Newcomers Alex Castle and Andrew Hopper made a significant impact, while Tom Entwistle and James Guest produced a match-winning partnership, as Hale Barns Second XI won a nail-biting season opener against Cheadle Hulme CC.
The two debutants both took three wickets, but a batting collapse almost cost Barns dearly until Guest and Entwistle steadied the ship, while Hopper added to his bowling heroics by hitting the winning runs with the bat.
Barns got off to a flying start when Jack Wylie made a breakthrough in the third over of the game, but Rhys Collister and George Robinson were dogged in their approach, patiently accumulating runs while seeing off the new ball.
At 40-1 after 13 overs, Charles Mills announced his arrival into the attack with a wicket, removing Robinson (18) with his first delivery. Waqas Ashraf (13) showed no intention of hanging around, chancing his arm with several wild swipes which eventually proved his downfall, becoming Wylie’s (2-26) second victim.
Mills quickly doubled his own tally by trapping Collister lbw for 21, leaving the away team in a precarious position at 60-4 after 20 overs. Leg-spinner Castle then got in on the act with his first dismissal for the club, while Hopper repeated the feat as wickets began to fall in a flurry.
Having been well placed on 93-4, Cheadle Hulme fell to 104-8 after the new recruits both doubled up, with Castle sending back opposition skipper Alex Read for 25. Hopper (3-33) soon took his haul to three and then produced a terrific diving catch to gift Castle (3-10) his third wicket, capping off a dream start for the duo.
Chasing 122 to win with an additional 11 overs in hand, the hosts were in a commanding position, but suffered a problematic opening 10 overs, with both openers gone after a mix up led to Clive Collins (7) being run out, while Castle was caught for 13.
Three more batsmen came and went, with Ashraf (2-26) striking twice as Barns collapsed to 42-5 in 22 overs. However, Guest and Entwistle stepped up to the task of reviving the run chase, amassing 50 runs as a pairing, with the former taking the more aggressive role by clearing the ropes twice in his excellent 38.
With Barns now cruising to victory, there was time for another twist when Guest fell to Collister with 30 runs still required. Hopper eased the nerves by hitting three boundaries in his opening nine deliveries, but the tension quickly intensified once again when left-arm chinaman bowler Collister (3-24) claimed a double-wicket maiden, including Entwistle for 25.
With the game finely poised for a grandstand finish, Hopper added the icing on the cake to a memorable debut by knocking off the remaining runs, with his unbeaten cameo of 21 off 17 balls guiding HBCC to a two-wicket win.