Bramhall’s 1st XI picked up a crucial win as they hosted bottom of the table Bowdon at Church Lane on Saturday, in a game that kept spectators enthralled until the end.
After winning the toss, the Beavers chose to make use of a slow wicket that looked green enough to offer assistance to bowlers after last week’s persistent rain. The Bramhall openers Amir Afzal and Adam Wilde rode their luck early on, and Bowdon rueing at least one simple spilled chance. This wasn’t a track in which a batter could ever feel completely at ease, and Afzal was eventually persuaded to hook to deep square leg for 30, from an opening stand of 53 in 11 overs. Wilde stood firm at the other end, looking strong on his front foot, and went past fifty – despite being bowled by a no ball shortly beforehand. His innings ended on 54, however, when he edged to slip, via the ‘keeper, from left arm spinner Raja (6-42) to leave the score on 113-3. A typically breezy innings from Iftikhar Naseer, containing four maximums, ended abruptly on 27 and Bramhall soon found themselves treading water at 144-6 with significant overs remaining. Fortunately, for the Beavers, ex-Derbyshire player Matt Higginbottom kept his composure to pick up runs and use up overs as he added 53 with Sam Johnson. Higginbottom had just started to open his shoulders, with 7 overs remaining, when he lost three batting partners in quick succession. And, with the score on 201, Higginbottom himself then holed out for an important 49, to leave Bramhall all out in the 53rd over. Whilst the Beavers would have hoped to have surpassed 250 after a strong start, it would not be a straightforward chase for the visitors.
After the break, there was visible intensity from the home side as they looked to make full use of the conditions. Opening pair Danny Lamb and Higginbottom kept things tight, and made life difficult with some testing deliveries. It was the latter who struck first, finding enough movement to persuade an edge with the score on 28. A couple of overs later, Higginbottom had picked up 2 more victims, as Bowdon slipped to 37-3. Lamb reduced the visitors to 44-4, and spinner Simon Wilkinson’s introduction shortly afterwards resulted in Bowdon losing their first five wickets for 56. At this stage, the batters Dewi Jones and captain Simon Marshall looked short of ideas and Bramhall were completely on top. After a period of regrouping, Marshall looked keen to get back on the attack, as Jones too was starting to time the ball sweetly. Marshall had just taken 10 from a Wilkinson over when he inexplicably picked out Higginbottom (who else?) at deep midwicket to leave Bowdon in deep trouble at 85-6. This soon became 91-7, as Naseer’s spin struck, but Jones was in no mood to surrender to the Beavers. With a free swinging blade, he took the attack back to the home side’s spinners and before too long, the match result was very much in the balance again. Jones passed fifty in good time, and Bowdon needed 35 from the last 4 overs with 3 wickets in hand. Bramhall’s fielders were now on the defensive, but Jones picked out Naseer at long-off who held a good running catch from Wilkinson in the drizzle. This wicket signalled the end of Bowdon’s chase, as Chris Ashling began to block. Despite the feeling that a soft wet ball would not be conducive to the seamers, Bramhall captain Nick Cantello put his trust in Matt Higginbottom in a last throw of the dice. With his first ball back, a loosener by his own admission, he persuaded Ashling to nick behind. And with just 8 balls remaining, a similar short delivery saw the Bowdon number 10’s top edge loop above the slip cordon where Cantello took a juggled victorious catch. Higginbottom ended with a deserved 5-34, to go with his crucial 49 and key catch, and was well supported by Simon Wilkinson’s 3-51.
A fantastic way to end the first half of the season, other results in the Premier Division also went Bramhall’s way to lift them to 10th place in the league. Complacency cannot set in, however, as Bramhall know that they must replicate this level of performance more often during the second half of the season to ease any relegation worries. Next Saturday sees another home fixture, with the visit of Nantwich to Church Lane