CHESTER Boughton Hall opened their season with an exciting draw at Nantwich in the Murray Smith Cheshire County League's Premier Division.
They won the toss on a dry but lifeless pitch and soon found the going difficult. Against the league's leading fast bowler Barrington Browne, Ed Roberts and Warren Goodwin needed to show patience and good technique to survive as the ball kept low.
Both batsmen were up to the task and gradually built a valuable stand. The introduction of spin broke Roberts' shackles and he launched four big sixes to ease past 50.
The stand had matured to 90 when Goodwin fell for an excellent 40, but this proved to be the catalyst for a collapse. Roberts had barely waved his bat in acknowledgement before he followed his partner. Andy Bennion and Aussie Adam Bull then turned this into a procession, both bagging ducks.
Steve Ogilby and Matt Griffiths steadied the ship, notching 16 and 25, respectively, before skipper Alex Kegg made a bold declaration with the score on 151-6.
The Nantwich reply was undermined early on by excellent new-ball bowling from Kegg and David Atkin. Both went for just two an over and snared an opener each. Bull then removed the dangerous Maynard and, at 33-3, Chester were in control.
Nantwich consolidated and then counter-attacked, taking the score on to 98-3 before debutant Rob Fisher got into his stride. Assisted by Bull (3-38) Fisher began to exert control on the home batsmen and his second spell realised 3-14 off 11 overs.
At 141-9 and with one over to go, the home team decided to shut up shop and Chester had to be content with 11 points against Nantwich's seven
Chester host Poynton tomorrow and Alsager on Sunday in the National KO.
Chester seconds (150 all out) were beaten by Nantwich (191-5) and the thirds lost twice, beaten at Birkenhead Park on Saturday and on Sunday at Nantwich in a cup match.
The fourth team was mauled by Cheadle Hulme, who posted 272-1 off 38 overs before bowling Chester out for 113 in the 40th over.
Oulton Park had a tense victory over Alderley Edge at Little Budworth where their pace attack of Jason Whittaker (3-23) and Danny Jones (3-38) reduced the visitors to 26-5.
Steve O'Shaughnessy (33) and Jonathan Usher (67) put on 71 before John Davies (3-29) trapped them both, and Alderley Edge reached 175 with 12 off the last over.
After losing Liam Buchanan and Paul Berry cheaply, Park recovered thanks to Whittaker (68), Danny Leech (33) and Mike Bentham (33).
Park needed four to win off two overs, with four wickets in hand. But David Parkinson bowled a splendid maiden after picking up two wickets and it was off the fifth delivery of the last over that Jones swung the ball to the boundary to clinch victory.
The seconds declared on 237-5 (Simon Torlop 91, Nick Jones 43, Mark Johnson 42) before Stockport Georgians held out at 134-8 (Ben Kettle 4-36).
Christleton went to Urmston for the first time and returned with an eight-wickets victory. New skipper Matthew Parkinson won the toss and gave the hosts first use of a pitch that looked good for the time of the year.
But a run glut never materialised because of the excellent quality of the Christleton bowling. Openers Greg Malkin and Matt Parkinson set the scene with controlled and hostile spells, and the job started by Malkin (1-30) and Parkinson (1-5) was finished by a succession of impressive performances by all the Christleton bowlers.
Jason Ashcroft, Simon Ratcliffe (3-40), Guy Newell, Alex Barr and Maroof Khan all struck to force a home team declaration at the halfway point at 153-9. Gareth Jacobs' keeping was tidy and the fielders backed up their bowlers well. Indeed, Simon Ratcliffe took one of the most remarkable catches that the locals could remember.
In response, Christleton opened with the prolific Jim Gillson and newcomer Ratcliffe, and they quickly passed the 100 mark in their first opening stand together.
When Ratcliffe was dismissed for 35, the victory was almost secured and it was left to the assured Gillson to bring the team home to victory, starting his season with a classy 94 not out.
Christleton are at home to Brooklands tomorrow. Christleton seconds bowled Bollington out for 125, Brian Wareing and James Dathan taking five wickets each before replying with 127-3 (Phil Tidy 63, Chris Hollindale 22no).
Tattenhall travelled to Irby in Division Two and had to settle for a low-scoring draw. They lost the toss and were asked to field with the opening partnership of newcomer Chris Fowell, bowling four straight maidens and finishing with 2-24, and veteran Nigel Cox restricting the run scoring on what looked a decent batting track but proved to be a typical early-season slow wicket.
Mel Dobson (3-26) was then introduced to the attack, further restricting the scoring opportunities and taking wickets at regular intervals.
Irby chose to bat out a full 55 overs and, thanks to a dogged 33 from their number seven, reached 120-6.
Tattenhall set off on their run chase against an accurate bowling attack and knew the runs were going to be hard to come by.
Wickets fell regularly with batsmen getting themselves out in a game where crease occupation would have resulted in the win.
