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Date: 27th July 2012
A Paul Edwards copyright exclusive for L&DCC Official Website.
Leaving a league can be a painful business: a club's members are saying goodbye to some old friends and, as often as not, to a way of playing cricket with which they have become comfortable. So how much more difficult is it to return to your original league after 14 summers elsewhere?
To judge by the experience of Birkenhead Park, not that hard at all. The Wirral club came back to the Liverpool Competition this summer and currently sit second in the Second Division, three points behind Parkfield Liscard with a game in hand. Chris Stenhouse's team have drawn two matches and lost just the one. They're doing fine.
"Moving to the Cheshire County League was done for the right reasons," said Park chairman David Evans, "but we've been welcomed back and the brand of cricket is attacking, which suits us down to the ground."
Nonetheless, Park's current squad became used to the playing regulations in the CCL and the Mellor Braggins League, both of which are fine, well-run organisations. There was bound to be something of a cricketing culture shock.
"We didn't know what to expect," said skipper Chris Stenhouse, whose 42 wickets at 10.69 have been instrumental in his team's fine season. "It's all been a bit of a learning curve for us, but we've found that there are some tough sides in the Second Division and also that we haven't had to forsake our attacking style of cricket. That's helped us to settle in.
"As yet I haven't really had to deal with the more tricky situations which timed cricket can throw up because we've managed to bowl sides out. But given that we were adjusting to a new league, it was probably not our intention to get promoted in our first season. My goal was simply to settle in and bring our juniors on, but having done so well, it's definitely our goal to be promoted now and, frankly, I'd be disappointed if we didn't get there."
Apart from Stenhouse's wickets and No3 Haroon Khan's 463 runs, you would do well to identify the major contributors to Park's excellent season, and that, too, is rather the skipper likes it.
"We're eleven cricketers, not just a pro and a couple of players," said Stenhouse. "We did have an overseas player but he broke his finger before the season got started.
"So overall I'm glad we came back," he said. "There is much more of a social side to the Liverpool Competition , it's very friendly and teams stay behind. We played against Newton-le-Willows in our first game of the season and Mark Wilkie was telling us all about the relationships that existed between the older Liverpool Competition clubs. We're very happy to play against the ex-Merseyside Competition sides but we are also looking forward to the chance to play teams like Sefton Park, Formby and Liverpool."
And for those who remember the old Birkenhead Park team, which was led with quiet authority by that calmest of skippers Dave Turner, there is the good news that the former captain is serving his club once again, this time as president, and that Ian McCormick has taken on the role of treasurer. Thus, past stalwarts have combined with Park's current crop of young players to give one of the Wirral's most famous cricket clubs a bright future.
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