YOUNG PLAYERS SHINE IN VICTORY FOR ORMSKIRK
In his programme notes Nicky Caunce said that he expected a competitive game and, from the minute Rainford won the toss and put Ormskirk in to bat, that is exactly what he got.
The opening partnership between Andy Baybutt and John Armstrong looked to be solid enough in the first few overs until Andy Baybutt (5) had his middle stump uprooted by Danny Haughton with the score on 10. His dismissal brought in teenager Alex Rankin
to join the vastly experienced John Armstrong with Alex forcing the pace and reaching his first half century. The partnership put on 88 runs for the second wicket when John Armstrong (33) was caught, having been the anchor man, while Alex pushed the score along.
Gary Knight was now at the crease and his partnership with Alex Rankin (59) progressed to take the score to 115 when Alex’s innings came to an end, bringing his sixteen-year-old brother Robert into the fray to join Gary.
It was Robert’s debut game for the First XI but he showed no signs of nerves and settled in comfortably and took his score along to 13 before being caught by the Rainford skipper, David Snellgrove. The Rankin brothers had done themselves proud.
Another player making his First XI Premier League debut, Luke Platt, joined Gary Knight with the score on 140-4 and he was totally unphased as he set about the Rainford bowling with a confident air.
He lost partners Gary Knight (38), Ryan Maddock (0) and Alex Mason (0) in quick succession but found a rock-solid Tom Hartley (22) to help nurse him along to his first half century which he reached just before the tea interval. Nicky Caunce declared the innings on 237-7 with Luke not out on 51.
The Rainford reply got off to a good start with the opening bowlers, Scott Lees and Ryan Maddock, failing to make any inroads to break opening partnership of 70 runs. It took a great piece of fielding by Andy Baybutt to bring the first success. In one smooth movement he fielded the ball, threw it and hit the stumps to see Matthew Bailey (17) out of his ground and on the way back to the Pavilion. The other opener, Paul Farrah was looking ominously good and could clearly be seen to be the danger man who could take the game from Ormkirk’s grasp.
Nicky Caunce’s decision to bring Tom Hartley into the attack soon paid dividends as he claimed two cheap wickets - Comrey Edgeworth (9) and David Snellgrove (5). At this stage Paul Farrah was still going well and had reached 70 and looking to be a great bet to reach a century. The odds on him reaching the magic ton lessened and he leathered the first three balls of a Tom Hartley over to get to be on 99. Despite the unmitigated attack on his bowling Tom kept his cool and deceived the batsman to bowl him out with his fourth delivery and leave him just the one run short of what would have been a fine century. Everybody felt sorry for the batsman being so close yet so far. That is everybody except the Ormskirk players and supporters who were delighted, albeit that they recognised that they had witnessed a fine innings and would have been happy to see him get the one run but certainly no more.
Thanks to Paul Farrah’s innings Rainford, with a score of 141-4 on the board, had a realistic chance of knocking off the required runs to claim victory. The chance was somewhat reduced when two quick wickets fell to Scott Lees who had been brought back into the attack. He had John Dotters (1) caught behind by Gary Knight and bowled Ravi Mistry (0).
Meanwhile Tom Hartley stepped in at the other end to take his 5th wicket of the game when he trapped Dan Houghton (0).
At 148-8 Rainford now realised that they could not win but, with the game well into the last 20 overs, they could stop Ormskirk winning and pick up some valuable batting point for themselves. The last remaining batsmen had to stick in and see the overs out. They set about their task with resolute determination to take the score along to 172 when the 9th wicket of Reece Kelly (23) fell to Tom Hartley.
The overs were ticking away and the score was creeping up and the tension started to rise as Ehran Agarwol the Rainford number 11 batsman blocked everything that came his way, leaving Andrew Davies at the other end to nudge to score along while at the same time force a draw.
With the score on 190 -9, and Rainford having thoroughly earned another batting point, Nicky Caunce brought himself back into the action and had immediate success. With the first ball of his over he bowled the defiant Andrew Davies (16) and Rainford were all out for 190. The match had been won to gain Ormskirk a maximum 25 points.
The game showed the value of the strong youth development policy of the Club. The contributions to the game of the Rankin brothers and Tom Hartley, with an average age of 17 yrs 6 months between them, could not offer better evidence to demonstrate that value.
Of those three young players, it was Tom Hartley’s contribution of 6 -66 and an undefeated 22 runs that earned him, not for the first time this season, the accolade of Man of the Match.