A great deal of interest was generated in this game because England Test bowler Monty Panesar had been signed by Wallasey to help them climb up the table to a place of safety and he was in the team to play at Brook Lane. With 50 test matches under his belt he was bound to be a tough handful to manage and so it turned out to be as he netted a 5-wicket haul. However, he certainly didn’t get it all his own way.
Wallasey won the toss and elected to field
Andy Baybutt and Michael Jones opened for Ormskirk to face the pace of Matty Keogh at one end and the spin of Panesar at the other. They made quite a confident start, running up a score of 27 when Andy Baybutt (20) ventured down the wicket to attack Panesar, was beaten by the flight of the ball and was promptly stumped. This brought Ian Robinson to join Michael Jones and he was trapped lbw by Panesar without troubling the scorer.
John Armstrong then joined Michael and together they subdued Panesar, with John playing the attacking role while Michael made sure he stayed there and let John set about taming the menace of the international cricketer. They did this magnificently with John showing scant respect for reputation as he successfully piled on the runs while Michael defended his wicket with great confidence and was quite happy to see John use all is experience to build up the score.
After making a stand of 114 John (70) was
eventually bowled by Panesar to bring in Gary Knight. Unfortunately he didn’t last long and went for a duck when he was trapped lbw by Panesar taking the score to 148-4.
Teenager Alex Rankin (3), who came in after Gary Knight’s dismissal, was Panesar’s fifth victim when he was bowled round his legs. With the score on 166-5 it was Nicky Caunce who came to the wicket to join Michael Jones.
Nicky’s approach was to attack at every opportunity and he took every advantage by hammering
loose balls as well as riding his luck with streaky boundaries to leave the bowlers more than a little bit frustrated. In the meantime Michael Jones became the top scorer overtaking John Armstrong’s 70 runs. He had played a very fine innings and reached a score of 82 when he was caught attempting to push the score past the 200 mark in order claim maximum batting points.
It was when the score reached 223 with Nicky Caunce on 40* and with the 7th wicket falling, with Scott Lees (1) being bowled, the innings was declared on 223-7.
Wallasey were soon in deep trouble in their reply. Before they knew what had happened they had lost 3 wickets with only 3 runs on the board. Scott Lees had claimed the scalp of opener Martin Williams (1) trapping him lbw. Nicky Caunce had Chris Davies (0) caught behind and he bowled Greg Beaver (1). At this point Alex Eagles was at the wicket, having scored just a single run alongside his captain Danny Beaver. The writing seemed to be on the wall that this was going to be sure win for Ormskirk. It looked an even surer thing when the score went 101-6 with Danny Beaver (7), Monty Panesar (11) and Josh Rylance (9) back in the pavilion. However, to quote Michael Palin in his wonderful book ‘Pole to Pole’ … “There is only one thing that you can be sure of and that is that you can’t be sure of anything”. In relation to this game, never were truer words spoken.
A seventh-wicket stand developed between Alex Eagles and Andrew Ward that took Wallasey within striking distance of the wining total. Eagles achieved his century and his partner Ward reached his half-century.
With one over to go, and against all the odds of successfully chasing down such a big total, the winning runs were hit. Alex Eagles (112*) and Andrew Ward (69*) had played magnificently and thoroughly deserved to be on the winning side.
This was Ormskirk’s second defeat of the season and it has to be said that they contributed somewhat to their own destiny by some uncharacteristic untidy fielding.
Needless runs were handed to Wallasey by way of fumbling pick-ups and more costly unwanted overthrows. Had they fielded more smartly the more likely it would have been that the run chase would have been just too much for Wallasey.
On the positive side Michael Jones (82) played one of the best innings he has played for the Club, John Armstrong (70) showed yet again what a class act he is and Nicky Caunce (40*) entertained with some big hitting to gain vital batting points.
Chat around the ground was that OCC, despite the defeat and with only six games to play, are sure to win the Championship. Those who share that sentiment would do well to take heed of the words from Michael Palin’s book which are quoted in this report. Yes, they are still favourites but have tough end of season fixtures to play and nothing can be taken for granted.