Bramhall Cricket Club opened their 2018 season in positive fashion on Saturday, on what most seemed to think was the warmest first day in recent memory. Again generously sponsored for the year by Chrome Motors of Woodford, the Beavers opted to bowl on a dry looking wicket. This despite an outfield that still showed signs of the winter’s wet & cold weather.
The Beavers saw two debutants take the field: left arm spinner Ryan Macciocchi, and Australian overseas Liam Banthorpe. Banthorpe hails from Melbourne, and despite not wearing the gauntlets for Bramhall this season, has pedigree as a wicketkeeper-batsman for Australia U19s and Victoria U23s. Unfortunately, the talented seam bowling pair of Lancashire youngster Chris Sanders and ex-Derbyshire seamer Matt Higginbottom were both unavailable due to injury.
Wily spinner Simon Wilkinson was entrusted with the new ball, and promptly repaid his captain’s faith by trapping McCoy on the pads for a duck in the third over. The opposition then rallied, without taking the game away from the hosts, with young opener Arthur Pennington looking in good touch on 30. However, he was tempted by a full toss from Iftikhar Naseer’s first delivery and hammered it straight to mid-on where Macciocchi took a smart catch to his left. The Beavers then began to exert further pressure on the visitors with tight bowling and some energy in the field, as Grappenhall slipped again from 43-2 to 85-6, with the run rate scarcely above 2 per over. Medium pacer Luke Littlewood had soon found his range to pick up two middle order wickets, providing solid support to Wilkinson and the impressive Macciocchi.
Only Gaz Burns for the visitors showed any additional resistance with the bat, as he took an aggressive approach to the Bramhall attack in making 42 from 51 deliveries. However, his dismissal – stumped by Sam Johnson off Wilkinson with the score on 119 effectively finished Grappenhall’s innings and they were all out 3 balls later for 119 in the 47th over. The canny Wilkinson collected 4-28, and Littlewood 3-25 with the ball. That 7 dismissals fell to catches was perhaps no real surprise on an early season wicket.
After tea, the Beavers’ openers looked approach the low total positively. However, both fell within a run of each other to see the score reduce to 20-2, which became 33-3 a short time later. Grappenhall sensed their opportunity, but the organised Banthorpe and an unusually restrained Naseer played sensibly and picked their boundaries carefully. The good home support had eased a little in their seats as Bramhall passed the halfway point, but Banthorpe was then bowled by a good one from Rao for a classy 31. Another 81 runs were added before the 5th wicket fell, again to the impressive looking Rao, but Jack Harris (14*) then steadied the ship as he helped Naseer to add the remaining 37 runs to bring up a five wicket victory. Naseer showed late touches of his destructive nature and he finished on 42* from 56 balls.
An all-to-rare first day victory for the Beavers sees them top the Vivio Cheshire County League Premier Division table, at least for a week, but they will not be getting ahead of themselves as a tough trip to Toft awaits next week. And there were definitely areas in which they can improve, despite the many positives to take from the game.