Matthew Grose won the toss and had no hesitation in electing to bat in increasingly inclement conditions which saw dark gray clouds suddenly saturate the playing field. An early rain delay reduced the match to 36 overs a side, and the "A-Team" compiled a brilliant 3/216, with Tom Murray leading the way with an unbeaten century. Sam Shearer contributed a polished 40 and Seb "Stretch" Armstrong a hard hitting 39 not out, as Matthew Grose's charges tuned up for the finals with a ruthless display of power hitting.
Tom Murray showed yet again why he is considered by many astute Old Scotch judges as being the finest batsman of his generation to come up through the APS ranks, with a sublime century that underlined his class and technical prowess. Whether driving crisply through the covers, or unleashing savage cut and pull strokes that rocketed to the boundary, Murray underlined just how high the bar has been set at OSCC in recent seasons.
Not to be out done, the bowlers proceeded to strangle the life out of Melbourne University's batting line up like a boa constrictor. With the bowlers sharing the work load around, the pick of the bowlers was probably Sam Shearer who conceded a miserly 1/9 off his eight overs. Armstrong rounded out a powerhouse all round display by capturing 2 for 23 to go with his earlier 39 not out.
The Varsity boys were restricted to 6/94 off their allotted 36 overs, as the "A-Team" recorded a crushing bonus point victory that cemented top spot on the ladder at the end of the Home & Away season, allowig the boys to hit the finals firing on all cylinders.
Over on the Melville Oval, the Celebrities gambled by inserting Old Haileybury on the moist green-top pitch in order to have a better understanding of what was needed should there be a mid afternoon deluge which would wash out play. Needing only a draw to secure a home final, a wash out was of little concern to the Scotchies, but to Old Haileybury requiring a win to gain a finals place, the foreboding gray skies hung over them all day, both figuratively and literally.
Light rain was already falling as Benny Summerfield ran in to bowl the first ball of the day...and in unbelievable scenes, the Old Haileybury opener bunted a simple catch to skipper Foskey fielding at a very short mid off/silly mid off. With the rain getting steadily heavier as the over wore on, play was halted and the covers were hauled on as a half hour rain delay interrupted proceedings.
Play eventually resumed with the match being shortened to 35 overs per side, Perhaps feeling the anxiety of needing a win to ensure a finals place, the Old Halieyburtonian batsmen became bogged down on the difficult damp pitch, where each delivery left a divot on the surface. With the bowling group bowling beautifully in tandem, wickets fell at regular intervals, and at one stage, Old Haileybury were reeling at a scarcely believable 8 for 17. The last two wickets dragged the score up to 44 all-out off 26.5 overs. The bowlers all played their part, with Summerfield capturing 3/13, Reeves 3/8 and Armstrong a scarcely believable 3/4.
The wicket was pock marked, so it was not going to be the easiest of run chases, and during the tea break, a heavy down pour saturated the wicket further to now make the wicket even worse. As the teams made their way back onto the field, the Haileybury men who had looked so down-cast only half an hour previously, were now walking with a noticeable spring in their step. Old Haileybury are a bowling team par excellance, and they calculated that their highly skilled bowlers would wreak havoc on a pitch that had become corrugated and would now throw up devilish challenges such as balls kicking up off a length as well as shooters that skid along the ground. The unpredictability of the pitch now threw this game wide open. The Celebrities also needed no reminding that this same Old Haileybury line up had skittled them for 52 in perfect batting conditions on the Meares only last season.
Veteran Old Scotch openers Mark Griffiths and Vic Nicholas decided on a plan of all out attack to try and get the runs, or most of the runs, as quickly as possible before the pitch became completely unplayable. Each new over added another six fresh divots to the pitch, so to get bogged down would mean almost certain disaster. The plan started off spectacularly, with Griffiths finding the boundary twice in the first over with two booming cut shots and another boundary in the second over. When Nicholas also scored two boundaries in the third over, the score was in a flash 0/24 off only three overs. The Celebrities were now more than half way to the target, so the plan of attack-at-all-costs was working.
However, a spanner was thrown into the works when Nicholas fell to a ball that held up on him off the surface catching his leading edge, to be well caught for 10. The hard hitting Englishman Luke James was similarly deceived by the surface soon after and was through with his pull stroke too soon, and the freakish edge flew straight to second slip to be out for a duck. From 0/24, it was now 2 for 24. Foskey and Griffiths momentarily righted the ship and the score crept to 33. Twelve to win, 8 wickets in hand.
The cricket Gods then cast a shadow, as Griffiths was adjudged LBW for 14 and the Celebrities were suddenly looking wobbly. Old Haileybury were now believing that an upset was on the cards. They were further buoyed, when first Reeves (2) and then the in form Hackett both succumbed to the pressure of the situation. Reeves playing over a full delivery to be bowled for 2, and Hackett attempting to drive over the top was fooled by the lack of pace off the wicket to hit up an easy catch and be dismissed for a duck. It was now 5 for 37, as the Celebrities had lost 5 for 13 in six overs, with all the wickets falling to the one bowler. Whoever coined the phrase "cricket is a funny game" certainly had situations like this in mind. With all rounder von Moger joining skipper Foskey at the wicket, the nerves were jangling, as another wicket would expose the tail to a worsening pitch and an Old Haileybury fielding unit now crowding the bat like circling sharks tasting blood in the water.
Only eight runs were needed, but suddenly scoring runs looked almost impossible, with the suffocating pressure and a pitch that could not be trusted. It was left to skipper Matthew Foskey to be the circuit breaker. As he has done so often this season, Foskey with his chest puffed out in a show of faux bravado anointed himself as the man who had to win the match off his own bat. And that is exactly what Foskey did, as he crashed two glorious straight drives to finish the game in wonderful style and ease the nerves of his team mates on the sidelines. The Celebrities had triumphed - with a bonus point thrown in to boot - to guarantee top spot on the ladder at the end of the home & away season. Old Haileybury were valiant in defeat and showed why they are always a force to be reckoned with. No sooner had the two teams finished shaking hands, the heavens opened up and an almighty down pour drenched the pitch and outfield further. Had Foskey not taken the situation into his own hands, the Celebrities would have almost certainly faced impossible conditions on any further resumption in play.
So it has come to pass...both Old Scotch elevens will be playing home finals. The A-Team vs Old Melbournians on the Meares, while the Celebrities take on the old foe, Old Xavier, on the Melville in what is sure to be a clash of biblical proportions. If you have blood that bleeds cardinal, gold and blue, you simply must come along and support the boys this Sunday, as both Old Scotch teams look to make history and both make the Grand Final in their respective divisions. Does it get any better than this? Not a chance! In the mean time, keep your eyes pealed for announcements from the club this week.
What else is there left to do, but...