AFTER a long awaited start owing to weather and ground conditions in April, Lightcliffe’s first stint in the First Division of the JCT600 Bradford League for 10 years got under way at Manningham.
On a bitterly cold day. captain Jocky Wilson won the first toss of the year and decided to bowl on a wicket that looked like it would provide the some assistance.
Manningham however made their way to 64 without loss.
The introduction of spin changed things with wickets being taken at regular intervals by new overseas man Suleman Khan, seasoned pro Chris Greenwood and Josh Wheatley.
This put Mills on the brink at 143-8 with Khan on his debut having a five wicket haul.
A dropped catch which should have been taken by Wilson cost them. Iqbal Khan was in single figures at the time and he went on to bludgeon 36 not out including three sixes in one over from Khan. It boosted the home side’s total to 189 thanks to his knock and 64 by opener Hussain.
In reply, Lightcliffe got off to a disappointing start with Chris Taylor falling for a duck and new man Andy Gorrod going shortly after.
Alex Lees and Alex Stead played watchfully until Lees fell for six leaving Lightcliffe at 43-3.
Another new man, Charlie Roebuck, played fluently on a difficult pitch, racing to 39 including 20 from one over in a partnership of 53 with Stead, which looked to have put Lightcliffe in control.
When Roebuck fell lbw and Khan followed next ball for a debut golden duck, the emphasis shifted.
Wilson then batted well with Stead to put Lightcliffe in reach, needing 21 from three overs, but he was caught in the deep on 22, with 17 runs required.
Stead fell for an excellent 68 and Wheatley followed shortly after as Lightcliffe fell 10 short.
l NEXT day Lightcliffe produced another close one in the Priestley Cup first round with Undercliffe at Wakefield Road.
Having won the toss Wilson chose to bat on an excellent looking pitch, considering the downpour it had been subjected to.
Again, Lightcliffe lost early wickets with Chris Taylor and Alex Lees going in quick succession to leave the home side at 11 for 2.
Gorrod and Stead consolidated until Stead was out, bowled for 17 and Gorrod fell shortly after for 26 leaving the score on 64-4.
Roebuck (26) and Khan (48) both batted fluently to take the home side to 113 but when Roebuck, Wilson and Khan fell quickly, Lightcliffe were struggling at 138-7.
Josh Wheatley then took things on with support from Mark Horne and the unexpected source of Chris Greenwood.
Wheatley batted with poise and intelligence to see Ligthcliffe to a defendable 188 and re-iterated the importance of having strength in depth within the batting order.
Lightcliffe set about planning their defence of their total on a wicket that would be difficult to score quickly.
Opening with the spin of Greenwood was looked upon with raised eyebrows by the opposition and their supporters but its proved to be successful when after a couple of close lbw shouts were turned down, Greenwood was successful in trapping Geldart in front for six.
Paceman Roebuck then cleaned up Undercliffe skipper Heritage for a pleasing duck and when Newby was bowled by Greenwood for one, Lightcliffe were in control with the score at 22 for three.
Bottomley and former Yorkshire player Ashley Metcalfe steadied the ship, taking the score to 76 before overseas man Khan trapped Metcalfe lbw for 17.
Bottomley followed for a well earned 56 with the score on 104, bowled by Roebuck.
After some lusty blows by the opposition, three quick wickets fell leaving the visitors 40 runs behind with two wickets left.
Zarak Khan made 36 to put Lightcliffe’s nerves on edge but when he was removed by Stead it was left to Roebuck to clean up the number 11 and Lightcliffe could celebrate a 10-run victory and their first of the new season.
Lightcliffe are at home on Saturday to Saltaire, the team they pipped to the second division championship in 2011.