Rainhill and Leigh share the spoils after eventful match
Rainhill 224 (Tyler McGladdery 116, Imliwati Lemtur 42; Finnegan Hulbert 3-52) Leigh 206-8 (Matthew McKiernan 111, Sam Dorsey 29; Imliwati Lemtur 5-82) Rainhill (9 pts) drew with Leigh (9 pts) Scorecard
A pulsating match between Rainhill and Leigh ended in the result neither of them wanted: a draw.
Both sides were looking for a win following a start to the season in which - despite strong batting performances - results haven't gone their way. Both teams boasted a batsman in good current form (Rainhill's Tyler McGladdery and Leigh's Matthew McKiernan) and the stage was set for either of these to play a match-winning innings. The teams also knew that a victory would provide not only much-needed points but a boost ahead of them meeting again in tomorrow's Lancashire Cup clash.
Leigh won the toss and put Rainhill in to bat. The decision appeared the right one when Finnegan Hulbert took two early wickets - those of Richie Forsyth and Mike Rotheram - to reduce the hosts to 12 for 2. Tyler McGladdery (pictured, batting against Southport) and Sam Kershaw applied some doggedness and graft, steadily making inroads against some exacting Leigh bowling. Having helped take the score beyond 50, Kershaw was out when Sam Dorsey clung onto a catch off the bowling of McKiernan. Captain Ben Edmundson was in next and, with McGladdery, raised the tempo with some good running and positive cover drives. Having played himself in and looking more than comfortable, Edmundson fell victim to a McKiernan delivery that struck his pads and was out for 20.
With the score on 93-4, Imliwati Lemtur joined McGladdery at the crease. Now looking settled and confident, McGladdery began to play with typical flamboyance, asserting his authority with a series of merciless cuts and drives. Mixing silky strokes with thunderous but unsubtle blows that cleared the rope, McGladdery was in total command. Lemtur's own instincts came to the fore as, unfazed by the quality of Leigh's bowling attack, he batted with resolve and impeccable timing. The pair had put on 78 when Adam Shallcross found the edge of Lemtur's bat to give Matthew Hurst a straightforward catch. Lemtur was obviously disappointed in missing out on a half-century, but the nature of his knock bodes well for forthcoming matches.
McGladdery was joined by a succession of partners who were unable to stay around for long, but still he managed to make progress and his brutal approach in no way diminished. After reaching his century, McGladdery personally took the game to Leigh and was finally out when, immediately after hitting a six, he attempted another ambitious shot in pursuit of quick runs and was caught by Darren Low at mid-on. Peter Kelly (7), Simon Brown (3 not out) and Jack Lowrie (8) helped take the score onto a total of 224 all out.
Leigh's innings got off to the worst possible start when, in the first over, Jack Lowrie sent down a ball that thundered into Tom Grundy's pads. This, however, only served to pair Sam Dorsey with dangerman McKiernan. From the outset McKiernan made his intentions clear, finding the boundary frequently and apparently effortlessly. The pair scored at such a rate that the target of 225 seemed relatively modest and likely to be easily reached unless the partnership was broken.
Broken it was when Dan Kelly bowled Dorsey for 29. However, with McKiernan still in place, Leigh continued to accelerate - at least until Imliwati Lemtur began to mesmerise Leigh's middle order with his guile and impressive arsenal of variations. Lemtur picked up the wickets of Matthew Hurst (17), Adam Shallcross (2) and Darren Low (23) as he began to impose himself on the game and restrict the flow of runs. When Low's wicket fell, at 179-5, the game felt very much in the balance. McKiernan had just reached his century but, like McGladdery before him, recognised the responsiblity to score runs quickly at the business-end of the innings with time running out.
Better was to come for Rainhill. Firstly, Peter Kelly's spin accounted for the wicket of Harry Church. And then McKiernan, finally, was out himself, caught and bowled by the equally impressive Lemtur. As easy on the eye as his 111 had been, the wicket ended Leigh's hopes of victory. Lemtur picked up his fifth wicket when Alex Mason edged to Sam Kershaw, but Finnegan Hulbert and Matthew Hibbert stood firm to deny Rainhill the win.
A fascinating game in many respects, the teams go again tomorrow when they meet at Beech Walk in the Lancashire Cup.
Umpires: Alistair Davies, Chris Spencer
Scorers: Andrew Finney, Derrick Ainscough
Match ball sponsor: Black Swan Tax Advisers