Rainhill lose Jubilee thriller
Action-packed match ends in Prescot victory
Rainhill 58 (Mike Mercer 23, Josh Hughes 13; Gary Fishwick 5-11)
Prescot & Odyssey 60-6 (Farooq Dean 29*, Matthew Morrison 11; Mike Mercer 3-17) Prescot & Odyssey beat Rainhill by 4 wickets
Rainhill Recreationals took on neighbours Prescot in a friendly game on Jubilee bank holiday Thursday. While the cricket on show was not necessarily of platinum standard, the match was certainly entertaining and the game swung one way and then the other before a final charge towards the finish line ensured it was the visitors who emerged victorious.
Rainhill stand-in captain Andrew Page won the toss and opted to bat. Prescot's opening bowlers looked dangerous, especially Gary Fishwick, who found prodigious movement and made life uncomfortable for Rainhill batsmen Mike Mercer and Ashar Sohail. Unfortunately for Rainhill, Sohail was caught when seeking to play a Fishwick delivery over cover, where he was held by Robert Kendrick at the second attempt. Mike Mercer then expertly took on the quick bowling with some fine drives and was beginning to build a useful partnership with Deepak Gupta when, with the score on 25, a double disaster struck. Firstly, Fishwick struck again to remove Gupta and then - moments later - Kendrick held onto an even more impressive catch to dismiss Mercer. Mercer had reached 23 from 26 balls, a knock which included 5 fours. It was a blow for Rainhill because Mercer looked confident against the pace and swing that Prescot's seamers were finding.
Lucy Strettle was out next - perhaps unfortunately - when she inside-edged a ball from Fishwick, which went on to clip the top of off-stump. Josh Hughes was then joined by Katie Roberts and the pair looked to make progress against some disciplined slower bowling. The pair added 22 for the sixth wicket - the best partnership of the afternoon - with Hughes doing most of the scoring but with Roberts defending superbly and playing some intellegent shots. The stand was broken when Kendrick (who else?) held another fine catch to dismiss Roberts, but she deserves credit for the intelligent way she approached the game.
Thomas Lewis was in next and he played a couple of drives to extra cover before he was bowled. Dan Arrowsmith suffered a similar fate moments later and Rainhill were in trouble at 45 for 7. Andrew Page then came out to join Hughes and got off the mark with the first ball, but then Hughes was out - for 13 runs, magnificent in the circumstances - and Rainhill's innings seemed over.
Anna Page came in at number 10. With all respect to her batting abilities, she's not who you'd ideally choose to come in to bat when your team is on 47 for 8 from 18 overs. What could she do? The answer soon became obvious: defend like her life depended on it! The Pages stayed together for almost ten overs, adding 10 runs. In the context of the match, it was a monumental effort, especially with Anna taking most of the strike. She lasted longer than any other player - 33 minutes - and didn't play a false shot. Runs weren't flowing quickly but, crucially, the pair were staying in and taking quick singles.
Their defiance came to end when danger man Fishwick came back into the attack and Andrew was caught at short leg. Anna was last out when, seeking to play a late cut, was caught at gully. Rainhill were eventually all out for 58, which seemed a mediocre total. Gary Fishwick finished with the particularly remarkable figures of 5 for 11.
However, Prescot's top order also struggled against the pace of opening bowlers Mike Mercer and Deepka Gupta. Mercer's devastating spell saw him take three wickets, while Gupta struck to remove opener Matthew Morrison for 11. Dan Arrowsmith ran out Robert Kendrick and Prescot - unbelievably - were on 19 for 5! Were Rainhill on the brink of a stunning victory? It certainly looked possible, especially when a brilliant spell from Lucy Strettle ended with her taking the prize wicket of Fishwick, who had hit a splendid 47 the previous week. Thomas Lewis bowled well and found the edge a few times but. unfortunately for Rainhill. Prescot's captain Farooq Dean and Oliver Greene were able to see their side home. It had been a closer contest than seemed likely at the interval and Rainhill deserve great credit for their bowling and fielding.
After the match commemorative medals marking the occasion were presented to players of both teams and scorer David Crossley. Andrew Page, Rainhill's captain, said "I may not be a monarchist. I believe queens should be in history books and gay bars. But today is a historic occasion and it's right that we should feel a sense of connection with people cross the country who are taking part in events to help their communities enjoy themselves". One of Prescot's players afterwards remarked that he was "very impressed with the ladies in [Rainhill's] team, especially [Lucy} who was so impressive". He added: "thank you for the great spirit that yesterday's game was played in and thank you for the lovely medals... it's a great memento for everyone and a brilliant occasion (whether you're a royalist or not)."
For those of us who love cricket, the real winner was the game itself. Many thanks to Prescot for making sure the game went ahead and for the way they approached it.