Northern captain James Cole hailed a “bonus” win for his side after they comfortably beat Southport & Birkdale in the only Love Lane Liverpool Competition game to defy Saturday’s weather.

Despite a two-and-half-hour delay, Chris Laker’s rapid 77 enabled Cole to call his men off at 190/6 - giving Tom Sephton enough time to do Tom Sephton things, and bowl the visitors out with 5/46. It was his 50th five-wicket haul in league cricket.

“Tom didn’t even bowl well today,” said Cole after Liam Grey, who took 4/6, pinned Bobby Wincer to wrap up a 102-run victory. “But even when he’s not at his best, he controls an end and he’s a very dangerous bowler.

“He’s been the best left-arm spinner in the league for the last 10 years.”

Cole described seamers Grey and Ryan Maddock - the latter having nipped out the experienced David Snellgrove just before the last hour, at precisely the time a young S&B side needed his know-how and cool head - as “two of the best around”.

“They cooperate very well together,” Cole added. “We know that if we can score the runs, we’ll be very competitive.”

While clubs around the region were taking one look at their sodden squares and pulling the plug on Saturday morning, Moor Park had the extra protection of having been looked after all week for the visit of Lancashire’s 2nd XI.

Only Laker got to grips with the conditions though, hitting seven fours and three sixes.

Cole said: “Chris set the standard and made it so we only batted 30 overs then gave them 45 back.”

Northern are now the only side in the Premier Division to boast three wins from the first three games.

Cole added: “We just want to keep on - obviously, it’s a big game next week at Bootle, and we just want to keep on playing well and we won’t be far away.

“We’re building a bit of momentum - it’s nice to win, and it’s a bit of a bonus that no-one else played.”

From S&B’s perspective, the highlights of the game were a flying boundary catch by Wincer to dismiss Alec McLoughlin, and a stylish but insubstantial cameo by Lancs academy prospect Basil Sultan.

Cole’s opposite number, Chris Cunningham, won the toss and felt the late start could have benefitted his side.

But Laker’s blitz put paid to that - and Cunningham found his batting line-up lacking.

He said: “We tried to control it from the start, but I think trying to chase 190 in 45 overs was something we realised we couldn’t do.

“So it was just a case of trying to accumulate as many points as we could - and we just came a little bit unstuck.”

Cunningham added: “We came here with every intention to do the best we could, and try to put ourselves out there, but it was just one of those days.”

Their top order will soon be boosted by 21-year-old Sri Lankan Dinuka Dilshan, who should be available for next Saturday’s game against Wigan, Covid tests permitting.

After opening the season with 264/3 at Wallasey, S&B have recorded 191/20 over their next two games. But Cunningham is confident they can put things right.

He said: “We started really well with the bat, but the next week against Orrell our focus wasn’t there and we thought we could score runs more easily than we did.

“But I’m backing the boys to score runs throughout the season - I’m sure we’ll bounce back.”

Birkenhead Park batter Josh Downie, who died last week aged 24
Birkenhead Park batter Josh Downie, who died last week aged 24

Downie, who joined Park from Hucknall in Nottinghamshire last year, was taken ill during a net session and died on Thursday evening.

Team-mates and friends laid flowers and put out their bats on Park’s pitch on Saturday, while social media overflowed with tributes from around Merseyside and beyond to a universally popular and well-loved man.

In the Premier Division of the Cheshire County Cricket League, Oxton came agonisingly close to victory over Toft, but had to settle for a draw.

The visitors from east Cheshire declared on 153/6 from 30 overs, leaving their hosts the same length of time to chase. The Wirral men needed 13 from the last over, delivered by Andrew Jackson to Luke Filer; after two off the first ball, three dots looked to have ended the chase.

But the fifth disappeared for six, leaving Oxton five short of victory - Filer, who finished on 44*, could only manage a single.

In Division Two of the Southport & District Amateur Cricket League, Ryan Hughes’ 63 helped Burscough to a six-wicket win over Churchtown, after the visitors had posted 117/5 from the 32 overs possible.

Division Three saw Moss Side Maghull’s Khizar Raja take 5/15 to dismiss Dalton’s 2nd XI for just 47 - the win was wrapped up with nine wickets to spare.