Bootle edge tight contest
John Ball takes five wickets but can't prevent home defeat
Rainhill 148 (Jeff Fitzhenry 28, Ethan Powell 28, Matt Lawler 28; Jeffin Jimmy 6-26)
Bootle 149-8 (Paul Jones 35*, Cyril Paul 33, John Ball 5-39)
Bootle (20 pts) beat Rainhill (7 pts) by 2 wickets
Rainhill lost at home to third-placed Bootle on Sunday, but not before giving the visitors a bit of a scare.
Rainhill were put into bat by Bootle and openers Jeff Fitzhenry and Ethan Powell negotiated some tricky bowling early on. However, they began to impose themselves on the game and had moved the score onto 54 before Bootle made the breakthrough. Matthew Medlicott bowled Powell for 28 and, a few moments later, Oliver Powell was also bowled - this time by Arthur Cook. Fitzhenry and Matt Lawler then provided some determined resistance and avoided the loss of further wickets as they moved the score past 80.
Just as Rainhill were beginning to look fairly comfortable, Fitzhenry was caught by Liam Jones off the bowling of Jeffin Jimmy, also for 28. Jimmy also removed Neil Robinson for 14 and, when Tony Wright fell to Liam Jones for 3, Rainhill were on 99 for 5.
Vinny Varghese (3) and Paul Millar (6), both capable batsmen, were unable to stay at the crease for long. Matt Lawler looked in dangerous form and he continued to defy Bootle's bowlers until Jimmy finally found a way through to his stumps. Curiously enough, he too was out for 28. Rainhill's middle order had been made to look rather ordinary and, with the hosts on 120-8, Bootle will have been delighted with the position in which they found themselves.
Rainhill weren't prepared to throw in the towel and John Ball (18) and Stevie Pennington (7 not out) managed to take the score on to 148. Jimmy picked up the final two wickets, finishing with outstanding figures of 6 for 26 - an exceptional performance from him.
Bootle's run chase didn't get off to the best start. Opener Charlie Towle was out when he edged behind to Tony Wright. Liam Jones was out for 2 when Oliver Powell pouched a fine catch off Paul Millar's bowling. Albert Freeman made 14 before he was bowled by John Ball and, a few balls later, Arthur Cook was out in similar fashion without scoring. The visitors had slumped to 27 for 4 and Rainhill were very much on top.
Jeffin Jimmy and Edward Stevens came together and played some positive cricket. However, their partnership was broken when Paul Millar took a great catch to dismiss Jimmy for 10 and give Ball his fourth wicket of the afternoon. Stevens and Cyril Paul then set about frustrating Rainhill's bowlers, looking to score more quickly and playing some good strokes as they added 35 for the sixth wicket. Ethan Powell took the catch that ended Steven's innings, much to the relief of Rainhill.
At this point Bootle were on 84 for 6 and still had some work to do to chase down the 65 runs required for victory. The pairing of Cyril Paul and Paul Jones turned the match in Bootle's favour; while Vinny Varghese took the key wicket of Paul for 33 following some excellent work behind the stumps by Wright, Jones and Luis Craggs were able to take their team to within touching distance of the finishing line.
Craggs was bowled by John Ball just ten runs short of the target. This set up a rather dramatic end to a tantalising match, with Rainhill needing two wickets. Could there be another twist in the tale yet? Unfortunately for the hosts, Jones and Matthew Medlicott were able to defy Rainhill's bowlers and secure the victory. Jones had been particularly impressive under pressure, finishing with an unbeaten 35 that included two fours and a six.
For Rainhill it was a story of what might have been, but credit should go to the team for they way they approached the game and to John Ball in particular for his five-wicket haul.
Scorers: David Crossley, Jessica Schafer