A Storm called Stevie
3rd XI secure first league win of the season
Whitefield 121 (Kevin Connolly 26*, Matthew Connolly 20; Stevie Pennington 4-6)
Rainhill 124-5 (Oliver Powell 40, Paul Valentine 35*; Ben Ashcroft 2-27)
Rainhill (25 pts) beat Whitefield (4 pts) by 5 wickets
Rainhill's 3rd team gained a welcome 25 points as they beat Whitefield at Court Hey Park on Sunday.
Rainhill may have considered themselves unlucky not to have recorded a win in their previous six matches, having often played well without reward. The team's abilities, however, were plain to see in their win over Whitefield - a result that owed a great deal to individual batting performances, brilliant bowling and discipline in the field.
On a hot afternoon and on a pitch that didn't at first glance seem to offer too much to bowlers, Whitefield won the toss and opted to bat first. It was a calm sunny day, but a storm of another kind was approaching and about to make its impact. Lightning may not strike twice but Stevie Pennington did: the 13-year old bowled openers Ben Ashcroft and Arsan Shakeel - both for 0 - and, in partnership with John Ball, bowled tightly to deny the home side opportunities to score. After 10 overs the score was 5 for 2, testament to the accuracy of Rainhill's bowling.
Mujeeb Iqbal and Matthew Connolly were able to negotiate Pennington's probing bowling and, having played themselves in, began to build something of a platform for Whitefield. The pair took the score beyond 30, impressive given the early pressure Rainhill had put them under, before two wickets once again fell in quick succession. Firstly Iqbal, sensing the need to accelerate, was tempted by Steve Bell to play loosely at a shorter ball and was superbly caught by Ball at cow corner. In the next over, Connelly was similarly inclined to attempt an ambitious shot that only found Pennington and gave Sarah Curlett her first wicket of the afternoon.
The combination of Curlett and Pennington also accounted for the dismissal of Azhar Iqbal. Ben Thomas became Steve Bell's second victim of the afternoon when he was caught by Ethan Powell at mid-wicket. Whitefield were in a bit of trouble and, when Ethan Powell picked up the wicket of Bert Prescott, the home team were on 80 for 7.
However, Kevin Connelly and Jithu Paulose opted to throw caution to the wind and suddenly the runs began to flow. Paulose, who didn't look remotely like a number 9 batsman, powered to 16 from 13 balls before he was deceived by a flighted delivery from spinner Paul Valentine. Connelly also looked in good shape, hitting an unbeaten 26 that included four boundaries. After Paulose fell, Pennington was brought back into the attack and took two wickets in two balls to dismiss Daniel Greenwood and Glen Latimer. Whitefield had been blown over by a storm - a storm called Stevie.
Pennington had finished with figures of 4 for 6 from 6.1 overs, his best bowling haul ever. Sarah Curlett also posted personal best statistics with her 2 for 12 from 5 overs.
However good a collective bowling performance it had been, Rainhill knew that they also needed to perform with the bat. Rainhill's innings started horribly as former Rainhill player Ben Ashcroft took two wickets and Stevie Pennington was bowled by Ben Thomas for 5. The visitors were on 14 for 3 when brothers Ollie and Ethan Powell came together and their understanding and experience defied Whitefield's determined bowling attack. Ethan Powell's resistance was eventually broken by Jithu Paulose, but not before he had contributed a valuable 18 runs. Oliver Powell not only withstood some good bowling but was able to score at a steady rate and turn the momentum in Rainhill's favour; his new partner, Paul Valentine, offered some flamboyance en route to an unbeaten 35 from just 28 balls. Valentine's knock included 3 fours and 3 sixes.
It seemed that Powell and Valentine would see Rainhill home but Powell eventually succumbed to Ben Thomas for a valiant 40 that included eight boundaries. Jeff Fitzhenry joined Valentine in the middle for the final few balls of the match, with Rainhill reaching their target in just 20.2 overs.
Photographs from the game can be found here.