A Gary Bennett inspired "A-Team" crushed Old Mentonians in the Grand Final rematch at home at Scotch on Sunday afternoon, while a lackluster Celebrities crashed to defeat against the highly fancied Old Caulfield Grammarians out at Glen Huntly Park on a cold, blustery day.
The day however, belonged to evergreen veteran Gary Bennett, who bowled like a man possessed to rip out the first seven Old Mentonian wickets to fall and utterly kill the Grand Final rematch as a contest. With the metronomic Matty Grose and the supporting Old Scotch bowlers in a star studded line up being reduced to support players, Bennett has in the last two games reminded everyone to never write him off. All attempts to reduce Bennett's burden this season has only further inflamed his competitive instincts, and on Sunday he issued yet another stern reminder that the new ball will have to be prized from his cold, dead hand. Bennett will not be standing aside any time soon, so driven is he to achieve more glory.
With Old Mentone skittled for 61, it was yet again simply a matter of knocking off the runs for a bonus point victory. This was duly achieved in 18 overs for the loss of only one wicket, as Old Scotch tuned up for the up coming finals series with yet another commanding display. The boys go into teh last round chock full of confidence and a full head of steam.
The Celebrities however, did not look switched on at any stage of Sunday's clash against Old Caulfield Grammarians. Bowling first, things got off to the best possible start when spearhead Angus Harlock spreadeagled the stumps of the Old Caulfield opening batsmen to have Old Caulfield 1/0. With the Baron von Moger bowling beautifully and skipper Matt Foskey enjoying remarkable success with his assorted long hops, Old Caulfield were 6 for 96 and the Celebrities could optimistically look to dismiss the Grammarians for under 140. But, in shades of previous summers, the intensity dropped off as the Scotchies hit the snooze button. The Old Caulfield lower order was able to conjure a challenging score of 8 for 186 - an imposing total on a ground with a treacle slow outfield.
The Old Scotch reply was a disaster. Three wickets down for 29 - all bowled by the capable, rather than brilliant, Rajpriya. More wickets tumbled as the middle order disintegrated under scoreboard pressure. Suddenly the score was a lamentable 7 for 83, with only Harry Hackett's 29 at the top of the order showing any pluck or enterprise. The pitch was benign and the bowling steady, but unspectacular - yet the game was effectively over and the Celebrities were sliding towards a likely thrashing.
Enter the fray, John "I was born for this" Stavris, who in unison with Dave "Disco" Armstrong proceeded to compile an unbroken stand on 69, with sensible stroke play and smart running, to show that there was no devil in the pitch. While the Stavris/Armstrong union never threatened to steal the game from the Grammarians, it considerably reduced the margin of defeat, and frustrated the opposition no end. Armstrong finished on 29 not out, in his second fine innings in as many times up to bat, and Stavris finished on 37 not out, an innings resplendent with many fine strokes. The eventually margin of defeat was 33 runs, which flattered the Celebrities, but the late order heroics also left the boys feeling that they would do much better should the teams meet again this season.
This Sunday is the last game of the home and away season for both grades. The "A-Team" take on Melbourne Uni at home, and the Celebrities will be hoping to finish the home and away season in style against Old Haileybury, also at home at Scotch College. Both teams sit atop of their respective ladders, so a great finish to the season is anticipated. Come along and show your support this Sunday, it is always appreciated. In the mean time...