Salford Blue Jays were one run and one wicket away from making the finals of the GMACL 6-a-side tournament on Sunday at St Paul’s.
The 5-over-a-side competition, with all players bar the wicket-keeper bowling an over each and batsmen retiring when they reach 20 runs scored, was a break for Salford from the League. The Blue Jays were competing against three of the top four in the league - Ashton Allstars, West Didsbury and Olympic MSJ.
The day started in the best possible way as fast bowler Jamie Benjamin hit the top of off-stump with his first delivery against Ashton. He went for only four runs in his first over. However, from there Ashton’s big-hitters took advantage of Salford’s slower bowlers as they reached 65-4, Caleb Blake chipping in with two wickets in the final over.
In reply, Salford openers, Jonny Wineberg and Rafi Dines, took 15 off the first over, but could not keep up with the run-rate. They put on 28 for the first wicket before Dines was caught for 10. Wineberg then retired on 20 not out. A swift 8 from Jeremy Korn took Salford to a total of 39 with much to do to qualify for the final.
In their second match, Salford put West Didsbury, the eventual winners, in to bat and kept their bowling much tighter. Adam Schogger, in for Korn, picked up the first wicket, but it was the final over bowling of off-spinner Ross Bloomberg that was quite superb. He picked up three wickets, all caught in the deep, as Salford restricted West Didsbury to 41-4.
Salford looked in control of the match as Wineberg and Dines took 16 off the first over. They reached 38 without losing a wicket at the end of the fourth over leaving only 4 to win off the last. Wineberg scrambled a single of the third ball of the final over and then had to retire having reach 20 again. A mix-up then saw Dines run out of the next ball for 19. Blake’s quick single meant Salford only needed 1 to tie the scores off the last ball, which would give Salford the victory with less wickets lost. The final ball was an outswinger that Ross Bloomberg felt had gone wide. He looked at the umpire for the signal, but it did not appear and, at 40-1, Salford suffered their second loss.
With the final looking out of reach, Salford chose to bat first in their final match against Olympic MSJ. Wineberg (8) and Dines (11) could only put on 13 for the first wicket, but some clever batting by Blake (12 not out) steered Salford to 45-3.
Olympic then took 19 off their first over to put Salford on the back-foot. However, Salford fought back with some tight bowling and three wickets as Olympic reached 42 after four overs. Bloomberg’s first ball was a wide that Olympic ran on leaving the scores tied and Salford looking down the barrel. Bloomberg then bowled Kamran for a duck, but that brought Sohaib back to the crease, who had previously retired on 20. It seemed that he had hit the winning runs, cutting the ball through backward point, but he had stepped back onto his stumps, dislodging the bails, and was given out hit wicket, leaving Bloomberg on a hat-trick and Salford one wicket away from the victory.
The hope was, however, short-lived, as the next ball was hooked to the boundary and Salford went down by 1 wicket.
Bloomberg emerged the highest wicket-taker on the day with six wickets in his three overs and Salford can be positive about their performance as they look to move up the league table in the second half of the season.