Spin duo lead Rainhill to 47-run victory
Rainhill 179 (Sam Kershaw 55, Ross Higham 40; Alex Mason 6-75)
Leigh 132 (Matthew Hurst 52, Sam Dorsey 23; David Atkinson 5-30)
Rainhill (23 pts) beat Leigh (7 pts) by 47 runs
Rainhill emerged triumphant in their much-anticipated Premier League match at Leigh, with a Sam Kershaw half-century and a brilliant display of attacking spin from David Atkinson earning a a 47-run win.
A clash between two high-flying sides promised drama and excitement. Rainhill, put into bat by Leigh, got off to a dismal start when Mike Rotheram inexplicably left a straight delivery that clipped the top of his off stump. Sam Kershaw and Tyler McGladdery defied some fierce, and impressively consistent, pace bowling from Leigh, slowly building a valuable partnership.
Steadily, but sedately, Kershaw and McGladdery took the score onto 36 before the match sprang to life in the 14th over. McGladdery suddenly broke free, hiting three sixes in as many balls before taking a single off the final ball of the over. With McGladdery retaining the strike, the first ball of the next over somehow found its way onto the stumps via his thigh pad. It was an unfortunate dismissal not least as he hadn't looked in any great difficulty and, on 37, looked set for a big score. The superlatives of cricket are frequent and many, but it is no exaggeration to say that three succesive sixes isn't something often seen in the LDCC Premier League.
Ben Edmundson was next in and continued where McGladdery left off, announcing himself with a huge six. In the space of eight balls 25 runs had been scored and a wicket taken. Edmundson, scoring quickly, was out for 14 when an attempt to clear the boundary instead found the hands of Darren Low. Rob McKeown was the next to join Kershaw and the pair took the score beyond the 100 mark before McKeown played an Alex Mason delivery to Matthew Hurst. When David Atkinson was out lbw to Mason, Rainhill were 119 for 5.
Ross Higham, a batsman with admirable fighting qualities, then entered the stage. His combative style was the perfect foil for Kershaw's patient and controlled approach. Their dangerous partnership was ended, after yielding 35 runs, when Kershaw was caught and bowled by Mason for 55. His half-century was not only fully merited but, in the context of the match, was precisely the kind of innings Rainhill needed.
Higham continued to plunder runs but, running out of partners, took it upon himself to lead the charge. Eventually he succumbed to a good length delivery from Finnegan Hulbert and was out, lbw, for a valuable 40. Peter Kelly and Jack Lowrie played a few enterprising strokes but the entertainment didn't last long; Lowrie was bowled by Hulbert and Rainhill were all out for a decent, but hardly commanding, total of 179.
Credit should go to Leigh's bowlers, especially Alex Mason who recovered from being hit by McGladdery to all corners of the ground to take 6 for 75 from 21 overs.
Rainhill had hoped to post a target in excess of 200 but they were undeterred had a plan to contain Leigh, whose free-scoring batting attack had already overcome Wallasey and Northern this season. When the game resumed after tea, the pace bowling of Jack Lowrie and Liam O'Toole created real difficulties for Leigh's openers. The breakthrough, perhaps inevitably, didn't take long to materialise and O'Toole bowled captain Paul Farrar for 1. As Farrar trudged back to the pavilion, O’Toole set off on a high-fiving jog, Not only was his joy almost tangible, it was clear that Rainhill were on a mission. Tight, disciplined and penetrative bowling was supplemented by sharp fielding and it became apparent that, if Leigh were to win this encounter, they would have to do it the hard way.
Determined to deny Leigh’s batsmen the opportunities to play their strokes, Rainhill did not allow Tom Grundy and Sam Dorsey to accelerate. However, Grundy and Dorsey both managed to resist the early pressure, play themselves in and reach the 20s. Unfortunately for Leigh, once they'd done the hard work they also both lost their wickets in quick succession. Dorsey was out first, holing out to Mike Rotheram for 23. Grundy followed a few balls later, bowled by David Atkinson for 21. At 49 for 3 the game had swung in Rainhill's favour but there was still all to play for.
49 for 3 became 57 for 4 when Atkinson took his second wicket of the afternoon. However, Matthew Hurst led the fightback and, supported by Harry Church, set about turning the tables with intelligent batting and the kind of patience Kershaw had showed earlier. Leigh were rattling along at a rate of three an over: with time on their side, could they haul themselves back into the game and even go on to win?
Rainhill continued to exert pressure and make scoring difficult. Their miserly attitude was best epitomised by David Atkinson, whose 14.3 over yielded just 30 runs and bought five wickets. The statistics were awesome and they did not lie. The spinners bowled not only with deadly accuracy but with an air of authority and, at times, made a very good team look mediocre.
No bowling this season has been better balanced, with Kelly’s masterly command of the art of deception complemented by Atkinson's control.
Just when Leigh began to pose a threat Kelly and Atkinson were on hand to end it. Kelly picked up the wickets of Church, Finnegan Hulbert and Alex Mason while Hurst was eventually out lbw to Atkinson shortly after posting his second half-century of the season. All that was left was for Atkinson to see off the tail which he did in straightforward fashion. His first five-wicket haul of the season was fully deserved.
For all of the match's riveting fluctuations, Rainhill ultimately emerged as comfortable winners. Neither the pitch nor poor batting was responsible, but a mesmerising display of spin and outstanding work in the field.
Rainhill have now lost only one of their previous nine league matches and will be confident ahead of their trip to Southport next Saturday.
Umpires: Chris Dunn, Stephen Fildes Scorers: Connor Berry, Andrew Finney
Match ball sponsor: Black Swan Tax Advisors
Photos from the match can be found here: