Outstanding second-wicket stand steers Ormskirk to victory
Rainhill 220-5 (Tyler McGladdery 80, David Atkinson 60*; Jamie Barnes 2-43)
Ormskirk 222-1 (Robert Rankin 107*, Taylor Cornall 96*; Liam O'Toole 1-38)
Ormskirk (20 pts) beat Rainhill (5 pts) by 9 wickets
It is over 430 years since William Shakespeare visited Ormskirk, where he performed in a theatre on Moor Street. It is not known what he thought of the place, or indeed how well received his play was, because soon afterwards he moved onto better things and quickly made a name for himself.
Brook Lane is a throw of a cricket ball away from the site of the long-vanished theatre but its occupants, Ormskirk Cricket Club, have a similar reputation for producing talented acts who move away to pursue careers at the top level of the game. Eight former Ormskirk players are presently plying their trade in the County Championship, and two of those – Simon Kerrigan and Michael Jones – have played international cricket for England and Scotland respectively. All the world’s a stage, as the Bard himself observed, and he would surely approve of the club’s tradition of developing performers who have entertained on some of the world’s great cricket stages.
Today’s visitors to Ormskirk were altogether different types of players from those Shakespeare knew and the drama on show was unrehearsed, but it was no less tantalising for the lack of a script. Rainhill had not beaten Ormskirk at Brook Lane – or in league competition – since 19th August 2017, when an inspired half-century from Tyler McGladdery helped the visitors to an 11-run win over an Ormskirk team containing Kerrigan and George Lavelle, now on the books of Lancashire. Since being promoted to the LDCC Premier League in 2013, Rainhill had not emerged victorious in any other league encounters between the two clubs, and had only beaten Ormskirk on one other occasion in all competitions this century (in the Liverpool Echo Knockout Cup in 2018). To say that Ormskirk have had the upper hand over Rainhill in recent years is something of an understatement: a Rainhill win at Ormskirk has been as rare as a Phil Tufnell half-century, something the visitors were determined to change.
In fairness, there were reasons for Rainhill to be optimistic. Going into the match they were unbeaten in four league games – including a sensational victory over table-topping Northern – a run which had allowed Rainhill to climb above Ormskirk into third place in the league. Ormskirk’s recent form had been mixed and, while they had won matches against Blackpool and Southport & Birkdale in the National Club Championship and the T20 Club Cup respectively, their previous two league games had ended in defeat to Orrell Red Triangle and Wigan. With some serious attacking talent on display, Rainhill seeking to build on recent success and Ormskirk looking to bounce back from consecutive reversals, the game had all the makings of an enthralling contest.
And so, the stage was set. Well, almost. The enemy of every cricketer – the weather – threatened to intervene. To play or not to play, that was the question. After a morning of heavy rain any play at all seemed unlikely at one point, but Ormskirk’s ground staff worked minor miracles to remove excess water from the outfield and the umpires were happy with the condition of the square. And so, a little later than planned, the drama commenced at 1.10pm.
Given the gloomy weather and even gloomier forecast for the afternoon, it came as something of a relief to those watching when the players emerged for their warm-ups. Ormskirk won the toss and, unsurprisingly, asked Rainhill to bat. Rainhill’s openers, Tyler McGladdery and James Clarke, entered the field to polite applause. Ormskirk’s fielders stood like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game was, finally, afoot.
It started with a bit of drama and some hopeful shouts; Sam Marsh thought he’d taken a wicket with the very first ball of the match but the umpire determined that James Clarke’s bat had evaded the ball that flew into the hands of second slip. Clarke seemed nonplussed and instead set about playing himself in.
As WG Grace knew, good batsmen are not born but made. Tyler McGladdery, a player made in Rainhill who had served Ormskirk for a couple of seasons before returning, had been in particularly impressive form so far in 2021, recording two centuries and four half-centuries in all competitions and averaging 66.17 in league matches. His form continued into this game, and McGladdery raced to another 50 – arriving with a splendid shot through the covers. He was helped along the way by a number of partners. His partnership with James Clarke produced 32 runs before Clarke inside-edged a delivery from Marsh onto his stumps. Next to join McGladdery was the effervescent Sam Kershaw, coming into the match on the back of a fluent 55 against Leigh in a T20 match last week, and he looked in good form until he was bowled by Jamie Barnes for 16. Mike Rotheram played a useful, if patient, innings of 13. Ross Higham hit a quickfire 14 and looked set to make a telling contribution; unfortunately, his adventurous instincts got the better of him and, dancing down the wicket after a tempting delivery from Jack Snowdon, he was stumped by Gary Knight.
