Bradford League: Old foes prove cricket’s alive and kicking – in Pudsey

Scholes opener Shoukat Ali, who made 48, hits a boundry in the Bradford League match with visitors Wrenthorpe. PIC: Steve Riding
Scholes opener Shoukat Ali, who made 48, hits a boundry in the Bradford League match with visitors Wrenthorpe. PIC: Steve Riding
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RALPH MIDDLEBROOK is proud to report that Pudsey’s passion for cricket remains as strong as ever.

Saturday’s nail-biting derby between chairman Middlebrook’s Pudsey Congs and Pudsey St Lawrence provided conclusive proof.

Wrenthorpe bowler, Chris Leaf. PIC: Steve Riding

Wrenthorpe bowler, Chris Leaf. PIC: Steve Riding

After edging a thrilling victory that breathed new life into Congs’ survival hopes, Middlebrook has new hope that his men will be sticking around for more derbies in 2018 and beyond.

Former multiple Bradford League champions and powerhouses Congs approached Saturday’s derby sitting bottom of the Premier Division and with just five games to prevent a barely imaginable slide into Championship One.

Fierce rivals Pudsey St Lawrence, flying high in fifth, looked to provide the latest nail in the coffin.

Yet in front of a packed crowd at Intake Road, Congs claimed a thrilling eight-run victory that showed that both Pudsey’s support for cricket and Congs’ bid to stay in the top flight is alive and well.

Scholes opener Sam Gatenby. PIC: Steve Riding

Scholes opener Sam Gatenby. PIC: Steve Riding

“The passion for cricket in Pudsey has always been there,” Middlebrook told the YEP.

“It was absolutely there in bucketfuls on Saturday with the Congs supporters and the Lawrence supporters. We stuck it out for seven hours. It was a good game that finished at five to eight in freezing conditions with 300 people all on the edge of their seats.

“Lawrence will be hurt and rightly so that they lost. But they contributed to a good game and it’s about time we won one if you can say that sort of thing. But I’ve no wish to ill treat our rivals, far from it, and I wish them the best of luck in their remaining fixtures. I hope they do the same to us.”

Congs were skittled for 161 despite a fine half-century from Irfan Amjad as Charles Parker took 5-42. The hosts then fought back in dogged style as a terrific 6-42 from Josh Wheatley dismissed Saints eight runs short of their target at 153 all out.

“We played very, very well, for once,” said Middlebrook. “There was a bit of controversy at the end when the umpire called a no ball for over waist height which, let’s just say, caused controversy, let’s leave it at that. Lawrence have played well this year but they just flattened a wee bit. But it’s still an unexpected win and a very welcome one for Pudsey Congs and it gives us a nice boost. It gives us a fighting chance and hope to battle on.”

Congs are now 12 points adrift of third-bottom Cleckheaton who enjoyed a seven wicket win at home to East Bierley.

Cleckheaton are six points ahead of second-bottom Batley who were blitzed by eight wickets at home to league leaders Hanging Heaton – next up for Congs.

Heaton remain ten point clear of second-placed Farsley who hammered seventh-placed visitors Bradford & Bingley by 98 runs. Third-placed Woodlands are another 17 points adrift having blitzed eighth-placed visitors Lightcliffe by 67 runs. Townville are 37 point farther back in fourth after Saturday’s 73-run win at home to sixth-placed New Farnley.

Sizing up the prospect of next weekend’s trip to Hanging Heaton, Middlebrook admitted: “Hanging Heaton won’t be easy. It will be tough this Saturday, but who would have thought we’d have won last Saturday?”