An Ethan Powell half-century earned valuable win over Fleetwood Hesketh
Fleetwood Hesketh 120 (Karan Patel; 39, Tom Appleton 28; John Paul Joy 3-8)
Rainhill 125-6 (Ethan Powell 52, Vish Maheshwari 32; Karan Patel 5-30)
Rainhill (20 pts) beat Fleetwood Hesketh (5 pts) by 4 wickets
Incisive bowling, sharp fielding and the precocious batting of Ethan Powell helped Rainhill to an excellent win over Fleetwood Hesketh that kept their unbeaten record intact.
Having won the toss, Rainhill opted to put the visitors in to bat. Fleetwood Hesketh's top order struggled against the pace and consistency of Stevie Pennington and John Ball: Mubarak Zangharia was bowled by Pennington without scoring, while George Woods laboured to 2 from 26 deliveries before his wicket fell to John Ball in similar fashion. Ashvin Patel (16) and Taylor Campbell (11) provided some stoic resistance, but succumbed to the spin of Vish Maheshwari and the guile of Adam Lawler respectively.
With Fleetwood Hesketh on 33 for 4, Karan Patel and Tom Appleton came together and mounted a recovery effort. Appleton scored quickly, hitting 28 from 27 balls before he played a delivery from Mike Mercer to Vinny Varghese. Patel withstood Rainhill's pressure for long spells but, as John Paul Joy (3-8) and Paul Millar (2-1) ripped through the tail, he was at risk of running out of partners. Patel reached 39 before he was out, lbw, to Joy. Fleetwood Hesketh were all out for 120, but without Patel's valiant innings it would have been a lot worse. In the final analysis, the visitors' total was more competitive than it may have looked. Rainhill's opening pair of Ethan Powell (pictured) and Vish Maheshwari withstood Fleetwood Hesketh's Dhavalk Khanojya and Tom Appleton and answered all questions the bowling attack asked of them. Once they had settled in, Powell looked in control while the more combative Maheshwari seemed insatiable, huingry for runs. Powell reached his first half-century of 2022 and the nature of his performance suggests that more are likely to follow. Fleetwood Hesketh eventually made the breakthrough when Patel was launched into the attack: he made an immediate impact when he took the key wicket of Powell for 52. However, by this point 83 runs were on the board and Rainhill needed a mere 38 with 9 wickets in hand. Patel struck again when he trapped Maheshwari lbw for 32 (from 41 balls) but, at 93-2, it still looked very much like Rainhill's game.
93-2 became 93-3 when Patel picked up the wicket of Panchu Xavier, and shortly afterwards Vinny Varghese was caught and bowled by Tom Appleton. Patel collected his fourth wicket when he bowled Mike Mercer for 7, and Rainhill were on 99-5, having lost five wickets for just 16 runs. Were Fleetwood Hesketh on the brink of a remarkable comeback?
Paul Millar was in next and a couple of drives to the boundary eased Rainhill's nerves, but he became Patel's fifth victim of the afternoon when he was caught by Tom Appleton. Fortunately for Rainhill, Matt Lawler and John Paul Joy were able to see Rainhill over the line without further loss, but Fleetwood Hesketh deserve credit for not throwing in the towel.
Unbeaten Rainhill currently sit 22 points behind leaders Lytham with a game in hand. Their bowling is well-balanced and the batting from Powell and Maheshwari gives every reason to believe the 3rd team may improve on 2021's third place finish.
Rainhill will seek to extend their unbeaten run when they travel to second-bottom Northern on Sunday.