THE last week of the season has a pointer towards the future for St Helens Cricket Club.
Firstly, the Under-20s side progressed to the semi-finals of the Liverpool and District Under-20 competition with a crushing win over Prestatyn.
The following day, Danny Roberts’ Under-17s produced a scintillating batting performance in comprehensively beating Sutton in the Wigan and District Cup final.
However, the first XI continued to struggle, failing to defend a below-par 170 against Skelmersdale.
The defeat made it eight straight losses, which has seen Saints slump from second to 10th.
The afternoon started brightly, with Adam Irwin and Jack Graham taking the score to 52 without loss against some loose new ball bowling, Irwin scoring 53.
However, the batting problems which have plagued St Helens all summer reared their head again and they were soon 100-8.
Adam Friar (42) attacked and brought about respectability at 170 all out.
Skelmersdale began their reply poorly, opener Till inexplicably offering no shot to a poker straight delivery and being out lbw.
Waqar Khan scratched around, initially, but opened up later on, scoring an important 50.
Skem skipper Ben Maddocks also grafted, and brought up his 50 as the game was won with five wickets down.
Mace Convenience Store (Chain Lane) was this weekend’s match ball sponsor.
The third team’s title hopes are over after a sloppy performance condemned them to consecutive losses.
Liam Gaskell scored his second 50 of the season, but received no support, before loose bowling allowed Leigh to cruise home.
n AFTER winning the toss, Rainhill had to elect to bat to push for maximum points against Prestatyn.
Rainhill’s openers never looked in any trouble from the Welsh attack, with the 191-run opening partnership from Mike Rotheram (108) and Mohammed Qureshi (94) making the Prestatyn fielders chase leather all round the Victoria Terrace ground.
Phil Veacock then had licence to thrill and his quickfire 30 let Rainhill declare on 240-2 off 54 overs.
Because Prestatyn had bowled their overs quickly, their batsmen would receive at least 60 overs to pass the home total.
Alas, their batting display was similar to their bowling, and their place at the bottom of the league is a true reflection of their form.
Wickets fell regularly, and, at 45-7, any real hope of chasing the total was nonexistent.
Five Rainhill bowlers had success with the ball. Qureshi (3-31 from 14 overs), Ziafat Ashraf (2-13 off four) and Veacock (2-9 off four) led the way. Gareth Friday (25) and Williams (16) showed some resistance, but this was short-lived. Prestatyn were 97 all out from 33 overs.
Rainhill second XI fought out a draw against Moorfield seconds.
Rainhill were asked to bat first, and apart from opener Joe Harvey, no other Rainhill batsman could play Liam Drane (6-67). Harvey decided the best way to defend was attack, and he bludgeoned everything that came his way.
His score of 132 was the only one of the top six batsmen in double figures. A late order flurry from Ashish Vij (22) and Patrick Leadbetter (14) allowed a declaration on 224-9.
In response, Moorfield were able to play variable bounce. Only one of their top six batsmen failed to get into double figures, with Terry Buck (79 no) being the best.
Alex Storey (4-64) kept the response in check, and the game petered out to a draw, Moorfield finishing on 189-6 in 40 overs.
n RAINFORD suffered a 43-run defeat at Northern in the Bridging Finance Solutions Liverpool Competition Premier Division.
They made a bright start after inviting the home side to bat, with Michael Lambert dismissing both openers with 35 on the board.
James Cole (53) and Chris Tipper (48) then put Northern in the driving seat, although Rainford were made to pay for dropping chances from both of them.
With rain in the air, the Crosby-based outfit pressed on to 190 before declaring for the loss of seven wickets, JJ Williams notching two stumpings and Andy Davies and Andrew Pickavance nipping in to take a wicket apiece.
The Rainford reply never really got out of second gear as they were reduced to 40-5 with Richard Stanyon claiming 3-30.
Pravin Tambe (22) and an excellent fighting knock from Michael Lambert (58) gave Rainford some hope, with the momentum continued briefly by JJ Williams and Shaun Anders.
However, John Wildman’s leg spin (3-26) brought the innings to a swift end, with the visitors losing the last three wickets for one run.
With five games left, Mark Williams’ side approach a crucial bank holiday double header.
Third-placed New Brighton visit the Jubilee Recreation Ground on Saturday, while on Monday Rainford travel to Hightown.
Rainford second XI continued their good run of form with a five-wicket win over Southport Trinity.
Andrew Harrison (5-16) and skipper Phil Curran (3-25) combined to dismiss Trinity for 107, before Harrison performed with bat, scoring 44 as Rainford coasted home.