The 1st XI’s fixture at home to Cheadle – kindly sponsored by Kevin Webb – was key for both sides, given their relative proximity to the Premier Division relegation zone. Given the preceding days’ wet weather, the players were faced with a green surface and lush outfield at Church Lane. Upon winning the toss, however, Bramhall skipper Nick Cantello did deliberate hard about what to do – possibly based on his side’s dismal run chase at Cheadle earlier on in the season. However, he did eventually decide to bowl first, despite missing all-rounder Danny Lamb who was on 12th man duty for England at Old Trafford.
After 3 overs, Cantello was seriously wondering if he had made the correct decision at the toss: Cheadle were 29-0 and looking to throw the bat at anything vaguely offline on the slow surface. Then, however, paceman Chris Sanders found a good ball to take Dixon’s middle stump, and the Beavers sensed a chance to get into the match. One more had been added to the score when Matt Higginbottom struck from the other end, to give wicketkeeper Sam Johnson the first of 3 catches. The score had then trickled on to 35-2, before the unthinkable happened – Cheadle lost 5 wickets for no runs in a scarcely believable run of play. Whilst not entirely conducive to stroke-making, the pitch was largely blameless as a succession of misjudged shots put the visitors in the mire. Higginbottom suddenly found himself with a five wicket haul, and Sanders was unlucky to only pick up one more with an accurate spell of seam bowling. Cheadle limped through to 52-7 before Higginbottom struck again, and it was soon 58-9 as he collected his seventh and final wicket. Simon Wilkinson’s off-spin was responsible for the last dismissal of the innings, to see Cheadle all out for 62 in the 22nd over.
Turning straight around, the Beavers soon found themselves offering Cheadle some hope after losing an opener in the first over. Iftkihar Naseer was promoted to bat at three, and a succession of typically powerful drives managed to take the score through to 32, before he played on for 21. Opener Adam Wilde stood firm at the other end, diligently mixing defence and attack – even with only 31 more runs required, Bramhall were still no better off than their opponents had been at this stage of their innings! Another blip came 10 runs later, as the Beavers lost 2 wickets in 2 balls to give Cheadle a little more hope, and a point, at 42-4. But Wilde was in no mood to provide an more freebies, as he added the lion’s share of remaining runs required to see Bramhall home by 6 wickets in the 12th over and finish on 34 not out. Man of the Match Higginbottom, fittingly, was unbeaten on 8 at the non-strikers end to add to his earlier brilliant bowling figures of 11-3-28-7
Bramhall picked up a crucial 25 points to put some breathing space between them and the drop zone, but remain in eighth position. Things still remain tight in the bottom half of the division, and a tough challenge away to Toft awaits the Beavers next Saturday.