Ethan Powell hits defiant 60 in losing cause
Rainhill 123 (Ethan Powell 60, Tony Wright 28; Tom Wood 4-36)
Oxton 127-7 (Steve Williams 35, Ani Anijeet 27; John Ball 3-5)
Oxton (25pts) beat Rainhill (5pts) by 3 wickets
Sometimes it can feel that, were it not for bad luck, we wouldn't have any luck at all. Rainhill's 3rd XI have had their fair share of bad luck already this season and were without a win in spite of strong performances, so will have hoped to turn things around at home to league leaders Oxton.
Having won the toss, Rainhill opted to bat. Unfortunately, Rainhill's unlucky streak continued and openers Paul Millar and Jeff Fitzhenry were out early, for 6 and 4 respectively. When Neil Robinson was out without scoring, Rainhill were 35 for 3. However, Ethan Powell and Tony Wright came together and their resolution - and some well-directed shots - helped to build a solid partnership. Powell and Wright added 56 for the fourth wicket before Steve Williams struck to remove the latter. It was a key wicket for the visitors as Wright had looked in excellent form: his 28 had come from a mere 20 balls and included 4 fours and a six.
Unfortunately for Rainhill, the loss of Wright triggered a major collapse as Rainhill slumped from 91 for 3 to 123 all out. Powell continued to lead the way, playing carefully and intelligently on his way to his second half-century in successive matches, but when he was stumped by Geoff Dewhurst off the bowling of Tom Wood Rainhill's resilience went with him. Rainhill's tail didn't wag and none of the final six batsmen were able to score more than 5, although an inspired spell of bowling from Wood was perhaps a more decisive factor than simple bad luck. Powell will be pleased with his 60, scored from 65 balls, although Rainhill would have preferred to have given the visitors a more challenging target.
In pursuit of 124, Oxton's top order struggled. An incredible five-over spell of bowling from John Ball resulted in three wickets for the loss of just five runs. Not only had Oxton been reduced to 37 for 3, three potentially dangerous batsmen had been removed from the attack. However, as was the case in Rainhill's innings, a fourth wicket partnership turned the situation around, albeit less dramatically: Ani Anijeet and Steve Williams added 31 before the former was caught by Neil Robinson to give Vinnie Varghese his first wicket of the afternoon. Another was to follow shortly afterwards, when Varghese bowled Tom Wood for 0. At this point, Oxton were 79 for 5 and Rainhill's tails were up.
The situation looked even better when the stubborn resistance of Williams was finally ended by Robinson. Williams had hit a creditable 35 but his wicket left his team on 99 for 6 and the game firmly in the balance. Rainhill took another wicket but were unable to find any more success with the ball and Oxton found their way across the finish line with three wickets remaining. Alex Parr had made a useful and pertinacious 16 from 18 balls to help his team to victory.
Rainhill had performed commendably in the field against a very good side but, ultimately, the moderate target they had set proved too little. The team will take heart from some fine individual performances - from Powell and Wright with the bat and from the bowling exploits of Ball and Varghese.
It was a familiar story for the 3rd XI: so near and yet so far. They remain without a win in 2021 but, on the basis of recent performances, that elusive victory can't be too far away. All they need is a bit of luck...