he 1st XI hosted Nantwich at Church lane on Saturday in a Brent Wilkinson-sponsored game that spectators & players alike could not remember another having so many twists and turns. Nantwich ended up winning by 15 runs, with Bramhall ruing multiple opportunities to have already wrapped up the points.
Nantwich elected to bat first, on a wicket that looked a little on the slow side, but with a lightning fast outfield as the sun beat down. Danny Lamb and Matt Higginbottom both found testing areas with the ball for Bramhall. Lamb was first to strike, bringing Irish international Niall O’Brien to the crease. Higginbottom strived to dismiss O’Brien cheaply in the same fashion as the earlier in the season, and was unlucky to see an edge to second slip go to ground. This was only the first opportunity that he offered up to the Beavers… shortly afterwards, he was caught and bowled off a no ball from Iftikhar Naseer and then survived a missed stumping. But these were only the first few opportunities he offered up, as he was then dropped a further six times during his innings! After a circumspect half century, and possibly hampered by a shoulder injury, O’Brien looked to attack and finished on 105 before he was eventually caught, off Naseer.
At this stage, Nantwich were 217-4 and a score in excess of 300 looked a real possibility, with overs remaining in the innings. However, a combination of Naseer and some better luck for Higginbottom saw Nantwich crumble to 247 all out in 49 overs, with what might be described as some irresponsible strokeplay. Bramhall left the field in a more positive fashion that a side who had spurned at least 10 chances in the field might otherwise do – a target of 248 in 61 overs felt achievable.
After tea, things could not have started in a more disastrous fashion for the Beavers, as the top 3 batsmen all fell with the score on 5. Suddenly, captain Nick Cantello and keeper Sam Johnson had a mountain of a task to simply stop Nantwich running away with a huge victory. With proper application, the pair kept the good balls out and managed to pick up runs off the others to bring a little confidence to the home supporters. Johnson looked on for his maiden 1st XI fifty when he was run out after a mix up for 48, having put on 80 runs with his captain. Naseer came to the wicket, and was clearly keen on facing a lot of balls to get his eye in. The duo mixed the occasional boundary with some good running, and just about kept the required run rate to a manageable level. However, this was to change… Naseer suddenly decided that acceleration was required, and proceeded to smash the ball to all parts in an aggressive few overs. The boundary was cleared at least 8 times, as he passed fifty in rapid time was on 80 from a partnership of 105 when the score had reached 190-4. Nantwich, having looked out of control, took a bet on the the occasional off spin of Robinson and he had an immediate impact by taking a swift return catch from Naseer. With 58 runs required from more than 15 overs, and five wickets in hand, the money was still on the Beavers. However, some tight bowling by the left arm spin of Griffiths, combined with the control of their seamers, saw the Bramhall batsmen stuck between aggression and accumulation. Bramhall lurched to 224-9, with overs still remaining, and captain Cantello still unbeaten. Eight more runs followed, but the need to retain the strike from the last ball of the 56th over saw the skipper fall leg before with Nantwich naturally ecstatic. It was harsh on Iftikhar Naseer, in particular, who ended the game with 5-71 and a memorable 80 runs
The Beavers showed real signs of improvement in the game, with more accurate bowling and some intelligent batting, but there can be little doubt that fewer basic fielding errors would have led to a much lower target being required. And losing the top order so dramatically did little to help the chase.
Bramhall will hope that the remainder of second half of the season will not be as much of a rollercoaster as this fixture, and that they will soon be able to walk off the pitch knowing that all three skill “departments” were brought together in a single game.
Author : Andrew Reynolds