Bramhall’s 1st XI travelled to Chester on Saturday, knowing that the hosts were now leading the Vivio Chester County Premier Division, and that things were tight towards the other end of the table – Bramhall sitting eighth but only 10 points ahead of the relegation zone.
Losing the toss, the Beavers were asked to bat first on a slow, true-looking wicket with an outfield still damp from overnight rain. The start was a positive one in against a medium-paced Chester opening attack, but Bramhall lost their first wicket to a sharp caught & bowled chance with the score on 30. Opener Adam Wilde was then joined by Danny Lamb, and the pair combined carefully to progress the score towards three figures. After a couple of bowling changes, Wilde had begun to take a liking to more pace on the ball, but after a couple of aggressive strokes, he unfortunately picked out cover with another. Lamb remained studious at the other end, but started to get his eye in to take the run rate up a notch. He had just passed his half century from 70 balls when a mishit to deep midwicket saw him head back back to the dressing room, and Bramhall were soon 150-4 after losing the captain. Number five Tim Wood and six Iftikhar Naseer were charged with taking the Beavers well beyond 200 in the remaining 20 overs, and the latter chose the aggressive route. He (just) cleared the rope from his first ball, and then proceeded to hit another 4 maximums before he was caught at long off from a skier for 33 off 21 balls. Wood scored a brisk 23, but when he was caught, the Beavers looked in danger of not using all of their overs. Maximum batting points were attained as the score passed 220, and the visitors stumbled along to 243 before losing their last wicket with 2 balls of the innings to go.
At tea,Bramhall were under no illusions that their total was a winning one – particularly on a drying outfield – but felt confident that their talented bowling attack would put them in with a shout.
As Chester’s openers tried to assert their authority on the Bramhall seamers, Lamb struck with a good ball to remove the dangerous Moore LBW for 15. The Beavers sensed blood when Chester’s number 3 struggled to settle, but a couple of close LBW shouts were turned down and the away side started to lose a little momentum as the wicket looked to ease. The score had moved past 100 when the number three was finally dismissed when Wood took a sharp catch at midwicket off Matt Higginbottom. This bought Cheshire skipper Lee Dixon to the middle, joining Warren Goodwin, and his immediate positivity slowly began to take the game away. Bramhall’s bowlers were doing very little wrong, but the Chester batters looked comfortable as they picked their gaps with regularity. The game drew to a relatively swift close, with 10 overs to spare, as Goodwin reached an excellent hundred and Dixon a purposeful 70 to see the hosts home by 8 wickets.
Bramhall are still not quite able to pull all facets of their game together, whereas Chester’s batting looked strong enough to chase down any total. They must now be favourites to lift the trophy, whilst Bramhall now have a scrap for survival – with the game at home to Cheadle next Saturday now taking on added significance