It was a glorious weekend for both Old Scotch teams as first the A Team held their nerve to complete a pulsating run chase against Old Trinity at Trinity Playing Fields, while the Celebrities at home on the Meares attacked the steep challenge of chasing down the MCC's impressive 198 to win by reaching the target for the loss of only three wickets as they stormed to victory in emphatic fashion in a welter of boundaries.
On Saturday, the A Team faced off against Old Trinity at Trinity Playing Fields - an always difficult task. On the typically slow Hudson Oval outfield, Old Trinity's score of 160 looked very competitive, when past clashes were taken as a form guide. The star with the ball was live wire fast man Will Hayes who benefited from some careless Old Trinity batting - but a five wicket haul is still a five wicket haul! Skipper Matt Grose was his usual miserly self, conceding only 20 runs from his eight over spell along with picking up a wicket and Tom Murray who was economical with his finger spinners.
Openers Hosking and Melville set about the task of reeling in the Trinity total in a considered and careful manner as befitting their status of batsmen of class. An early blow for the Scotchies was the loss of Tim Hosking LBW for 12 to one that looked to have pitched outside the line. But, a series of close LBW shouts by the Trinity outfit was bound to bear fruit for persistent, tight bowling.
Tom Murray strode to the wicket at number 3, and immediately made his presence felt with a series of savage strokes to - and over - the boundary, to give his team mates heart. Melville played the perfect foil to continue his recent run of impressive batting. Melville was the next batsman to fall, when he was stumped dancing whilst down the pitch. Melville's composed 39 was exactly what the Scotchies required to get things off to the best possible start. At 2 for 99, the boys knew they still had a difficult fight on their hands with the outfield playing slow.
The polished young dynamo Sam Murray joined his brother at the crease and the two looked to have the game well and truly under control, when disaster struck when there was a terrible mix up that saw Tom sent back by Sam to narrowly make it back to his ground, only for the quick thinking bowler to immediately turn and throw to the keeper at the strikers end to catch Sam Murray narrowly out of his ground, after he had to quickly turn and make his ground after he was spectating the outcome of sending his older brother back. It was a calamitous run out in every sense; from the questionable call for a second run by Tom, to the sending back of Tom by Sam, to Sam ball watching and not turning earlier to make his ground. It needlessly handed Trinity a free wicket when they had seemingly run out of ideas. The Murray brothers were still arguing the rights and wrongs of the run out long after the game was over with no signs of détente between the brothers.
Next man was in-form Celebrities batsman, Luke James, who has been in imperious form so far this season. With 39 runs still needed and seven wickets still in hand, optimism was still high...especially with Tom Murray still at the crease batting with consummate skill. But score board pressure took it's toll and James was uncharacteristically nervy when his was bowled by a straight ball for a duck. The Scotchies on the sidelines were now nervously shifting in their seats, as things were starting to go awry. But, the Adonis that is Alasdair Reeves soon eased the tension with a wonderful supporting innings alongside Tom Murray as the runs began to flow again. With five runs still required for victory, Murray succumbed to a tired looking pull shot for a marvellous 64; and innings worth considerably more, considering the slowish outfield. Incoming Harry Short duly crunched an emphatic boundary to win the game for the Scotchies to raucous cheers from the sidelines. A fantastic win.
The Celebrities fronted up the next day with the bar set extremely high by the A Team the day before. Having lost the toss and being required to bowl, things looked rather grim in the opening ten overs as the MCC batsmen went berserk and pummelled boundaries at will to be on target for a possible 250 plus total. Nick Jamieson came on and made the big break through when he removed danger man Aiyappan with a searing Yorker that trapped the MCC batsman in front. At drinks, the MCC were reigned in to a still impressive 2 for 90. With O'Shea injured and unable to bowl after only four overs, things looked bleak, yet the young Scotchies dug deep and performed admirably to limit the MCC to a still imposing 7 for 198. Jamieson was the star with the ball with 2 for 23, with young tyros Rehn Smith (2/39) and Chenie Byrne-Jones (2/31) also performing very well. The big man John Stavris took a blinding caught and bowled and Tom "Spike" Edney pulled off a miraculous tumbling outfield catch near the boundary off a massive sky ball. Jamieson's matter-of-fact reverse sledge to shut down an attempted sledge from an unfortunate MCC batsman left all those within earshot guffawing in laughter (you had to be there).
So the Celebrities were left the unenviable task to score 199 to win. Far from impossible - but, one would have to go back threeyears for the last time the Celebrities chased down a target in that vicinity. To put it succinctly, history was not on the Celebrities side, and nor was, it seemed, the good Lord as weather forecasts predicted a storm that would threaten to wash the game out soon after 5pm. If things got off to a bad start, we could always splay for the rain - eh lads? Nothing doing.
After Nicholas was caught behind for 2 in just the third over, the warning signs all looked ominous, but somebody forgot to tell Danny O'Shea who batted as if he was playing Stick Cricket on his PC. CRASH!! A boundary through cover. WALLOP!! A cut past point for another boundary. KABOOM!! A towering six over mid wicket. The man was unstoppable! At the other end, the Old-Dog-For-A-Hard-Road Mark "Money Shot" Griffiths looked as flabbergasted as the MCC bowlers at O'Shea's brazen assault. Playing the perfect foil to Dosha's belligerence, Griffo looked immovable. The two batsmen advanced the score to an extraordinary 1/107 at drinks - well ahead of the run-rate. Suddenly, the seemingly impossible seemed possible! O'Shea eventually succumbed to fatigue in the 25th over to hole out for a spectacular 78. With the score on 2/139, the game was far from over, especially when last weeks meek batting collapse almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory...but momentum is a funny beast.
Jamieson despite being rusty after a lengthy lay off from the game, still played some classy shots to keep the ball rolling in the Celebrities favour. When Jamo was dismissed for 11 and 31 runs still needed, dark clouds now hung over head and light rain started to fall..it looked like the Lord was going to confine the Celebrities charge to victory to a watery grave. After the washout at Xavier when the Scotchies held all the aces, this would surely have been the straw that broke the camels back if there was a repeat. But, like the all time greats of yore, Skipper Matt Foskey in a thought bubble declare that he would go out there and smash the runs as quickly as possible before the rain came if he got out there. "Cometh the hour..." oh crikey, must I wheel out any more cringe worthy clichés? But the Fozz was a man on a mission and good to his word, he launched a pugnacious assault on the MCC bowlers that was no less than O'Shea earlier. Foskey blasted 29 runs in little more than four overs to emphatically seal an incredible run chase with a back foot crunch over mid off for four that elicited a massive roar from those watching. Mark Griffiths was still there...as always, on 58 not out, to yet again highlight his value and guile.
The scoreboard read 3/201...a seven wicket victory against the always difficult MCC. What it all means will become clearer in the coming games, but the Celebrities are gathering momentum that could well define their season.
This Saturday, both Scotchie teams will be playing at home for the final game before the Christmas break. The A Team host Old Melbournians on the Main Oval at Scotch in the traditional pre-Christmas clash, whilst the Celebrities take on Melbourne High Old Boys on the lower Melville Oval, in what is shaping to be a wonderful game.
It will be a carnival atmosphere and we urge all those that have cardinal, gold and blue blood in their veins to come on down and support the lads - it is always appreciated.
In the meantime...