172 runs in two games from Mark Rowland led Birkenhead Park to a pair of wins over local rivals New Brighton and Neston in a memorable weekend for the club, which saw all teams win for the first time this season.
The first team and New Brighton both went into Saturday’s clash knowing a win would increase the gap between themselves and the bottom two, as the hosts won the toss at Rake Lane and elected to bat.
Alex Harris continued his excellent form with the new ball as he immediately claimed the big wicket of ex-Lancashire player Owais Shah, with just his second ball, trapping the left-hander in front for 1.
It didn’t take long for Harris to make another breakthrough, as Shah’s opening partner, Seb Botes edged to Rowland at slip, leaving New Brighton in early danger at 8 for 2.
Dan Cooke and David While began to consolidate and diffuse Park’s early momentum, putting 44 on for the third wicket, before ex New Brighton spinner, Ashraf Nawab was introduced into the attack and immediately haunted his old side, wrapping While on the pads and dismissing him for 23.
Cooke, now joined by Matthew Thompson, continued to keep Park at bay and find his stride, as the pair accelerated the scoring past 100. Cooke bringing up a well-compiled half-century in the process. They also managed to finally see off Harris’s mammoth opening spell of 16 tight and threatening overs (two wickets, seven maidens, 39 runs).
Harris continued to impact the game for Park, as his smart diving catch at mid-on, off the bowling of Khalid Wahbi, ended Thompson’s stay at the crease for 35, breaking his and Cooke’s 77-run stand. The score 127 for 4.
Cooke had to watch Wabhi pick up the quick wickets of Oliver Griffiths and captain Adam Neal, leaving New Brighton 167 for 6. However, this didn’t phase the New Brighton number four, as he continued to punish anything loose to the boundary whilst rotating the strike.
Cooke carried on to bring up a chanceless, maiden first-team hundred for New Brighton, which saw him drag his team out of early trouble and into a position where they could begin to consider a declaration. He and Scott Sherratt (12 not out) began to really open their shoulders and scored quickly to take New Brighton up to 233 for 6, where Neal called time on their innings. Cooke finishing with a brilliant 132 not out (156 balls, 16 fours, 3 sixes).
Rowland and Mike Barnes did not mess about in their reply for Park, putting on a quick-fire 50 partnership in the opening 10 overs, with the former stamping his authority with some emphatic boundaries all around the ground. A hat-trick of fours off the twelfth over, from Rowland, saw him bring up a rapid half-century from just 37 balls, putting Park in the driving seat.
Botes eventually bought a breakthrough for New Brighton, as Barnes found Sherratt at point for 12. The next over Sam Beadsworth was caught shaprly behind the wicket, by Neal, off the slow left-arm orthodox bowling of While, leaving Park 79 for 2.
Rowland and Park captain Tom Foster quickly began to take back control of the innings for Park, as the pair picked their moments to attack, whilst playing anything else on its merit. The partnership passing 50 in the 29th over.
Rowland continued in his stride and reached a very well-deserved hundred from 97 balls, which had put Park in a commanding position and was greeted with delight from the dressing room.
As the game entered the last hour, Rowland tried to take Park further towards their target but, found Cooke at long-on off the bowling of Andrew Evans for 101 (100 balls, 15 fours, 2 sixes).
This bought to an end another memorable innings from Rowland, his second hundred of the season and a highly profitable partnership of 79 with Foster.
As the field came up for new man Chris Parker, Park continued to take the game on, batting positively on a fast-scoring ground. Parker struck three fours and a six on his way to an effective 21 off 17 balls, taking the pressure off skipper Foster, who was anchoring the innings from the other end.
When Parker was dismissed by the left-arm spin of Thompson, the incoming batsman maintained this positive mindset and supported Foster admirably, which helped take the score towards 200 and closer to victory.
First Harris, muscled two straight boundaries, before holing out off Thompson. Then Steve Hird scored a run-a-ball 15, including a valuable maximum, which took the required runs below ten. He was dismissed, as Foster bought up a hard-fought half-century for his side.
As the end of the last hour grew closer, Wahbi stroked a glorious cover-drive towards ‘The Kop’ and took Park to a memorable win away at New Brighton, sparking wild celebrations on the side-lines. Foster’s captain’s knock of 59 not out (110 balls, 4 fours, 1 six) seeing Park home.
The 23 points takes Park up to eighth in the Premier League table, leapfrogging their opponents. Next up is Formby at Park Drive this coming Saturday.
This was Park’s second derby win of the weekend, as on Friday, another excellent team performance saw the 1s overcome Neston, in the first round of the Liverpool Echo T20 Knockout, by 34 runs. Mark Rowland hit 8 sixes on his way to a brutal 73, as Park finished 152 for 7 from their 20 overs.
The hosts fell to 118 all out in reply, as the wickets were shared round in an impressive bowling and fielding display by Park. The memorable derby win has set up a second-round tie with Port Sunlight at home on July 15th (TBC).
In the other results, a brilliant fightback with the bat, coupled with a clinical bowling and fielding performance, saw the second eleven beat Lytham 2s at the weekend. A rear-guard innings of 39 from Charlie Jones helped Park recover from 67 for 6 to 148 all out at Park Drive.
This proved to be enough for the 2s as five wickets from Louie Evans and four wickets from captain Danny Jordan saw Lytham bowled out for 135, giving Park a 13-run win. The bowling was backed up with some excellent fielding, including a Jack Dixon run-out and a spectacular one-handed diving catch from Matty Langford at short-cover. The win takes Park up to fourth in the table, as they travel to Orrell Red Triangle this weekend.
The third eleven picked up all 25 points, as they demolished Ormskirk 3s by eight wickets on Saturday. Four wickets from captain Tim Williams and three each for Delwar Hossain and Jahanghir Shah helped bundle the hosts out for 75, before 30 not out from Dom Hogarth and 23 from Alomgir Shah, gave the 3s the win. The victory saw Williams’ side rise to fifth in the 3rd XI Premier League table, as they host Maghull 3s this coming Saturday.
The fourth eleven made it a full house of wins last weekend, as they followed in the 1s footsteps and handed New Brighton another defeat. 73 not out from Matthew Woods and 55 from Lewis Foran saw Park amass 221 for 2 from 35 overs before they bowled their opponents out for just 54. Another four wickets for Jimmy Riley and four for Ellis Cranham did the damage for Park. The 4s sit fifth in the 3rd XI Division One table and travel to Sefton Park in two weeks’ time.