Bramhall 1st XI’s battle to avoid the drop into 2018’s Cheshire County Division One took a blow at mid-table Neston on Saturday. Choosing to bat first after winning the toss, Nick Cantello’s Beavers made the worst possible start losing a wicket to the first ball of the match. This saw number three Danny Lamb join opener Adam Wilde at the crease at the earliest possible moment, and the pair watchfully went about wrestling the momentum back from Neston. The pair had put on 57, with Wilde starting to go on the attack, when he was bowled for 33. Cantello joined Lamb and the two combined to add a further 47 runs before the skipper edged to second slip for 13. At 104-3 and more than 20 overs of the innings to bat, Bramhall were in a strong position and would have been eyeing up a total of around 250. However, determined bowling from the home side soon put paid to any thoughts of a total in excess of 200 as the Beavers’ batsmen began to struggle. After Lamb was yorked for a well-made 66 from 76 balls, only Iftikhar Naseer – who played watchfully for his 18 – reached double figures. In the main, the quick succession of wickets fell to naïve strokeplay, and it was a kick in the teeth when the final wicket went down at 146 – knowing that more than 12 overs had been unused. In a division as tight as the Premier Division currently is, missed batting bonus points could well prove to be vital.
After tea, Bramhall knew that they’d have to fight incredibly hard to dismiss their hosts for less than 146 on a true surface. Danny Lamb and Matt Higginbottom shared the new ball, and Lamb struck in the eighth over when he trapped Smith LBW with the score on 19. The Beavers also thought that they had snared the dangerous Evans caught behind off Higginbottom, but the appeal was turned down and he went on to play an unbeaten knock. Simon Wilkinson struck to reduce Neston to 66-2, bringing stand-in skipper Hurst to the wicket. He looked to be a man with a train to catch, aiming to despatch the ball to all parts in a whirlwind innings, but after 16 balls was caught at point by the lively youngster Dan Woodside off Ashley West’s bowling for 34. At 110-3 from 20 overs, Bramhall’s sensed their last remaining opportunity to win was upon them, but despite intent, no further wickets followed as Neston wrapped up a comfortable seven wicket victory in just 27 overs.
Despite a solid effort in the field, Bramhall’s batting had let them down badly, and must improve in the three remaining fixtures if they are to survive the drop. Other results in the division on Saturday could have been worse for the Beavers, but the 3 point haul at Neston was definitely a missed opportunity.
Bramhall now find themselves in tenth of twelve in the division, with their remaining matches against teams in the lower half of the table. The fight begins at home next Saturday to Grappenhall – just 2 places higher and 8 points ahead of Bramhall – starting at Church Lane at 11.30am.