The A Team playing on the Scotch College Main Oval in the annual grudge match against Old Melbournians elected to bat first, after skipper Matty Grose won the toss. The A Team have been winning in spite of patchy performances, with very few stand outs thus far in comparison to this time last summer when Tim Hosking, Sam Shearer and Will Hayes had swept all before them. So it was hoped that the big occasion would bring out the A game from the 1st XI boys. Sadly, a lethargic display with the bat saw the A Team compile a distinctly sub par 144 all out on a ground that has a notoriously fast outfield.
The rot started when last years centurion in the corresponding match, Tim "Faf" Hosking, was strangled down the leg side for 4, with the score on 9. The form batsman of this summer Cam "Mark Holden" Melville was the next to depart for 13 and the score on 19. Tom Murray and English gappy Luke James launched a rescue operation that looked promising for a while, before James once again threw away a promising start to hole out for 17 and the score on a rather shaky 3 for 55. The Adonis that is Alisdair Reeves, so often the hero in these situations, soon also departed for 5, and with the score now 4 for 62, the alarm bells were being dusted off.
In a crisis such as this, it required a brilliant man. A natural super hero that children can look up to as a role model. A man so impervious to pressure that he thrives on such near impossible challenges. Enter stage left, the King himself, George Dick. King George has been seldom seen around these parts in the last two years having only played one match in that time, but today, with the sun shining on his shoulders, the great man strode to the wicket with purpose and resolve. Teaming up with Tommy Murray, the two men had been in such situations before, and King George is always up for the fight.
With the score progressing to 92, all Scotchie hearts were again filling with optimism, but then, as it seemed to be scripted on this day, Tom Murray who had been batting with his customary panache, was dismissed for 34. Englishman Lee "Jeremy Irons" Stephens was dismissed for a duck, and 6 for 94 soon turned into 7 for 100 when a lame George Dick, who was batting with a runner, was caught behind for 17. The King departed, and the A Team were in disarray. Harry "Shorty" Short, Skipper Matty "Henrik Kristofferson" Grose and last years Grand Final hero Will "Purple" Hayes all batted sensibly to at least restore some level of respectability to the score card, but, 144 looked a skinny total on the lightning fast Main Oval.
And so it proved, with Old Melbournian opening batsman Waring launching a kamikaze assault on the Old Scotch bowlers as he smashed the flustered opening bowlers to all points of the compass in his quick fire 47 off the opening 6 overs. With the score 1/51, Waring had scored 47 of the 48 runs scored off the bat. Effectively, the A Team were dead in the water, as a pumped up Old Melbournians charged to a memorable victory, reaching the target with 7 wickets to spare and nearly 15 overs in hand. In was a shellacking, and a much needed wake up call that the reigning premiers are the hunted and need to respond as champion teams do.
Over on the Meares, the contrast could not have been any more extreme. Celebrities skipper Matthew Foskey won the toss and had no hesitation electing to bat in wonderful conditions for cricket. Mark Griffiths started in a blaze of glory and such was his influence, that it even dragged the normally torpid Nicholas along with him in the slip stream. The pair had put on 55 in 9.3 overs, when Nicholas confusing aspiration with ability, was plumb LBW when attempting an audacious pull shot off a ball in line with the stumps. This brought young gun Oliver McLeish to the crease, and he immediately looked confident, getting off the mark with a crisp shot that bespoke the lad's class. Sadly for Ollie, he was the victim of a questionable decision when he was adjudged caught behind down the leg side to a ball that appeared to hit nothing more than his thigh pad on the way through.
No one was to know that at 2 for 66, this would be the last wicket to fall for the innings as skipper Matt Foskey purposefully strode to the wicket, his chest pumped out, brimming with confidence after his return to form last week when he pillaged 29 unbeaten runs off circa four overs to finish off that game in style. In harness with Old Man River Mark Griffiths, Foskey proceeded to loot boundaries at will as the pair took advantage of some friendly bowling and generous fielding from the MHOB's. At drinks, the score was an impressive 2/112, but the fireworks were only just getting started. Post drinks, Griffiths provided the steadying influence at one end, and Foskey went berserk at the other, playing the innings of his life, as he crashed boundaries at will and the score mounted exponentially.
The milestones were ticked off with almost a monotonous regularity. 50 partnership. 50 to Foskey, 50 to Griffiths. 100 partnership. 150 partnership. 100 to Foskey, 100 to Griffiths and finally, 200 partnership that remained unbroken as both batsmen for the second week running remained unbeaten. Foskey registered 116 not out - his maiden ton in all forms off cricket. If Foskey was nervous approaching his milestone, he didn't show it, as he raced to his ton with a brace of sixes. The enigma that is Mark "Money Shot" Griffiths continues to defy age, as he posted yet another century in his storied career. Griffiths finished the innings on 102 not out, thus completing two weeks in a row where he has not been dismissed, having batted almost 76 overs and having made 160 runs in that time. In front of a good sized crowd that applauded their heroics, this was glorious cricket.
Having been annihilated by the same opponent last round last year, the Celebrities were determined to turn the tables and exact a measure of revenge, and the bowlers responded. The break through took a while to come, but, the opening bowlers von Moger and Stavris were miserly. Julian Beard was brought into the attack, and while it took a couple overs to find his radar, Beard's pace proved disconcerting to the MHOB's batsmen with his rockets screaming through to the keeper and edges off the bat flying over and sometimes through the packed slips cordon. Beard ended the day with the figures of 3 for 45. In his come back game, Sam Neal kept tidily and even bowled six overs to take 1 for 34.
Melbourne High Old Boys were dismissed for 151 and the Celebrities go into the Christmas break riding on a high, with only one narrow one wicket loss for the first half of the season. The Celebrities will be looking to build on the momentum in the second half of the season and make this a season to remember. Conversely, the A Team will be playing one more game this week before the Christmas break, where they will be looking to bounce back this Saturday at home against Old Geelong. The large crowd that attended this weeks double header was greatly appreciated by all the playing group and helped make Scotch a true home ground in atmosphere. So, if you want to see some great cricket in wonderful surrounds, what better place could there be than at Meares Oval this Saturday?
In the mean time...