New Farnley struck an early blow in the Bradford Premier League title race on Saturday as they bid to end the recent dominance of Woodlands, who they beat in a three-run thriller.
Woodlands have won the Bradford title in each of the last two full seasons, discounting the Covid-shortened campaign of 2020 when they did not compete at all.
But they have work to do this summer if they are to make it a hat-trick of crowns, with New Farnley claiming a 17-point lead after nine of 22 fixtures.
On Saturday, which also saw Bankfoot spinner Zia-ul-Haq Parwani claim a stunning 9-54 in victory over Ben Coad’s Townville, New Farnley beat Woodlands at Albert Terrace as the hosts narrowly failed to chase down 268.
That was despite Woodlands advancing from 245-9 by taking 15 runs off the penultimate over from Australian state bowler Liam Guthrie, a left-arm seamer who plays for Western Australia and Brisbane Heat.
Last-wicket pair Kez Ahmed and Chris Brice hit a six apiece in the 49th over to reduce the target to a manageable eight needed. But former Yorkshire spinner Gurman Randhawa bowled an excellent final over, conceding only four as Woodlands finished on 264-9.
Brice needed to hit the last ball for four, but Randhawa bowled a dot to seal a 19-point haul for New Farnley, who have now won eight of their nine matches.
Slow left-armer Randhawa and Guthrie, with 14 first-class appearances between them, claimed four wickets apiece to stifle a Woodlands side who had made an excellent start to the chase as second-wicket pair Tim Jackson and New Zealander Brad Schmulian shared 131 after the score had fallen to 5-1 following an early Alex Lilley wicket.
Opener Jackson made 57 and Schmulian 77.
Woodlands later moved to 183-2 in the 36th over, and they were on course for victory. But they lost three wickets for four runs, including Schmulian, to Randhawa and Guthrie.
The visitors maintained hopes thanks in the main to Thomas Clee’s middle order 29, though New Farnley kept on chipping away to set up the dramatic conclusion.
Earlier, New Farnley’s 267-4 having been invited to bat was underpinned by captain Lee Goddard’s 82 off 100 balls at the top of the order.
He shared partnerships of 54 for the first wicket with Aidan Langley and 88 for the second with Adam Waite, who made 67 off 97.
The contributions of Goddard and Waite were supported by middle order efforts from Steve Bullen (39), Dan Hodgson (17) and Grant Soames (28).
This was Woodlands’ second defeat of the season and only their eighth in 53 matches during the last three campaigns.
The reverse fixture between the two comes on Saturday August 20 when New Farnley play hosts at the Barry Jackson Ground.
Meanwhile, the performance of the day went to Afghanistani off-spinner Parwani, who claimed his 9-54 in a remarkable 13 overs for newly promoted Bankfoot, who went on to beat Townville by four wickets chasing 243.
His haul included the wicket of Yorkshire seamer Coad, who has returned to league cricket in his bid to build up fitness after groin and hamstring injuries have prevented him from playing county cricket so far in 2022.
Hosts Townville were in control at 177-0 after 33 overs – Jonny Booth making 80 and Abdul Wahid 100. But then they subsided in the face of Parwani’s brilliance.
Townville lost nine wickets for 53, including Coad for three, and ended up posting only 242-9.
Coad claimed 1-9 in an opening five-over burst, but opener Hisan Ahmed’s superb 98 – along with Jawed Waheed’s 50 from number six – saw Bankfoot home by four wickets with seven balls to spare.
It was their third win in nine games, and it ended a run of six successes on the bounce for a Townville side who are now fourth.