay ahead of Ilkley, who chased Rawdon’s Ahmad Raja (85) inspired 184-9 for the loss of five wickets. Skipper Will Spivey continued his solid season with 76 after the evergreen Terry Pattinson struck 41.

It is looking more as if the relegation battle is over with every passing week, especially after Colton’s defeat against North Leeds. Tom Nixon (50) and Danny Gautrey (44) set a competitive 192 for Colton, and things were looking rosy as they shot out four of North Leeds’ top order for single figures. That was until George Wales (69) and Dominic Cowley (50) together wiped the total off with a ball remaining.

The defeat leaves Gautrey’s men 44 points shy of safety, with Collingham a further three points back.