SOMETIMES, a mid-season reality check is no bad thing.
After surprisingly seeing their colours lowered in the league for the first time this season on the previous Saturday against New Farnley, Bradford Premier League frontrunners Woodlands ensured normal service was resumed in last weekend’s 133-run win over lowly Methley.
Woodlands then followed up with a comprehensive success against Hanging Heaton 24 hours later to book their place in the Priestley Cup final.
With a cup final to look forward to next month and a 27-point advantage at the top of the table, all is set fair at Albert Terrace, but the recent loss to Farnley has still managed to serve as a timely warning that it is not over until it is over.
Not for the first time this season – and probably by no means the last – star Kiwi overseas man Brad Schmulian came to the party at the weekend with a key 89 to take Woodlands to 241-7 after being in a spot of early bother at 39-4.
Mohammed Bilal tagged on a quickfire 57 not out before rock-bottom Methley were bowled out for 108, with Scott Richardson taking 4-25.
Secretary Brian Pearson said: “Against Farnley, we were well beaten on the day and they were too good for us. They came with a plan and executed it and their three bowlers rocked us over.
“I think it was Bricey (Chris Brice) who said to me ‘It is maybe no bad thing as it serves as a bit of a wake-up call’.
“But I felt we bounced back brilliantly at the weekend. We were in a bit of trouble against Methley as well as (Jared) Warner and (Matthew) Waite bowled very similar to (Alex) Lilley, (Andrew) Brewster and (Charlie) Parker, who got wickets and they came at us with speed.
“But Bradley got the 80-odd and him and the skipper came together and consolidated. The big thing for us was partnerships and we have been producing them all season.
“Then on Sunday against Hanging Heaton, they did what we did against New Farnley.”
Specifically on the impact of Schmulian, Pearson added: “Everything has come into place. The overseas has brought a new dimension to everything and is a superb bloke.
“His batting, bowling and fielding and general demeanour are all a great asset.
“Since the winter, the team has come together and played as a unit and Brad’s extra spinning option and different one as well with leg spin has given us better balance.
“The top-order batting has also come off, which had been a problem for a number of years.”
Bradford and Bingley (260-5) have leapfrogged Pudsey St Lawrence (146) into second spot after a 113-run win, with ton-up Callum Goldthorp sharing in a super opening stand worth 175 with Mohammad Afridi (88).
New Farnley (137-4) prevailed by six wickets in an encounter decided by Duckworth Lewis Stern against fourth-placed Hanging Heaton (203), now 53 points behind leaders Woodlands, with Alex Lilley taking a superb 6-37 for Farnley, up to fifth.
Farsley (178-8) went down by six wickets at home to Townville (180-4), for whom Connor Harvey took 5-56 and Jonathan Booth scored a cracking 82. Opener Booth shared in a second-wicket stand of 109 with Harry Warwick (44) – James Logan (58) top-scoring for Farsley.
Significant developments at the bottom saw Wrenthorpe (191-6) triumph by four wickets at Cleckheaton (186-9), despite captain Mally Nicholson’s 51.
Khalil Khan (79 and 3-53) impressed for the victors.
Meanwhile, Khalid Usman (68) and Michael Kelsey (55) were in the runs as Undercliffe (250-6) saw off Lightcliffe (196) by 54 runs.
The efforts of Suleman Khan (53) and Yasir Abbas (46) were in vain for third-from-bottom Lightcliffe, who are now just four points above Wrens.
Those results mean that Methley are now 38 points adrift of safety with nine games of the season to go.
NEW FARNLEY will face holders Woodlands in this season’s Priestley Cup final after a 10-wicket whitewashing of Championship One side Baildon in the last four on Sunday.
Opening, the Jenny Laners were undone by the spin of Farnley duo Luke Jarvis (4-16) and Dave McCallum (2-12), who helped skittle Baildon for 96.
Aussie Blair Oakley top-scored with 39.
Replying, Steve Bullen, promoted to opener, justified that decision with a vibrant unbeaten 57, well supported by Adam Waite (31no) as 2017 winners Farnley eased home.
They will face Woodlands in the showpiece on August 11 after the Albert Terrace outfit comfortably beat Hanging Heaton by six wickets – with the Tewits’ wait for their first Priestley Cup success since 1986 continuing.
Heaton were dismissed for a disappointing 86, with Mohammad Bilal (3-28) and Kez Ahmed (4-14) making hay with the tail disintegrating as Woodlands’ hopes of a league and cup double remained intact as they secured their target easily enough.
Imran Rafique starred with 60 and 4-39 as Townville (271-4) progressed to the Heavy Woollen Cup final after a 21-run win over spirited Buttershaw St Paul’s (251).
The final takes place against Shepley at Ossett on August 4.
Just 12 points separate the top three in Championship One after Bankfoot, Batley and Morley all won on Saturday.
James Lee and Andrew Stothart took four wickets apiece as leaders Bankfoot edged out Gomersal by two wickets, while Roheil Hussain (53) and Tariq Hussain (4-15) helped second-placed Batley comfortably account for lowly Ossett by six wickets.
The experienced Dave Nebard took a masterful 6-34 as Morley, in third, skittled East Bierley for 97 en route to an emphatic 147-run win.
Henry Rush (77no) and Reggie Thomas had earlier excelled with the bat.
Hartshead Moor are up to fourth after an unbroken fourth-wicket stand worth 113 between Ali Shan (73no) and Mohammad Khan (53no) saw them home against Baildon.
Martin Atkinson (70) and Imran Mahboob (68no) put on 131 for the fourth wicket as Wakefield St Michael’s moved out on the bottom two with a fine 49-run victory over Keighley.
Chris Doey took an excellent 6-40 as Pudsey Congs beat rock-bottom Scholes by 20 runs.