A positive 2020 campaign for Hale Barns Second XI ended in disappointment as they were completely outplayed by Didsbury CC in the Cheshire County Cricket League Division 2 East/West final.
Mike Hunter scored a classy 48, but a below-par first innings total combined with an inability to take early breakthroughs with the ball saw Barns comfortably beaten by seven wickets.
The visitors endured a tough start in contentious circumstances, as Clive Collins was adjudged to have been caught at slip for a duck. Stew Reynolds and Sanjeev Bhatia were tasked with providing a resurgence, but it was slow going for the pair, who regularly picked out the fielders with several cleanly-struck drives.
After seeing off the potent opening bowlers for 12 overs, Reynolds (13) finally succumbed to the probing Muhammad Rehmani (1-13). Shortly after the drinks break, HBCC suffered a significant setback when top run scorer Bhatia was trapped lbw for a patient 16 off 55 balls, while Andrew Willis (1) quickly followed to restrict the team to 52-4.
Hunter and James Guest were the first pairing to inject some impetus, with a particular emphasis on positive running between the wickets. With momentum gathering pace, Hunter hit a stunning six over the cover boundary as Barns looked to be heading towards a reasonably competitive total.
However, their progress was halted following a partnership of 64 when Hunter became Stewart Green’s (2-25) second victim just two runs short of a deserved half century, while a sharp catch by Callum Livingstone (1-14) off his own bowling saw the back of Guest for 27.
Having slipped from 116-4 to 120-6 with ? overs remaining, Callum Schora’s important cameo of 18 from 23 deliveries guided Barns to 146, although there was a lacklustre end to the innings as Andrew Jones (3-31) struck twice with the final two balls.
Requiring early wickets to keep them in contention, HBCC failed to take advantage of the chances created, with a missed stumping and dropped catch off the bowling of Jack Wylie, whose economical eight-over spell (0-20) remained unrewarded.
Schora (0-20) bowled six overs with similar consistency but was also unable to break the deadlock as openers Ben Anderson and James Johnston took the score to 90 before the latter was eventually caught behind for 32, with Ross Dunleavy (1-26) picking up the dismissal.
Anderson reached his milestone, while David Tubby contributed a quickfire 17 until his time at the crease was brought to an end by Charles Mills (1-35), with Willis making high catch on the cow corner boundary look comfortable.
There was still time for Bhatia (1-7) to chip in with the removal of Anderson for 58, but Didsbury cruised to the required target with 10.3 overs remaining to claim the league crown.