Bramhall’s 1st XI ended their 2017 on a positive note with a win at already-relegated Bowdon on Saturday. The week’s awful weather left the pitch slow and the outfield damp, but captain Nick Cantello was keen to make first use of the facilities at South Downs Road.
Ashley West, opening the batting for the Beavers again, started positively with some crunching back foot strokes to get Bramhall off to a solid start. West was looking set for a final day half-century when he mis-timed to cover off the left-arm spin of Jack Tipton for 45. At the other end, number 3 Danny Lamb was looking assured – days after an unbeaten century for Lancashire 2nd XI – and he intelligently built his own innings by picking up runs from balls both good and bad. After passing his fifty, Lamb’s range of strokes increased as some well-placed sweeps and reverse sweeps kept the Bowdon skipper on his toes. Lamb, however, was unable to find significant support from his team mates in the top half of the order, and Bramhall’s chance of posting a score of more than 200 looked in doubt with 5 wickets down and less than 150 on the scoreboard. But Matt Higginbottom, at seven, showed his all-rounder credentials with a confident innings that also provided Lamb the ability to concentrate on his own game. Higginbottom had helped the Beavers’ total exceed 200 when he was caught for a well-made 45. At the other end, Lamb brought up his second century of the week with a six over long on, before a mis-timed drive saw him caught for an excellent 102 that proved the lynchpin of the Bramhall total. The Beavers, though, were guilty of not using all of their overs when they lost their final wicket on 238 in the 51st over – giving Bowdon 59 overs to chase down the total.
After the break, boosted by one of the division’s best plates of tea, Bramhall looked in the mood to wrap up the game promptly. Higginbottom and Chris Sanders got the most from the new ball, as they picked up 2 early wickets apiece to rock the hosts as they slipped to 35 for 4. However, after a brief rain shower and as the temperature began to fall, the outfield got damp and the ball became less helpful to the quicker bowlers. Higginbottom struck again, and the reliable Luke Littlewood also picked up a wicket, but runs were beginning to flow a little more easily for the Bowdon middle & lower order. Whether the Beavers had already though the game (and season) was done & dusted, but some loose deliveries allowed the hosts a glimmer of a chance in the increasing gloom as the required run rate stayed at an achievable level. Despite Wilkinson grabbing another vital wicket to break a very useful partnership, things had got so desperate for the visitors that their captain had brought himself with some unorthodox spin. After a couple of dicey overs, he managed to persuade the batsman to nick off, and the game was promptly wrapped up by Iftikhar Naseer shortly afterwards – Bowdon being all out, having just passed 200.
Bramhall could take pride in picking up their sixth win of the season, leaving them finishing 8th of 12 teams. In reality, 2017 proved an inconsistent year for Bramhall – regularly struggling to field their first choice XI, and also often failing to combine a strong batting and bowling & fielding performance in the same game. Highlights include beating eventual champions Chester, routing Cheadle and overcoming Bowdon in the last over – all at home – and even blocking out to draw at Hyde. Danny Lamb provided regular runs with the bat, when not required by Lancashire, and Matt Higginbottom made a strong impression in his debut season at Church Lane. There were also good performances at times from others. However, Bramhall will be keen to strengthen their 1st and 2nd XI squads for 2018, and are keen to hear from anyone who would like more information by contacting the club via the www.bramhallcc.com website.