Recs in Hightown draw
Colin Moran takes 3-15 in eventful match
Hightown St Mary's 174-9 (Paul Slater 44*, Akshay Bhatanagar 34; Colin Moran 3-15)
Rainhill 99-9 (Andy Jones 30*, Ollie Unsworth 20; Cameron Moore 2-9)
Match drawn Rainhill Recreationals drew with a Hightown St Mary's development team for the second time this season in a game that went right down to the wire.
With neither side's home ground available, the match was played at Burrows Lane, home of Prescot & Odyssey. Hightown St Mary's batted first and openers Akshay Bhatanagar and Nikhil Bhatanagar made a strong start, adding 58 for the first wicket. They negotiated some good bowling from Andy Jones and Matt Diggins, playing positive shots when the opportunities presented themselves. Simon Gibson made the breakthrough for Rainhill when he bowled Nikhil Bhatanagar for a well-earned 19.
Akshay Bhatanagar retired on reaching 30, with Paul Slater and Caleb Slater taking a similar approach. Ben Wilkinson took the second wicket of the day when he dismissed Caleb for 9 and, shortly afterwards, Simon Gibson took his second wicket when he bowled Aaron Pickard. Things got better for Rainhill when Melvin Siju caught and bowled Luke Fitzsimmons - Hightown St Mary's were five down for 99. Gibson bowled particularly well - this was arguably his best performance of the year so far.
The next batsman to join the immovable Paul Slater at the crease was Luke Charnock, playing his first ever cricket match. Astonishingly, he sent the first delivery he faced to the boundary over mid-wicket before proceeding to smash the ball to all areas of the ground. His colourful innings was brought to an end by Noyal Joseph, also making his debut, who bowled him for 22.
Paul Slater also retired on reaching 30. Joseph also bowled Finn Mitchell while Colin Moran, playing his first match for the Recreationals since the opening day game versus Burton, took three wickets - including that of the returning Akshay Bhatanagar for 34. Paul Slater (also returning, finishing on 44 not out) and Jamie O'Rourke (10 not out) survived until the end and took their total to 174 for 9. Rainhill didn't get off to the best start, with both openers out without scoring. Toby Gill and Finn Mitchell impressed for Hightown St Mary's with the ball, restricting scoring opportunities and picking up the wickets of Simon Gibson and Matt Diggins respectively. When Tony Wilkinson was bowled by Nikhil Bhatanagar, Rainhill were on 22 for 3 and worse followed when Ian Mosquito was bowled by Cameron Moore. However, Melvin Siju and Andy Jones batted sensibly and played some cultured shots, halting the steady fall of wickets and building a promising partnership. The partnership was broken by Moore, who bowled Siju for 16. Ben Wilkinson then joined Jones and, while he found scoring difficult, he was able to occupy the crease for a long period. He was eventually out for 4. Joe Crossley was in next and was joined by Ollie Unsworth after Jones retired on reaching 30. Unsworth was in a mood for scoring runs, Crossley less so. Unfortunately rain intervened - a deluge led to a 20-minute stop in play.
When play resumed the Rainhill pair continued as they had before the break, but Unsworth's display of aggressive batting came to an end when he was bowled for 20. Colin Moran was out quickly and then, in the penultimate over, Crossley was deceived by a Paul Slater delivery that found a way to his off stump.
Hightown St Mary's needed one wicket for the win, but Noyal Joseph and the returning Andy Jones were able to hold out for the draw. Many thanks to Hightown St Mary's for the match and for the spirit in which they always play.