Birkenhead Park CC 1st XI got off to a winning start under new captain Stephen Hird, as they fought off local rivals Caldy to win by 22 runs.
After being asked to bat first on a tricky, soft, early-season wicket at Paton field, Matty Langford and Mark Rowland got the visitors off to a perfect start, racing to a 50-run partnership inside the first eleven overs. This included an imperious straight drive for six by Langford. However, Park were then pegged back by the hosts as they lost three wickets inside four overs, including that of Langford for 33, leaving the score 57 for 3.
Jon Crofton and Danny Jordan set out to rebuild the Park innings and put on 30 for the fourth wicket, soaking up the Caldy pressure, but the introduction of Hamish Glover into the attack bought the home side a double breakthrough, as Jordan and Alex Harris were both dismissed in the same over, leaving Park in trouble at 89 for 5.
Crofton’s hard-fought resistance was then ended for 17 by Nathan Beck, as the wickets continued to tumble for Park. Glover picked up his third wicket of the day to make the score 93 for 7, before Adam Brown and Chris Edwards were bought back into the attack to end the Park innings prematurely.
Skipper Hird went about relieving the pressure on his side, by striking a pair of boundaries off Edwards. However, his 21 not out could only lift Park to 118 all out, leaving them work to do in the second half. The wickets were shared around the Caldy bowlers as Edwards and Glover took three apiece and Brown picked up two.
Park knew they had to make early inroads if they were to defend 118 and they did just that in a chaotic opening over. Having belted Alex Baker over wide long-on, second ball, for six, Haroon Khan played one shot too many and found Harris at mid off for eight.
Mark Wilkie and Edwards temporarily frustrated the Park bowlers but the change to bring Charlie Jones into the attack bought the wicket of Wilkie, for 13, as he was trapped in front to leave the score at 36 for 2.
Hird’s bowling changes continued to pay dividends as David Nevin dismissed both Edwards and Harry Beddard in his first two overs to leave the game in the balance at 56 for 4.
A 25-run partnership from Mike Grealis and Rhys John Baker put Caldy back into a good position in the game, as they required 38 for victory. However, the reintroduction of Baker into the attack, by Hird, proved to change the game as he picked up two quick wickets including that of Caldy captain Harry Daniel-Jones.
An outstanding stumping down the leg-side from Hird, gave Nevin his third wicket and left the game on a knife edge, with the score now 81 for 7. Some brief frustration from Brown and Jack Hunter took Caldy’s victory target to within 25 runs, but a sharp diving catch at second slip by Jack Dixon, off Nevin, gave Park a sight of victory. The score 93 for 8.
Baker’s fourth wicket took Park even closer to the win, before Nevin wrapped up proceedings, and a five-wicket haul, as he had Beck caught behind by Hird, to give Park a hard fought 22-run victory and start the season with a vital 21 points.
Next up for the 1s is a home clash against Highfield, where they will welcome back overseas professional Satyajeet Bachhav for the 2023 season and look to further demonstrate their promotion credentials.
In the other results, Dale Taylor led a young 2nd XI side into their first game of the season against a strong Northern 2nd XI.
Bowling first, Louie Evans picked up from where he left off last season with figures of 5 for 48 from 21 overs, to help Park bowl Northern out for 109. Evans was well supported by Jahangir Shah and Callum Jones, who picked up three and two wickets respectively.
In reply, despite going toe to toe with one of the best sides in the league, Park came second best as Northern bowled tightly to dismiss the 2s for 53 and earn a 56-run victory. Next up for Park is a trip to Southport and Birkdale on Saturday.
Image: Bob Shaw