Leigh progress to semi-finals of ECB Club T20 Cup
Rainhill 195-8 (Sam Kershaw 55, Tyler McGladdery 50; Patrick Allen 3-42)
Leigh 198-4 (Sam Dorsey 90*, Karl Brown 71; David Atkinson 2-23)
Leigh won by 6 wickets
Rainhill were knocked out of the ECB Club T20 Cup in a thrilling encounter at Victoria Terrace yesterday.
In an absorbing contest that went to the final over, Leigh emerged triumphant and will progress to the semi-finals where they will meet wither Ormskirk or Southport and Birkdale.
While defeat is always disappointing, as a spectacle the game had everything. A combination of good weather, a barbecue and the promise of high quality entertaining cricket brought out a crowd of around 200 spectators. There was a palpable sense of expectation and the atmosphere was frenzied. Every boundary was cheered, every wicket applauded and, in the crucial latter stages, every dot ball greeted with cheers. It was a far cry form the more sedate forms of Sunday cricket.
An encounter between two in-form teams - the only teams to have beaten league leaders Northern so far this season - was always likely to create fireworks. Having been put into bat by Leigh, Rainhill's openers David Atkinson and Tyler McGladdery lost no time in making their presence felt. The match got off to a frenetic start: Atkinson raced to 18 from 10 balls before falling victim to Patrick Allan, while McGladdery was dropped on 7 - a reprieve he made the most of.
McGladdery and the next batsman, Sam Kershaw, shared a partnership of 105. McGladdery, having hit an impressive 71 in the previous day's league match against Southport and Birkdale, appeared in great touch once again at the crease, while Kershaw approached his innings with confidence, finding spaces - and the boundary - with apparent ease. Scoring at a rate of around 10 per over, they had both reached their half-centuries when Kershaw was dismissed. Ironically a contribution characterised by such fluent aggression ended tamely when he offered a simple catch to Alex Mason at silly point. McGladdery followed immediately afterwards, being superbly run out by a direct hit from Tom Grundy.
With two new batsmen at the crease, Leigh were able to apply pressure and decelerate the run rate. They also picked up the valuable wicket of Ben Edmundson when Mason found his outside edge and Sam Dorsey held the catch. Ross Higham made clear his intentions with a four and a six but, looking once again to find the boundary, he was stumped by Matthew Hurst to give Mason his second wicket of the afternoon.
The loss of Higham's wicket brought Luke Procter and Jamie Harrison together and the pair played some entertaining cricket as Rainhill pushed on, determined to set a total around the 200 mark. The Northamptonshire player hit two fours and two sixes on his way to a quickfire 24 from 13 balls, while Harrison clearly enjoyed hitting the ball to the boundary, the bowling green and the clubhouse. He scored an unbeaten 22 from a mere 9 balls and, while late wickets fell, Rainhill posted a competitive total of 195 for 8.
Leigh made a rapid start in their reply, although the opening stand between Lancashire's Sam Dorsey and Derbyshire's Matthew McKiernan was broken when Jamie Harrison held a fantastic catch off the bowling of Luke Procter. That breakthrough did not, however, stop the flow of runs as Dorsey was joined by former Lancashire ace Karl Brown. Brown scored freely in all directions, exhibiting his full range of strokes, while Dorsey was more calculating than extravagant. The partnership created real frustrations for Rainhill who battled admirably but fruitlessly; as club captain Mike Rotheram remarked afterwards, it's very difficult to limit runs when even Karl Brown's mishits were flying to the boundary for six.
Brown hit seven sixes to reach 71 from 31 balls. He was so composed, so concentrated and playing so fearlessly that it seemed he was invincible. However, he finally succumbed to David Atkinson - whose bowling in recent matches has been a revelation - when, looking to play another big shot, instead only found the hands of Sam Kershaw.
Leigh wobbled a little. Mike Rotheram held a catch off Procter's bowling to dismiss Alex Mason for 0; moments later Matthew Hurst attempted to launch a David Atkinson delivery out of the ground but was instead caught by James Clarke on the boundary. The score was now 145 for 4 and, with a few more wickets, anything seemed possible.
Crucially, Rainhill were unable to dislodge Sam Dorsey, who played so assuredly throughout and never looked in danger of giving away his wicket. With support from Adam Shallcross, who hit 20 from 21 balls, Dorsey led Leigh across the finish line with three balls to spare. Dorsey finished with an unbeaten 90 from 56 balls.
It was unquestionably a fine victory for Leigh, but it was also a win for this format of cricket.
Umpires: Chris Spencer, Ian Laurence
Scorers: Andrew Finney, Louisa Reffell