New Horizons (2000-2009)
John Rotheram became chairman of the cricket club in 2000, taking over from Ian Marshall who had been a longstanding and successful chair. Under Mike Rotheram’s captaincy the first team were Division Two champions and Millennium Cup Winners.
Rainhill’s progress was aided by Paul Robinson, who had a two-season spell as a professional with the club. His left arm quick bowling and hard-hitting batting style produced several notable performances. Full statistics are not available but in 2001 his top score with the bat was 80 not out and his best bowling figures were 7-20.
Indian professional Vinay Dandekar played for the club at the end of the 2001 season, featuring in seven league games. His most impressive innings was a knock of 113 not out against Liverpool NALGO, which was particularly memorable as his personal contribution amounted for 68.1% of his team’s runs.
In 2002 Rehan Rafique from Pakistan became the club’s first ever full-season overseas professional. He helped Rainhill win the Kaufman Cup in a final played at Victoria Terrace.
In the following season Rainhill travelled to play St John’s from the Isle of Man in the Lancashire Cup and gained a famous victory. After scoring only 133-7 the home side were poised for victory at 132-5. Incredibly, Mattie Dale took 3 wickets and a run out from the last ball to see Rainhill secure victory by one run. The Manx team’s last five wickets fell in the space of nine balls.
2003 was a successful year for Rainhill. The second team were once again Norman Cottam Memorial Trophy winners. The first team managed by Ken Jordan and captained by Mike Rotheram, finished the year as Merseyside and Southport Alliance Champions, Kaufman Cup winners and Lever Cup winners. A league honours list from 2003 underlines just how good a season it was for the club. Rainhill’s success was aided by Rehan Rafique’s 35 wickets and 980 league runs (at an average of 57.65) which included two centuries. Mike Rotheram contributed an impressive 584 league runs in the season while Mark Kelly took a brilliant 80 league wickets at an average of 10.39. His six five-wicket hauls included best bowling figures of 8-14.
In 2004 James Titmus hit a total of 542 league runs with a best score of 68 not out against Norley Hall. Steve Jordan took 51 league wickets at an average of 15.18. The first team again won the Lever Cup, with Rafique scoring 55 against Moorfield, and reached the final of the Kaufman Cup for the third successive year, but were unable to complete the treble. At the end of 2004 Rehan Rafique left the club after three successful seasons, scoring over 3000 runs in League and cup cricket. His replacement as overseas professional was Australian Luke Swards, whose fast bowling produced 66 wickets in his first season with a best of 8-64.
Mike Rotheram scored 509 league runs in the 2005 season. Paul Ford scored an unbeaten 158 in a Lancashire Cup win. In the same year Peter Mercer finished his playing career after 30 consecutive years in the first team, scoring over 16000 runs (including seven centuries, all not out) and taking over 800 wickets in league cricket with a top score of 131 not out and best bowling of 9-17.
Ray Ford returned for a second spell in charge of the junior set-up in 2006, and remained coaching until 2011.
In 2006, Bangladeshi Test batsman Mohammad Ashraful was the overseas professional. He did not quite reach the expected heights in the league, scoring 310 runs in 11 games with a best score of 108 not out, but he hit a magnificent 202 in a cup game against Crosby St Mary’s in a winning total of 345. Rainhill, now captained by Paul Ford, finished as runners-up in the Merseyside and Southport Alliance and were promoted to the Liverpool and District Cricket Competition (LDCC). They also won the Kaufman Cup, easily beating Whitefield in the final with the help of an Ashraful half century.
2007 was Rainhill’s first season in the LDCC Division One – a major achievement for the club but, disappointingly, the season ended in relegation in spite of Mike Rotheram’s 597 league runs. Rotheram became the first Rainhill amateur player to achieve the milestone of 500 runs in the LDCC. Overseas player Andrew Ellis, from New Zealand, amassed an impressive 982 runs over the season including a match-winning 167 not out in his first game. He scored two other centuries but, unfortunately, injury limited his bowling to just 31 overs.
While the first team suffered relegation in spite of battling performances, the club’s under 13s were more successful and, under Ray Ford’s leadership, were crowned Merseyside Youth League and Cup Winners. Ryan Williams was selected for Lancashire’s under 13s.
Another talented teenager at Rainhill was Tom Sephton. Bowling for the first team in the 2007 and 2008 seasons, he took 23 and 36 wickets respectively. After a spell at Formby CC he moved to Northern CC where he established himself as a leading spin bowler in the Premier League. He is currently approaching 800 league wickets for all clubs – an astonishing achiecement.
In 2008 Rainhill’s first team bounced back from the disappointment of demotion and returned to the LDCC Division 1 as winners of the Merseyside and Southport Cricket Alliance. They were helped by overseas professional Khuran Shahzad, from Pakistan, who scored 1,034 league runs (including four centuries) with a top score of 147 not out in a win over Southport Trinity.
2008 was also a successful season for the under 15s, who were Merseyside Youth Divisional Champions and Cup Winners. Ryan Williams was selected to play for Lancashire under 14s.
Funding of £58,000 was secured by Ray Ford from the Landfill Communities Fund (with the club contributing £3,000) for a four-lane outdoor netting in a fenced area. This project marked a significant improvement in practicing facilities at the club.
In 2009 New Zealand test seam bowler Ian Butler played two games for Rainhill, taking 10 wickets including 7-15 against Maghull. His top score with the bat was 63 in a defeat at Highfield.
Rainhill proved competitive in the LDCC Division One in 2009, finishing eighth. In a successful year for the club, the second team – captained by Ray Ford – finished as champions of the Merseyside and Southport Cricket Alliance Division Two. They produced some strong batting performances, including an unbeaten 113 from Matt Dooling in a 10-wicket victory over Rainford. The third team also had a great season, ending the year as 3rd XI (Sunday) 1st Division (East) runners up. Ben Edmundson made his mark for the third team, carrying his bat for an unbeaten 124 against Orrell Red Triangle.
There was more success for the juniors, too. The under 13s nearly pulled off an incredible treble, winning the Merseyside Youth League and Cup and finishing on the losing side in the Lancashire Cup final. The under 15s, captained by Adam Hodgkinson, fared even better, winning the Merseyside Youth League and Cup, the Echo Cup and the Lancashire Cup. The quality of Rainhill’s junior players was such that, on the same day, 11 of them represented St Helens District in under 13s or under 15s teams. Ryan Heyes and Ryan Williams played for Lancashire’s under 15s.
At the end of an eventful decade for the club, Rainhill CC achieved Clubmark accreditation for the first time.