Woodlands have achieved the remarkable feat of winning the Yorkshire Premier League Play-Off final in consecutive seasons. They clinched a comfortable six-wicket victory over Sheffield Collegiate at New Farnley.
The champions of the Yorkshire Cricket Southern Premier League, making their inaugural appearance in the final, regretted their decision to bat first under overcast skies, as they were dismissed for a mere 76. This marked the lowest-ever score by a team in a final, presenting Woodlands with a prime opportunity to retain the White Rose Trophy.
The initial breakthrough was made by Elliot Richardson, who had former Farsley batter Jack Timby caught behind by Greg Finn for nine. Following suit was his new ball partner, Muhammad Bilal, who dismantled the heart of the Collegiate batting line-up. He first trapped George Bartlett lbw for seven, then clean-bowled all-rounder Shaaiq Choudhry for one, and subsequently had Collegiate captain Josh Varley caught without a score, causing his side to plummet to 25-4.
Though Sam Meadows (15) and Sam Hunt (21) provided a glimmer of hope for a revival, both eventually succumbed to Tom Clee. Meadows was deftly stumped by Finn for 15, before Hunt fell prey to an lbw, leaving the score at 64-6.
Henry Eldred (9) and Jamie Carrington (0) were both dismissed by skipper Brad Schmulian via clean bowls before Bilal returned to secure his fourth wicket by bowling out Louie Owens for two. The final wicket was claimed by leg spinner Schmulian, as Robert Shaw lofted a catch to Liam Collins.
The entire Woodlands bowling unit performed admirably, capitalising on some lackadaisical batting. Bilal (4-38) stood out as the pick of the attack, with Schmulian (3-10), Clee (2-10), and Elliot Richardson (1-17 in nine overs) all playing crucial roles.
Woodlands once again promoted the powerful Bilal to open, who promptly signalled his intent with a six and four boundaries. Sam Frankland struggled to settle and was eventually caught and bowled by Eldred for one. The score of 24-1 quickly became 24-2 as Bilal misjudged a shot and was caught by Eldred off the bowling of Rob Shaw.
These swift wickets provided Collegiate with a glimmer of hope, and the opening bowlers further capitalised. Schmulian was caught by Carrington off Eldred’s bowling, while Clee fell lbw to Shaw for one.
At 53-4, Woodlands was teetering, but left-hander Tim Jackson held firm and found a steady partner in Kieran Collins. Together, they guided their side to victory without losing any more wickets. It was fittingly Jackson who struck the boundary that sealed the win.
Eldred (2-38) and Shaw (2-35) were the standout bowlers for Collegiate, but they found themselves with too few runs to defend after a lacklustre batting performance was ruthlessly exploited by the efficient Woodlands attack.
Bilal was awarded the Player of the Match for his all-round performance, bagging four wickets and contributing 23 runs.