Bramhall’s 1st XI went into Saturday’s home game against bottom-placed Didsbury knowing that anything other than a win could potentially see the Beavers dragged into the relegation places. And, despite comfortably defeating Didsbury away earlier in the season, Bramhall’s performances in the last fortnight meant that a home victory was anything but a foregone conclusion.
It was the away side who won the toss, and asked the Beavers to bat first. Once again, with little rain falling across the preceding seven days, the batsmen were faced with a dry wicket and the swiftest of outfields. Despite what could be described as batting-friendly conditions, it was the bowlers who made an immediate impact on the game. Seamer Liam Booth reduced the Beavers to 14-2, with 2 wickets in the same over, and then followed up with a further two to leave the hosts in trouble at 55-4. Opener Alex Hunt was the fourth man to fall, having made a composed 27, and was also the fourth to be adjudged LBW to the same bowler.
Iftikhar Naseer, batting at five, showed patience at a tricky time, and helped to progress the score along to 86, before he lost another partner to an LBW from left arm spinner Matthew Gregson. The first non-LBW wicket to fall came shortly afterwards, when a catch at midwicket saw the Beavers struggling at 99-6. Iftikhar, however, was holding firm and just starting to free his broad shoulders as he passed a deserved 50. However, he was unable to score many more, and his stumping for 64 from 62 balls, plunged Bramhall into the mire at 124-7, with more than 20 overs of the innings to go. A period of relative recovery followed, before wickets eight & nine fell quickly to leave the Beavers on the canvass at 143-9. Number 11 Luke Littlewood – in his last match before getting married this weekend – joined number 9 Andy Reynolds, and the pair set about occupying the crease – blocking the good balls and trying to eek out runs when possible. Reynolds was fortunate to survive a couple of chances, and eventually managed to survive 85 balls to make 43 before being bowled by the returning Booth in the 54th over. Littlewood remained unbeaten on a crucial 10 from 29 balls, and the pair had put on a gritty 49 for the last wicket to finish on 192 all out. At the very least, Bramhall knew they had six batting points in the bag and had gained some momentum over a Didsbury side who seemed a little drained as they came off the field.
After the tea break, Bramhall’s momentum was translated into energy & intensity. Despite a few wicketless overs to start, Chris Sanders started to find his rhythm and saw his colleagues take 2 close catches to leave Didsbury on 30-2. This was soon 34-3 as Simon Wilkinson persuaded Leech to hole out to a grateful Ryan Macciocchi at deep midwicket. Luke Littlewood’s golden day continued, as he came on to pick up 2 somewhat unexpected wickets from full tosses – the second of these middle to short extra cover where captain Nick Cantello casually held on. Sanders had picked up his 3rd with an LBW, and was then replaced by Wilkinson who quickly grabbed his own LBW. Suddenly, Didsbury were in disarray at 44-7, with no obvious way to save the game.
To their credit however, and perhaps Bramhall had become a little lax, the visitors’ lower order defied the home attack for some time (Ridely and Booth each facing more than 40 deliveries) – aided by a few half-chances in the field being grassed. However, Macciocchi’s introduction soon had an effect as he took wicket number eight LBW to see Didsbury stutter on 79-8. And the same bowler soon wrapped up proceedings with his second and third wickets to bowl the visiting side out for just 83, with Bramhall winning by a healthy 109 runs. Sanders finished with 3-15, and Macciocchi a tight 3-3, as an amazing ten wickets in the match fell to LBWs, all at the same end.
Bramhall were able to enjoy their win, as worries from the previous weeks were put behind them. However, a win with an under-par performance against the bottom side should not fool the Beavers into complacency, and their last six games of the season includes matches against most of the top half of the table.
Next Saturday’s fixture at Oulton Park is likely to prove a real test.