Tim Salt batted superbly for his 41no, but lacked the support which would have won the game. With five overs to go, they needed 29 runs to win, but on the slow track against tight bowling and fielding and with only two wickets remaining, a disappointing draw was achieved at 108-8.
Alvanley started their Meller Braggins Cheshire League campaign with a home draw against Sale, who had been relegated from the County League last year.
New captain Glen Pickersgill invited the visitors to bat first and they made good progress, despite a tight opening bowling spell from James Rawlinson.
Sale's opening batsman Allum was severe on any wayward delivery and he quickly reached 63, but his departure with the total at 101 in the 23rd over led to Sale losing their momentum against Mark Leadbetter's second spell, in which he took 4-31 runs off 12 overs.
This allowed Australian Nick Hawking to bowl a long spell of 18 consecutive overs, picking up three wickets as he sampled his first taste of English conditions.
Alvanley keeper Chris Fletcher bagged three stampings and a catch as Sale closed on 190-7, which was 40 runs lower than they looked like achieving after their initial run charge.
After tea, Alvanley struggled as the Sale bowling attack used the lack of pace in the pitch to full advantage, restricting the home side to just 15 runs off the first 10 overs.
As Alvanley tried to accelerate, they lost wickets and were in trouble at 80-7 after 30 overs, with only Andy Booth (20) making any impression in the scorebook.
With victory an impossibility, Alvanley played out the remaining 15 overs to secure the draw at 117-8 with Fletcher 20no, which included two sixes.
The second team's game at Sale followed virtually the same format and Alvanley had to be content with the draw as they failed to get close to the target.
Alvanley travel to Burnage tomorrow but Sunday's Village KO match is off because scheduled opponents Northop have withdrawn.
Barrow settled for a winning draw at home to Offerton after openers Nick Bell and Matt Harman made a solid start. Harman, making his debut, scored an excellent 67 and Bell added 36 to help reach a competitive total of 198-6.
Offerton made a positive start to the innings, scoring freely and reaching 50 after only 10 overs. At this stage, the accurate bowling of Mal Barrow and Chris Cowell restricted progress and wickets began to fall, helped by a quick stumping from Dave Ellwood. The Offerton innings finally closed on 154-6.
Barrow are away to Cholmondeley tomorrow. The first Cheshire Cricket Alliance game of the season brought a disappointing defeat for Chester County Officers at the hands of their old rivals Castrol.
The early play was encouraging with both openers sent back by Andy Barlow with only seven on the board. But a determined partnership of 92 by Martin Flanagan (56) and Chris Hutchinson (40) took the game away from the Officers as four catches went down.
Castrol took advantage of this platform to launch a late assault and raise the total to a challenging 186 in 48 overs. Andy Barlow took 2-15, Steve Johnson 1-31 and Mike Clarke 1-26, but John Gilbody was the pick of the bowlers with 5-53 in 14 overs.
With only 42 overs to get the runs, Chester needed someone to build a big innings. Ian Barlow (18) and a stylish 32 from Riz Nawid gave some hope, but the middle order failed to make an impression, leaving nothing to play for but a draw.
John Gilbody hit 30, taking advantage of some tempting bowling, but was well caught on the boundary. Andy Barlow (14) battled manfully in the gathering gloom, but paceman Damian Walters (5-34) returned to polish off the tail with just seven balls left and snatched the winning points for Castrol.
Saughall suffered a close last-over defeat in a high-scoring home encounter against Rostherne. After losing the toss, Saughall were put in and got off to a wobbly start with the dismissals of Martin Huxley (10) and Paul Booth (15).
But a terrific 91 third-wicket partnership between James Huxley (38) and Ben Salisbury (45) enabled the hosts to eye maximum batting points and a commanding total.
Les Perkins (40no) wielded the willow with dramatic effect in the closing overs, supported by debutant Steve Gaze (9no), and the village side was able to declare on 181-5 after 45 overs.
Pete Tunnicliffe dismissed both Rostherne openers as Saughall looked to turn the screw, but they were never able to put a lid on the visitors' scoring rate as they seized upon any loose balls to creep towards their target.
A frustrating 73 partnership was ended by a full-pitched delivery from James Huxley (1-38), trapping the left-handed Massey plum in front for 42, but the damage had been done and Saughall were left to reflect on a series of key dropped catches. The star of the show for Rostherne was the aptly-named Pete Starr who compiled a captain's innings of 85no, cashing in on being dropped four times.
With a number of bowlers absent, Saughall looked to the experience of Brian Huxley (2-21) to turn the tide in the dying overs and his wickets, as well as another victim for Pete Tunnicliffe (3-40), gave Saughall a glimmer of hope in restricting Rostherne to a draw.
Three runs were required off the final over of the day and with three deliveries to spare, the ball ran off a thick outside edge down to third man and the visitors could celebrate an impressive run-chase, successfully reaching their target at the loss of six wickets.
Saughall travel to league new-boys Grange tomorrow and will welcome several regulars back to their team.