CRAIG Pullen shone on his return to Long Lee, scoring half his side’s runs as they eased to victory with a seven wicket win at home to Airedale in Division Two of the Craven League.

His 65 set the tone for an entertaining run chase, with just one maiden in Long Lee’s innings as they reached their target of 120 with nearly half their overs to spare.

Airedale made a strong start, with their openers making 49 between them, but they were soon stalled by the bowling of Shahbaz Ahmed and Mohammad Ishtiaq.

Their lower order fell quickly, with the damage done by fast bowler Steve Butterfield in a devastating second spell that saw him take three wickets for just eight runs.

The win was never in doubt for Long Lee, who were 82 without loss, though they will be disappointed in the way their wickets fell, with two simple run-outs for the visitors in the game’s final overs.

After winning the toss and electing to bat, Airedale started brightly, with captain Alec Pue and Yusuf Mohammed sending a steady stream of shots to the boundary.

But the prolific partnership was broken in the seventh over when Mohammed edged through to wicketkeeper Jamie Fullwood for 22.

And they were soon two wickets down when Warren Coppack was dismissed for a duck after an extraordinary fingertip catch from Zafran Ghaffar in the slips.

Wickets continued to fall at steady intervals as Airedale were met with some fantastic Long Lee fielding, with each of the first five batters being caught.

Ahmed soon had two, with Tim Crossley (10) scoring two fours before finding Rizwan Ahsan on the boundary and Pue adding 27 before hitting a shot high into the air to Fullwood.

Nazam Hanif and Mohammed Qadeer Hanif added some much needed stability to the middle order without scoring many runs, before the latter tried his luck against Ishtiaq, adding two boundaries before being caught out by a slower ball.

Naz Hanif and Anthony Cox seemed to find a good balance, but both were out in consecutive overs; with Pullen in the right place at the right time to provide a safe pair of hands, before Cox was bowled by Ishtiaq.

But the tie swung firmly in Long Lee’s favour when Butterfield was re-introduced into the bowling attack. He delivered almost immediately, with Moin Ahsan taking the simplest of catches to dismiss Martin Finn for nought.

Scott Ritchie (10) and Simon Hunter (8) added some late resistance, forming a 15-run partnership to see Airedale over 100, but both fell victim to the pace bowler in a fantastic final over that saw Butterfield finish on 4-22.

Set 120 to win the match, Long Lee came out firing, with Ghaffar showing much of the same quality that saw him reach his maiden century earlier this month.

He was partnered ably by the experienced Pullen – who has now played for both Airedale and Long Lee this season – with both players finding the boundary on multiple occasions as the pace of Airedale’s opening bowlers failed to pay dividends.

The visitors turned to spin, but their chance of winning the match dwindled, with Pullen hitting Ritchie’s bowling around the ground, adding 18 runs in the space of an over as he edged closer to a half century.

At the other end, Ghaffar hit five fours and a six on his way to a quick-fire 35 but was out poorly when he found himself stranded in the middle of the wicket after looking to add a quick single.

Pullen went on to convert his half-century in fitting style with a maximum, having faced 53 deliveries and batted for a little over an hour.

Jack Kennedy (7) was keen to get off the mark as Long Lee edged closer to an emphatic victory, but he made a rookie mistake, being punished by some excellent fielding from Mohammed and Pue after failing to ground his bat.

With just ten runs needed, Pullen departed for 65 in the game’s penultimate over after chipping a shot to Cox on the boundary, with R Ahsan (two not out) and Matthew Stowell (12 not out) seeing Long Lee to victory in the 22nd over.