If Bramhall 1st XI’s abject performance at Marple last Saturday led to disappointment, then this week’s home game to Neston led to disbelief for players and spectators alike. Rarely have the Beavers been so comprehensively outplayed in a league match in recent memory, and there is no doubt whatsoever that a fight to avoid relegation has well & truly begun.
Having won the toss at dry & particularly windy Church Lane, Bramhall captain Nick Cantello asked the visitors to bat first – after all, it was only two weeks earlier that the Beavers comfortably chased down 250 to win against Grappenhall. However, it wasn’t long before the decision looked to be a marginal call as the Neston openers batting positively to post an opening stand of 180. Only one half-chance of a dropped catch – a steepler in the swirling gale – and a tight LBW call going against the hosts, was as close at Bramhall got to breaking the stand any earlier. Simon Stokes made an excellent 108 from 125 balls, before he was bowled by the tidy spin of Ryan Macciocchi, and Stokes’ fellow opener Will Evans made a dogged half century before finding his touch to finally reach 141 from 123 balls before being bowled by Iftikhar Naseer. Despite losing 3 overs to a sharp shower, Neston were able to declare after 50 overs having reached a healthy 300-3.
After the interval, Bramhall opener Ashley West looked in positive mode as he played some eye-catching strokes against a zippy Ash Davis whose speed through the air was aided by a strong tailwind. However, West’s dismissal – caught behind hooking – for 46, saw Bramhall slip to 59-2 from the opening 10 overs. Aussie number 3 Liam Banthorpe also looked comfortable – particularly against the left-arm spin of Luke Jones – but when he was caught behind off Jones to leave the Beavers teetering at 84-4, what happened next was astonishing.
Bramhall somehow contrived to lose their next 6 wickets for just 4 runs. Ash Davis (6-42) was the key man, with 4 accurate yorkers proving too quick for 4 middle & lower order batters. Add to that two mistimed drives off Jones (4-22), and that was the innings all wrapped up inside just 19 overs for 88. The last 5 batsmen had lasted a total of 10 balls between them, and had all failed to score.
Easy to write off a 212 run loss as a freak occurrence, a one-off, but 2 pitiful batting performances in 2 weeks suggests an issue that needs to be resolved rapidly, as well as underperforming with the ball and in the field.
Bramhall’s biggest game of the season so far, against fellow strugglers Didsbury, takes place at Church Lane this Saturday. It is a game that the Beavers simply cannot afford to not turn up for.