Birkenhead Park 1st XI picked up their third win of the weekend and eighth in as many games, as Mark Rowland’s 92 saw Park beat Chester Boughton Hall by four wickets to reach the Cheshire Cup semi-finals.
After rain put an end to the previous attempt at playing this fixture, both sides were greeted by glorious sunshine on a warm Sunday afternoon at Park Drive.
Chester won the toss and elected to bat first on a used wicket, in the hope that it would become more difficult to score on later in the day.
Park got off to a brilliant start with the ball, as a spectacular diving catch from Stephen Hird, down the legside, saw Alex Baker get rid of Rick Moore for 9, with the score just on 21. Less than three overs later Alex Harris found some seam movement of the deck as he found the outside edge of Alex Money for 4. The catch well taken, low down, by Rowland. Chester struggling at 33 for 2.
Warren Goodwin and Harry Killoran then consolidated for the visitors, adding a much-needed 43 runs for the third wicket. However, Khalid Wahbi ended Goodwin’s stay at the crease, as he got one to shoot through and beat the Chester opener’s defences for 37, putting Park back in control with the score 76 for 3.
Australian seamer Bailey Jones then got in on the action, as he picked up the wicket of former Boughton Hall skipper Lee Dixon for 14, with a beautiful delivery that nipped back through the gate to take middle stump. Jones followed this up shortly after with the wicket of Killoran, for 24, caught behind by Hird. The score 107 for 5.
Park continued to pick up regular wickets, never letting Chester out of their sights. Jones snared his third wicket, as Jack Williams was caught at mid-on by Harris for 13. Cole Turner soon followed his captain back to the shed, as he edged behind to Hird off the returning Baker, leaving the visitors 141 for 7.
The regular loss of wickets didn’t effect Andrew Metcalf, as his hard-fought 49 helped Chester up towards the 200 mark. He eventually fell to Tom Foster in the penultimate over, with Chester finishing up on a competitive 201 for 8, after 40 overs. Jones the pick of the bowlers with his 3 for 38 from 8 overs. Park knew this wouldn’t be an easy chase, as the wicket had begun to break up and spin.
Mike Barnes and Rowland took advantage of the pace on the rock hard, new ball and raced to 41 inside the first seven overs. However, a fine delivery from West Indian seamer Shakeem Clarke, saw Barnes edge to Moore in the slips for 15. The next over Wahbi was again controversially adjudged to have edged behind to Alex Nash, off the bowling of Williams, for 0. Park in a spot of bother on 42 for 2.
Rowland then began to dominate the scoring, as he and Foster put on a much-needed 50 runs for the fourth wicket. The former striking some impressive boundaries off the pace and spin, as he passed a third successive fifty of the weekend.
Williams then picked up Foster, as he found Killoran at backward point for 9, and Park were soon under more pressure as George McCormick dismissed Matty Langford for 0, the score now 96 for 4.
Rowland continued to haunt his former side and do the bulk of the scoring, thrashing the ball to all parts of the ground, as he approached three figures. However, he found Williams at mid-on for an excellent 92 (79 balls, 14 fours, 2 sixes), off McCormick, which bought Chester right back into the contest. Hird was then ran out in unfortunate circumstances, for 4, as he slipped following being sent back. Park in need of a partnership at 153 for 6.
Sam Beadsworth kept a calm head, as he began to accelerate the scoring and watched Harris launch an enormous six over wide long-on, off Williams. 14 runs off a Turner over, including two vital boundaries from Beadsworth, saw Park reduce the required rate to below four an over. Another six from Harris the following over, took Park to within 10 of their victory target, as the game entered the final five overs.
Some hard running between the wickets took Beadsworth into the 40s, before four singles off the 37th over, from Money, saw Park get over the line and record a memorable win over the defending Cheshire Cup champions, their eighth in as many games. The winning run from Harris sparking wild celebrations on Hird Hill, which will live long in the memory of those who witnessed it.
Beadsworth (46 not out) and Harris (21 not out) had shown great character in getting Park over the line, with a key 49-run stand, but Rowland was the star once again. His 92, took him to 257 runs for the weekend and had helped Park record three wins from three in a blockbuster triple header, which has seen the club move to fifth in the league, as well as reach two cup semi-finals. The 1s will await the news of the semi-final draw as they look to reach their first Cheshire cup final since 1996.