Rainhill's 2nd XI move into fourth following Southport win
Rainhill 158 (Phil Morgan 59, James Clarke 35; Michael Roberti 5-36)
Southport Trinity 135 (Shehan Alokbandaralage 27, Michael Roberti 26; James Clarke 5-37) Rainhill (24 pts) beat Southport Trinity (8 pts) by 23 runs
Rainhill's 2nd XI moved into fourth place in the First Division following a hard-earned victory at Southport Trinity. Their second win of the season owed much to the efforts of James Clarke (pictured) and Phil Morgan, who put in sterling performances with bat and ball. The result, against a strong Southport side, bodes well for the 2nds following a very mixed season in 2021.
Rainhill won the toss and elected to bat. Openers Clarke and Sam Waine put on 19 for the first wicket before the latter was trapped lbw by Michael Roberti. Roberti's pace and consistency created some difficulties for Rainhill, but Clarke and Ethan Powell shared a promising partnership - eventually worth 26 - and began to impose themselves on the game.
Just when it appeared that Rainhill had successfully withstood the early pressure, Powell was our - superbly caught and bowled by Roberti. Captain Paul Ford was also out moments later, bowled by Roberti, for 0. Rainhill were on 45-3 when Clarke and Phil Morgan came together and the pair batted sensibly to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Clarke was eventually out for 35 - bowled by the indomitable Roberti - but Morgan held firm. Aided by a number of lower-order batters, all of whom contributed something, Morgan played a brilliant personal innings to help his team to a respectable score. He could do little to stop wickets falling at the other end but showed resoluteness and an ability to punish anything short or wide.
For all Morgan's tenacity, Rainhill found themselves on 119-9 when Paul Valentine was caught by Phil Jones. Sam WIlliamson, batting at 11, made an excellent unbeaten 18 as he and Morgan shared a last-wicket stand of 39. Morgan was the last man out - Roberti's fifth wicket of the afternoon - but his 59 runs had helped Rainhill to a total of 158. It was not a formidable total, but it looked a competitive one. Would that last-wicket partnership prove to be the difference in the final analysis?
Rainhill made an early breakthrough when Ollie Butler (4) was caught by Adam Edwards off the bowling of Sam Waine. However, Will Marsh and Scott Francis then played some intelligent shots of their own and showed their positive intentions. Their stand was broken when Francis was run out for 13; Sam Williamson struck shortly afterwards to remove Marsh for 14.
Southport Trinity's middle order defiantly held out against some probing Rainhill bowling for long periods but captain Phil Jones (13) was eventually bowled by Phil Morgan while Michael Roberti's resistance was finally ended when James Clarke found a way through to his stumps. Roberti had scored 26, a decent contribution in the circumstances. Clarke also dismissed Joe Damen (2) and Matthew Partington (4), while Morgan picked up the key wicket of Jamie Piggott (2). This devastating spell of bowling left Southport staring down the barrell on 92-8. However, the hosts to their credit refused to throw in the towel and the drama was not over yet. Shehan Alokbandaralage (batting at 9) and Alex Smith (at 10) shared an impressive stand of 43. Alokbandaralage looked in determined mood and hit 3 fours on his way to top-score with 27, although Smith - who ended on 15 not out - also looked to score runs. Their partnership began to frustrate Rainhill, especially as they edged nearer to the target.
Clarke's persistance, however, paid off. The dangerous partnership was ended when the Rainhill spinner bowled Alokbandaralage, and he then took the final wicket of the afternoon to wrap up the innings, ensure the win and - for good measure - finish with his first ever "five for" in a Rainhill shirt. Clarke's figures of 5-37 underline how good a bowler he is.
Rainhill will be pleased with their positive start to 2022, and will be looking for a third consecutive victory when Leigh visit Victoria Terrace on Saturday.