Rainhill's under-9s reach two finals in Ainsdale tournament
Rainhill's under 9s reached not only one but two finals in the Ainsdale CC Tournament and, although they finished on the losing side in their respective action-packed matches, our two sides performed incredibly well against very talented opposition.
Rainhill fielded two sides: an A team (pictured, above) and a B team. The squad was randomly split and it didn't necessarily follow that the A team was stronger than the B side. The first round was a group stage consisting of ten teams: the top four would go into the semi-finals while teams ranked fifth to eighth would compete in the plate semi-finals. This confused some of the youngsters, but they soon understood when it was explained that the plate event was similar to the Europa League!
Rainhill's B team (pictured, left) were in very good shape and soon established themselves as one of the teams to beat. Ben's bowling was particularly effective and some of the batting on display was excellent. The A team's fortunes were more mixed but they picked up a valuable win against Southport and were unlucky in some of the other games that were very close contests.
Rainhill B were cruising into the semi-finals when they met Rainhill A in the penultimate group match. The encounter between the sides was a close-fought one and the A team pushed their friends all the way but fell just short in their quest for two points. In their final match the A team needed to beat Ainsdale to be sure of progressing to the plate semi-finals, while the B side took on Formby A. Both sides were unbeaten and at stake was the honour of topping the group.
Rainhill B played some superb cricket but Formby A were that bit too good and emerged victorious by 10 runs, topping the group in the process. The A side also lost, meaning they finished ninth and were eliminated from the contest. Or so everyone thought.
However, Sefton Park withdrew from the event meaning that the A team were reinstated. The bad news was that they were drawn against Formby B, who had finished in fifth place and had already proved themselves to be tough opponents. However, batting first, Rainhill A produced their best performance of the competition, completing a surprisingly straightforward win over Formby B thanks to some positive batting and some good fielding. Nervousness seemed to kick in towards the end when overthrows gave away runs unnecessarily, but overall the A team deserved their victory. It took everyone by surprise, not least Rainhill's players who a short while previously thought they'd been eliminated from the competition and were now playing in a final against Liverpool.
The B team meanwhile had been playing Fleetwood Hesketh, a team that epitomised sportsmanship and fair play. Fleetwood were tough opponents but it was Rainhill B that edged a tense semi-final. There were congratulations all round when the respective teams heard of each other's successes.
In the plate final Rainhill A posted 226 and, in spite of regularly taking Liverpool wickets, some big-hitting from their opponents meant that the A team had to settle for second place. This they did with great magnanimity, applauding their opponents and proudly collecting their runners-up medals and trophy.
The main final was a hard fought event between the two best teams in the tournament: Rainhill B and Formby A, meaning that a new name on the trophy was guaranteed. There were just nine runs in it, but it was the team from Formby who emerged triumphant. It was a great game and a terrific advertisement for junior cricket.
Rainhill's players are understandably proud of what they have achieved and, while inevitably a little disappointed not to have won their respective finals, they will surely reflect on a job well done. Some of these players were taking part in their first ever competition and they performed commendably. All involved - and the coaches! - were a credit to Rainhill Cricket Club and no doubt we will be hearing more about them in the future.