Birkenhead Park CC 1st XI were held to another draw on Saturday, by Wigan, despite a third half century of the season for wicketkeeper batsmen Steve Hird and five wickets for Ahmad Safi Abdullah.
Park welcomed Wigan to Park Drive knowing a full 25 points was within reach after last month’s agonising draw in the reverse fixture at Bull Hey.
Wigan captain Charles Taylor won the toss and elected to field first on a warm but overcast start to the day. Matty Langford carried on from his fine hundred at Colwyn Bay last week for the 2s, and struck an impressive six over mid-off. However, John Richardson dismissed him for 27 and made early inroads for the visitors, leaving Park 38 for 2.
Captain Tom Foster battled hard through the mammoth opening spell from Richardson and Jordan Hampson but saw wickets begin to fall regularly from the other end. The Park skipper himself, eventually succumbed to Richardson, for 39, leaving Park 104 for 5. A fine delivery from Hampson saw the end of Jon Crofton, with the score 132-6 and the home side in need of a partnership.
Safi and Hird then went on the counter attack in order to get Park up to a significant first innings total, and put on a much-needed 40 runs for the seventh wicket.
Safi eventually fell for 32, but this didn’t stop Hird, who continued to frustrate the bowlers and found the boundary regularly. He combined with Alex Baker to get Park up to 208 for 7, following tea, and get his team to a declaration.
Hird in the process bought up a brilliant half century, his third of the season (54 not out, 58 balls, 8 fours), acknowledging the crowd with a trademark, raised right paw, knowing there was still a big second half ahead for victory.
Due to Wigan’s pace heavy attack and as a result, slow over rate, Park knew time wasn’t on their side, as they looked to bowl the visitors out. However, they made the perfect start as Safi found turn and bounce in the track, and had Taylor caught at leg slip for 5. A smart field change from Foster saw Richardson well caught at short cover by Khalid Wahbi, and Wigan 7 for 2.
Safi continued to torment the visitors as Joe Burrows and Jake Leyland couldn’t handle the Pakistani left-arm spinner, leaving them reeling at 37 for 4.
Aaron Redmond and Josh Boyden provided some respite as they put on 37 for the fifth wicket, but Safi couldn’t be stopped as he trapped Redmond in front for 31. The score 74 for 5.
Ashraf Nawab outfoxed Hampson for 13, but the pace of the game changed as Adanan Miakhel launched a brutal counter attack to try and get Wigan back into the contest. He hit 4 sixes on his way to 41 from just 27 balls, before the reintroduction of Baker into the attack saw his downfall, as he was well caught by Foster at mid-on. The score now 146 for 7 and the game well into the last hour.
Safi claimed a fifth wicket and Park’s eighth of the day, as he trapped Patrick Howley in front for 18, leaving Park close to a famous win. Daniel Yates survived a huge LBW shout late on off Safi and alongside Boyden, managed to hang on for a draw.
Hird and Safi’s brilliance couldn’t get Park over the line, which may have been much different had they received a few more overs back. The performance does leave Park with plenty of positives heading into next week’s clash with Orrell Red Triangle.
The 3rd XI claimed an excellent two wicket win over Sefton Park, on Saturday, at Cannon Hill. Park bowled their opponents out for 155, before Jake Hubble’s brilliant, unbeaten 55, guided Park to victory. The result moves them up to second in the table, just 33 points behind Formby, whom they travel to next week in a big title clash.
The 4th XI unfortunately fell to a six wicket defeat against Wavertree on Saturday. 49 from Ellis Irving and 33 from Mason Cockcroft took park to 155 for 7 declared from 45 overs. However, a hundred from the Wavertree opening batsmen took them to victory. The result leaves the 4s sixth in Division One, as they host Alder next weekend.