Southport cruise to victory despite Edmundson ton
Fielding and Whitehead break LDCC record as Southport & Birkdale win season opener by 9 wickets
Rainhill 249-5 (Ben Edmundson 100*, Tyler McGladdery 82; Chris Firth 3-80)
Southport & Birkdale 250-1 (JJ Fielding 135*, Jonathan Whitehead 111*; Jack Lowrie 1-29)
Southport & Birkdale (22pts) beat Rainhill (5 pts) by 9 wickets
Rainhill's Premier League campaign got off to a less than ideal start after Southport chased down a target of 250, creating a new league record in the process.
On a sunny but windy afternoon, Rainhill won the toss and elected to bat on a track that promised very little for bowlers. The visitors' opening bowlers, Stephen Gregory and Angus Gailey, asked some questions of the batting duo of Richie Forsyth and Tyler McGladdery but it was spinner Chris Firth who eventually made the breakthrough when Forsyth was trapped lbw for 7. The next man in, Sam Kershaw, was also the next out - caught behind the stumps by wicketkeeper Jack Carney without scoring - and Rainhill were two wickets down with just 35 runs on the board.
James Clarke joined McGladdery and the pair made steady progress against Southport's spinners. However, just as it seemed Rainhill had gained the ascendancy, Clarke edged a delivery from Chris Cunningham into the grateful hands of Carney. The wicket brought captain Bed Edmundson to the crease, who took little time to make his presence felt. His first of 16 boundaries was a spendid cover drive and he dispatched the ball mercilessly to all areas of the ground, while McGladdery - showing few signs of his recent injury - played a terrific innings of his own. Having played himself in assiduously, he began to play the adventurous shots he has used to great effect in the past. McGladdery looked confident and assured, and certain to record his first century of the season, until he went for a huge shot that presented a straightfoward catch to Basil Sultan on the boundary. McGladdery was visibly annoyed at his shot selection, but his contribution of 82 from 113 balls was reminscent of the form he showed in 2021 and sent out a warning to other Premier League sides.
McGladdery's exit gave Rob McKeown the chance to shine and he shared a valuable fifth wicket partnership with Edmundson. McKeown and his captain put on 86 - with McKeown contributing 34 - before he was stumped by Carney to give Firth his third wicket of the afternoon. Rainhill's new professional, Imliwati Lemtur, then partnered Edmundson who reached his century from 93 balls. On reaching the milestone the captain obviously felt the team had done enough, as he declared with the score on 249-5.
It had been a fluent and dominating knock from Edmundson, remarkable for the ease at which runs flowed from his bat. He lined the ball up beautifully and his placement - against both spin and seam - was impressive. Whenever a delivery was short or over-pitched, Edmundson pierced the covers with minimal effort and more than a hint of disdain. It was a delightful innings and Edmundson's first century since 2011.
249-5 was a good score from Rainhill and the home team's batsmen deserved credit for the way they went about their task. The question being asked at tea was whether it would be enough on a very flat pitch.
Rainhill's Jack Lowrie made an early breakthrough when he found Jack Stanley's pads. He also thought he had dismissed new batsman Jonathan Whitehead in similar fashion, but the Southport number 3 survived the appeal and some probing bowling from Rainhill's pace duo of Lowrie and Dan Kelly. Soon the pair were scoring quickly and it was apparent that the partnership would have to be broken if Rainhill were to avoid defeat. The home side turned to Imliwati Lemtur, Peter Kelly, James Clarke, Richie Forsyth and Ben Edmundson, but no amount of variation had the desired effect. The spinners were unable to find much movement and, as the overs passed, Whitehead and opener JJ Fielding (the hero of Southport's stunning victory against Leigh that secured their Premier League status on the final day of the 2021 season) put Southport in an increasingly commanding position. They rarely looked in danger and played with an unnerving boldness and swagger. Fielding's century was his second in as many matches while Whitehead - playing in his Premier League debut after signing from Lowerhouse - demonstrated his qualities, not least dexterity against spin. The march towards the target became a procession, with little doubt as to the final result. It was akin to a cat playing with a mouse, with Rainhill unable to do anything to stop the onslaught.
Fielding (135 not out) Whitehead (111 not out) shared an unbeaten partnership of 243, setting a new LDCC record for the highest second wicket stand in Premier League history. To call their performance impressive is not to do justice to the forceful and audacious nature of it.
Rainhill were disappointed to begin their season with defeat, but will draw positives from the sterling batting performances of Edmundson and McGladdery. Their next match is away to champions Northern on Saturday, with a 12.00 start.
Photos from the match can be viewed here.
Umpires: John Farrell, Martin James
Scorers: Andrew Finney, Colin Warhurst
Match ball sponsor: Hayes Traditional Butchers