Rainhill were moving along nicely at this point in spite of losing wickets at regular, if not frequent, intervals. The visitors needed someone to move the run rate along and David Atkinson proved himself equal to the task. He and McGladdery scored rapidly, seizing the initiative and generating some real excitement among the travelling supporters with their cultivated strokes. McGladdery, commanding and self-confident, looked invincible until he played around a ball from spinner Harvey Rankin that went on to hit his pads. The opener was demonstrably irked at the fashion of his dismissal, perhaps not least because a further 23 runs would have made him the first batsman to score 500 runs in the Premier League this season.
Atkinson had a reprieve when he was dropped at point on 29 and punished Ormskirk by recording an unbeaten 60 from 45 balls, his first half-century of the season. After reaching his 50, his next shot cleared the perimeter wall. Atkinson shared a 59-run sixth wicket partnership with captain Ben Edmundson (23 from 21 balls) that Rainhill clearly felt had swung the momentum in their favour because, having reached 220 for 5, Rainhill declared in the 45th over.
With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to suggest that the declaration arrived too early and that Rainhill should have batted on, especially as Atkinson and Edmundson were hitting the ball around with ease. However, the captain had to consider the risks of declaring too late, especially with a thunderstorm forecast and some foreboding clouds in the distance. On balance, it seemed that the 221 target Rainhill set was achievable enough for the home side to chase while also giving Rainhill a great chance of that elusive win in Ormskirk.
Shakespeare observed that some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Liam O’Toole, out of action due to injury since the game against Bootle on 5th June, clearly belongs in the latter category after returning in the place of ex-Lancashire all-rounder Luke Procter. If there was any rustiness then it didn’t show as he made the early breakthrough, trapping Alex Rankin lbw for 3.
Robert Rankin then joined opener Taylor Cornall and the pair grew in confidence as they responded positively to the questions Rainhill's bowlers asked of them. Jamie Harrison and Jack Lowrie bowled well without success and, while the latter particularly impressed with his pace and line, Rankin and Cornall never looked in serious danger. Peter Kelly’s first ball almost bought a wicket, but the ball bounced just short of Ben Edmundson at slip. There were a few other optimistic calls for lbw, but they were much ado about nothing.
Initially Rankin was easily outscoring his partner but Cornall soon joined the party and before long the pair were putting on a masterclass in batting. Cornall played with a certian feline felicity while Rankin sought to display several of the textbook's finest shots, in addition to a couple that you won't find there. Their natural talent was dread-inspiring at times and, as the innings progressed, Rainhill increasingly seemed to lack ideas as to how to break the dangerous partnership.
Rainhill turned to David Atkinson, whose bowling action has more than a whiff of Barry Wood about it, and then to Ben Edmundson, but by this point nothing could contain Ormskirk's progress towards the target. With the pendulum having swung irreversibly, O'Toole was brought back into the attack to create a few late problems for the batsmen, but no further wickets were to fall. The duo saw Ormskirk over the line with several overs to spare; Cornall finished on 96 not out while Rankin was unbeaten on 107. His 100 came from 116 balls and is his first Premier League century.
It was far from a terrible performance from Rainhill, especially with the bat, but they lacked the cutting edge in the field and had no answer to Ormskirk's batting onslaught. So impressive was Rankin's knock that one spectator couldn't help but liken it to another sparkling individual performance in Matthew Arnold School's epic victory in the final of the 1972 Liverpool knock-out competition. Another suggested it was the best innings from an Ormskirk player "for quite a while".
Cricket is a game in which all men are merely players and each must play many parts. Rainhill will feel somewhat aggrieved at playing the role of the defeated team after amassing 220 runs in the way they did. No doubt, the bitterness of defeat will inspire them to bounce back next week when they face Orrell Red Triangle. As for Ormskirk, all's well that ends well...
Umpires: Chris Dunn, Craig Parkinson
Scorers: Kevin Wilson, Andrew Finney
Match ball sponsor: Black Swan Tax
This article was brought to you by a "chummery" of reporters: Andrew Page, Martin Snape, Tom Phillips and Steve Fowle. Additional material by William Shakespeare.