HALE Barns first XI sent a warning to the rest of the Cheshire County Cricket League Division Two as they began the 2019 season in perfect style with a convincing five-wicket victory over Alvanley at Brooks Drive.

Barns’ vaunted bowling attack were in devastating form, with new overseas player Alex Ross, Ben Hicks and Joe Cooper ripping through the visiting batting order.

Having won the toss and electing to field, it took the hosts less than three overs to make the breakthrough, with Hicks claiming the first wicket of the campaign with just nine runs on the board.

Australian pace bowler Ross quickly acclimatised to English conditions and profited from an economical opening spell when Michael Rowlands (15) became his first victim.

Number three batsman Chris Wright offered stern resistance, but Hicks added two more dismissals to his tally to put Alvanley in deep trouble on 46-4 after just 17 overs.

Spin was introduced into the attack in the form of Cooper, who quickly got in on the act before Hicks (4-29) celebrated yet another scalp, with Wright departing for a patient 28.

Left-arm quick bowler Hicks completed his 15-over spell with eight maidens and Barns were relentless as Ross returned to the action to send two more batters back to the pavilion, while Cooper (2-34) got his second wicket to restrict the score to 71-9.

Away captain Chris Charles became just the third batsman to reach double figures, but he could only manage 12 before Ross wrapped things up, sealing a magnificent debut performance with figures of 4-21 from his 13.2 overs.

Chasing just 87 to win, Barns suffered an early slump as openers Tommy Smith (two) and Cooper (nine) were both removed inside 10 overs, although Ben Staniforth and Khurram Hussain steadied the ship with an important partnership of 46.

However, Staniforth was ran out for 21 before Chris Charles (3-27) struck twice in quick succession as the home side fell from 63-2 to 72-5, but Hussain held his nerve with a fluent 29 not out to see Barns home in the 27th over.

Elsewhere, the newly-promoted seconds capped off an ideal opening weekend for the club by beating Alvanley by four wickets in their first match back in the County Cricket League following an 11-year absence.

Alvanley lost both opening batsmen to Jake Romer (2-45) early on, but Glenn Pickersgill (31), Charlie Fletcher (91), Davie Pearson (31) and Chris Fletcher (33no) targeted the short boundary with a combination of streaky and well-played shots to push the hosts towards a respectable total.

But Jack Wylie (5-34) reaped the rewards of maintaining a probing off-stump line by claiming a five-wicket haul, which controlled the scoring rate as the home team ended their allotted overs on 217-8.

In reply, Mike Hunter scored a composed 79, while Tom Entwistle (26), James Fullerton-Batten (29) and Peter Stubbs (20) all made vital contributions.

With six overs remaining, the game was in the balance with Barns needing 35 to win, but Tom Saddington’s destructive cameo of 33no guided the away team to an impressive victory.