WALSHAW kept their promotion hopes from the GMCL’s Division One A very much alive with a thumping nine-wicket win at Stayley on Saturday.

The Sycamore Road side eased to a 217 target with almost 16 overs remaining to win their seventh straight game and move within five points of second-placed Royton as part of a jam-packed top of the table.

Only four points separate the top four with five games to go.

Leaders Greenfield have 70 points, Royton 67, Whalley Range 64 and Walshaw 63.

And captain Mikey Watt and Co host Royton on Saturday and then Whalley Range in the final round (September 16).

“If we win those, we’ll be there and thereabouts,” said a happy skipper.

“Quite a few of the top three, four or five play each other, including ourselves. 

“On that basis, it’s in our own hands really.

“That’s the beauty of relegation and promotion cricket. There’s always something to play for.

"In this division, there isn’t really anyone who has a dead rubber.

“We’ve already lost to Stretford, who sit at the bottom. Anyone can beat anyone.”

After the hosts elected to bat, seamer Shabnan Ali starred with 6-74 from 14.4 overs having come on first change. New-ball duo Connor Weal and Sam Rhodes struck twice apiece.

Five of Ali’s six wickets were bowled before the chase was led by opener Saif Bhojani’s 107 not out off 88 balls.

He shared an unbroken second-wicket stand of 149 inside 17 overs with new signing Ibrar Latif, who finished unbeaten on 75 in only his third match since moving from the Huddersfield League.

Their top-order success meant former India Test batting pro Wasim Jaffer was not even required.

“It was a really good win,” said Watt. 

“Stayley have been in really good form, so to knock the runs off with just one wicket down was a great effort.

“We’re putting some form together at the right time in the season.

“We wanted to bowl them out for a few less runs if we’re honest, but they had a couple of good knocks from their captain and pro, who got 50 odd and 40.

“We would have preferred 180, but it was quite a small ground and a decent batting track, so we were still confident.

“Shabnan bowled brilliantly. There’s a little slope at Stayley, and he hit a fifth-stump line and brought it back.

"He generally moves it back, but the slope exaggerated that. He bowled a few deliveries that were unplayable.

“The key to the chase was getting a steady start and to see off the new ball because their pro (Hamza Nadeem) is a seam-bowling pro. 

“We knew if we saw off the first 10 overs without losing a wicket, we’d be in a strong position and we did that.

“Saif’s got both his hundreds against Stayley now, and Ibrar only signed for us two or three weeks ago. 

“He lives in the Old Trafford area, but the travelling to Huddersfield was doing his head in. 

“He’s a friend of Wasim’s, so he was more than happy to come and play for us. He’s a great addition.”

Watt also reserved praise for Walshaw’s second and third teams, who are enjoying good seasons. The seconds are in with a good chance of promotion from Division Four West.