A glorious Sunday where both Old Scotch teams recorded significant home victories in the run up to finals, with the First XI recorded a 5 wicket win over Old Melbournians on the Meares and The Celebrities holding on to win by 6 runs in an epic top of the table clash with old Wesley on the Lower Oval.
In the main event, Old Melbournians won the toss and elected to bat and were restricted to a slightly sub par 6 for 163, with the wickets shared round. Noteworthy performances with the ball were skipper Mattie Grose who was his usual thrifty self with 1 for 8 off four tidy overs and Johnny McLaughlin who took 1 for 16 off eight excellent overs of probing off spin.
Despite the early loss of both Melville and Shearer, Tim Hosking with 37 and the in-form Tommy Murray with 59, catapulted the Scotchies towards the victory target which was duly achieved with the loss of five wickets when John McLaughlin and Seb Armstrong both contributed 20 not out to chase down the Old Melbournian score. A marvellous victory against a strong opponent further bolsters the Scotchies hold on a top four ladder position heading into finals.
In the Celebrities game against Old Wesley on the Lower Oval, the stakes were high. In the top of the table clash between these two outfits two weeks back, Old Wesley trounced The Celebrities convincingly by 8 wickets to put a massive dent in their finals aspirations. So the Celebrities were desperate to turn the tables on their highly fancied opponent. The major stumbling block was the absence of the entire pace attack of Angus Harlock, Ben Summerfield and John Stavris who were all out. In their place, a trio of unheralded teenagers were entrusted with the responsibility of leading the team forward.
Batting first, the Celebrities made a slow star as the excellent Wesleyan bowling tied down the batsmen. Nicholas was the first to take the bait as he edged behind with the score on 10, and then wizard in whites Sam Murray was dismissed by the same bowler Hewitt when a moving ball caught the back edge of the bat and flew to deep point where the fieldsman took a fine catch diving backwards to dismiss Murray for a duck. Two for 14, and things were looking grim. Griffiths dug in and the smug brilliance of Matthew Foskey kick-started the innings, before in freakish circumstances, Foskey was bizarrely run out when a searing straight drive by Griffiths was touched by the bowler and the ball ricocheted onto the stumps leaving the backing up Foskey stranded.
O'Shea joined Griffiths at the crease and in their contrasting styles set about restoring order. Griffiths with his usual deft cuts and square drives and O'Shea with shots ranging from the copybook to the extraordinary. Griffiths was stumped for 52 and the score on 109. Wickets kept falling, but O'Shea kept swinging, playing some incredible shots. Eventually O'Shea was dismissed for 70, and there was still much work to do, to make a competitive total. Dave Armstrong then played his best hand in circa two years as he made a wonderful 27 not out to help the Celebrities to a very respectable 9 for 197. But with recent memories of Old Wesley chasing down 165 with relative ease for the loss of only two wickets - and that against the Celebrities full scale bowling line up, there was no over confidence at the tea break.
The new ball was thrown to Dave Armstrong to bowl his slow wobblers and Danny O'Shea with his left arm offies, and the tactic worked in as much as Old Wesley seemed thrown onto the back foot at this unorthodox new ball pairing. O'Shea made the early break through before teenager Will "Bonners" Bonwick captured the prised wicket of Idrees for 18. At the drinks break, Old Wesley were 2 for 64, needing 133 off the last 20 overs. Not impossible, but there was going to be fireworks in the last 20 overs either way.
Wickets started to fall at regular intervals after the break, including an incredible triple wicket maiden by skipper Matthew Foskey, who ripped the heart out of the Old Wesley middle order with his assorted long hops, half volleys and full tosses that somehow took wickets, including one full toss that was smashed high and long onto the fat side of the ground. On the Meares, or most other grounds, it would have been a six. But at Lowers, James Hicks took a wonderful juggling catch a meter inside the boundary. By the 36th over, Old Wesley were 9 for 154. Surely, it was now game over with 44 runs still needed and 24 balls in which to get them, the game surely was safe for the Celebrities?
After nearly six hours in the sun perhaps complacency set in and a belief that the game was completely safe took hold amongst the Celebrities. To be sure, the players revved each other up with shouts of "stay focussed", but the focus was clearly not there as Roger Kong threw the bat at everything along with the last man Savedra. A French cut raced to the fine leg boundary. Other risky shots came off as well as some kamikaze running between wickets. Coming into the last over to be bowled by O'Shea, the Wesleyans still needed 19 to win, much, much closer than they should have been. No chance off Dosha's bowling, all were thinking. A single was scampered off the first ball, and then Kong clumped a slog sweep over cow corner to the boundary. "OK, he won't be able to do that again" most would have been thinking. Then BLAM! an incredible shot over cover for six suddenly made the impossible seem possible. Eight runs needed off three balls. How did it ever come to this? However, O'Shea's experience kicked in, and a dot ball, a single, and a run out off the last ball ended a pulsating encounter with the Celebrities triumphing by 6 runs.
With three games left in the regular season, both teams are in the top four, but in such even seasons, nobody is yet safe, so next weeks games are crucial. The "A Team" venture over to Barkers Road to take on Old Xavier who will be looking to turn the tables after their recent showing against Old Scotch, and the Celebrities are at home hosting the MCC in yet another important encounter.
With excitement levels at an all time high, do yourself a favour and come on down and support the Old Scotch boys as they strive to make this a season to remember. In the mean time...