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Opening day defeat despite Higham 50

2023 season begins with a loss to Formby at Cricket Path

Rainhill 165 (Ross Higham 56, James Clarke 41: Ankit Sharma 6-49) Formby 169-2 (Ian Cockbain 102*, Ryan Brown 32*; Liam O'Toole 1-44) Formby (25 pts) beat Rainhill (4 pts) by eight wickets Scorecard For the second successive year Rainhill tasted defeat on the opening day of the season, but there were positives to take away from a match in which Rainhill showed purpose and resilience. In many respects this was a very different Rainhill side to the team that finished sixth last year. With Tyler McGladdery, captain Ben Edmundson, Sam Kershaw, Peter Kelly, Dan Kelly, Richie Forsyth all departing, Rainhill were out to prove more than a few points. New to the team were professional Khalid Usman and wicketkeeper Shahban Raheeb.

On a warm, sunny afternoon with the ground in pristine condition new captain Paul Ford won the toss and opted to bat first. Rainhill lost the early wicket of Mike Rotheram when he was bowled by George Burrows without scoring. However, the wicket brought Ross Higham (pictured) and James Clarke together and the second-wicket pair soon built a dangerous partnership with runs flowing freely. Higham was particularly impressive, following his half-century in the final game of 2022 (v Wallasey) with another fine knock. The big-hitting opener had little time for singles - his 56 came from 54 balls and included 10 fours and 2 sixes. Higham looked in complete control and a constant threat but his colourful innings was finally ended when he became Ankit Sharma's first victim of the afternoon, falling lbw to Formby's new overseas professional.

The stand of 96 also owed a lot to James Clarke, whose contribution of 41 from 85 deliveries showed patience and grit. Unfortunately Clarke's defiant knock came to an end shortly after Higham's exit when he was caught by Ian Cockbain off the bowling of Archie Davies. With the score at 102-3, Khalid Usman and Shahban Raheem looked to rebuild and made a promising start but, having weathered the storm and built a platform, were both undone in quick succession by Sharma's orthodox spin. With the rest of the batting struggled to score, Sharma finished with impressive debut figures of 6-49 as Rainhill slumped to 165 all out.

It wasn't a terrible score but on a decent batting track with a quick outfield the total looked beyond par. Rainhill's Jamie Harrison bowled with pace but little luck and Usman bowled tightly with guile and accuracy, picking up the wicket of opener Ollie Sutton for 20. Liam O'Toole also struck to remove Lucas Kennedy for 12 to give Rainhill hope, but ex-Gloucestershire batsman Ian Cockbain hit a magnificent unbeaten century - finishing with a six - as he led Formby to a comfortable eight wicket victory. He was supported by Ryan Brown, who finished on 32 not out. Club captain Mike Rotheram praised the contribution of Higham and Clarke, adding that Rainhill bowled economically but "it was always going to be a case of getting Ian Cockbain out and we couldn’t do that". Next Saturday Rainhill will host Northern - including Tyler McGladdery who began life at Moor Park with a splendid knock of 106.

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