Bramhall’s 1st XI kick-started their 2017 season with victory at home to Chester Boughton Hall on Saturday. Despite being hampered by some regular players missing, the Beavers demonstrated the sort of fighting spirit that served them well in 2016.
After being inserted on a wicket offering assistance to bat and ball, the recent issues of losing top order wickets early seemed to have disappeared. Openers Adam Wilde and Nick Cantello set about their task with diligence, and posted a steady opening stand of 49 before Cantello was leg before. Danny Lamb, who played only as a batsman ahead of his debut for Lancashire’s 1st XI at Trent Bridge the following day, joined Wilde at the crease and both combined to blunt the visiting attack. The pair put on a solid 2nd wicket partnership of 110, before Wilde was caught in the deep for an excellent 96, trying to bring his hundred up in style.
On a wicket where batsmen never felt completely settled, Bramhall’s middle order perhaps then became a little guilty of playing the big shots too quickly. In trying to set the highest total possible, there followed a flurry of wickets in the closing overs as the Beavers lost a little momentum. After Lamb’s 47, no other batsmen topped 20 and Bramhall achieved maximum batting points on the last ball of the innings, finishing on 221-7 from their 55 overs. Whilst looking a little short of a commanding total, Bramhall’s batters were convinced that it wouldn’t be a straightforward chase for the visitors.
After tea, things could not have started more badly for Bramhall, as loose deliveries were punished by a positive opening pair. This positivity finally led to a wicket, however, as a long hop was belted to deep midwicket with the score on 66. The wicket galvanised the hosts and a little extra belief and pressure further reduced Chester to 84-3. The match then swung again, as Chester’s 4th wicket partnership took them to needing just 60 runs with half the innings 20 overs left, and a Bramhall bowler off the pitch with another injury.
Bramhall picked up a wicket shortly after the drinks break to make it 162-4, and captain Nick Cantello then decided to throw the ball back to seamer Matt Higginbottom, whose unusually costly opening spell was not helped by illness. For whatever reason, Higginbottom immediately found his rhythm again, and had Rick Moore caught behind for a good 70. 162-5 soon became 164-8, as “Higgy” took 3 more wickets in the following over and a half to rip the heart out of Chester’s middle order. Chester limped to 186-8 before Higginbottom grabbed his 5th wicket with a beauty, in a second spell that cost only 19 runs.
Chester have never been a side to write off, no matter how many wickets down they are, and even some seasoned Bramhall supporters may have been nervy when Chester went past 200. However, Ashley West, bowling on something approaching one leg, induced Will Owen to sky to cover, and Bramhall had won by 19 runs – Chester all out for 202 from 42 overs.
It was a fantastic game of cricket, with Bramhall giving it their all to come through as worthy winners. Whilst the victory will not paper over all of the cracks from the first three games, the Beavers can draw confidence from a gutsy performance in tough circumstances.
The 1st XI start their T20 campaign for 2017 with a trip to neighbours Cheadle Hulme on Thursday evening. A busy weekend then sees an away league fixture at Cheadle on Saturday, before a cup game at Broadbottom on Sunday