First Eleven skipper, Matty Grose won the toss and had no hesitation in asking Old Melbournians to bat in perfect conditions. The old war horse Gary Bennett struck with his first and fifth balls of his opening over to have Old Melbournians teetering at 2 for 1. This was a spectacular start in anyone's language. Old Melbourne fought valiantly, but never really recovered and laboured to a sub par 9 for 103 in seemingly perfect conditions. Bennett finished with 2 for 20, but, the wickets were evenly shared around with Harry "the invisible man" Short capturing 3 for 16, Sam Shearer 3 for 17, and teenage spinning prodigy Chris "Dizzy" Jackson, who is in year 12, snaring 1 for 12 off 8 spell binding overs that included three maidens.
The bowlers had executed skipper Matty Grose's pre-game plans perfectly, now it was up to the star studded batting line up to seal the deal and catapult the A-Team into the Grand Final. Tim "Hozz" Hosking and Cam "The Cobra Kid" Melville kicked off the run chase in considered fashion, negotiating the first eleven overs comfortably to be 0/33, and seemingly steering the Scotchies towards a certain victory, when in an instant, the introduction of spin from both ends immediately gained the prized scalp of Melville for 15. What followed next had all the hallmarks of a nightmare, as a further three wickets fell in the following four overs to see the Scotchies go from 0/33 to 4/40 in the blink of an eye.
Hosking, who had looked comfortable, was dismissed for 19 when he edged to slip. Shearer was then spectacularly caught at slip for 4, and last week's century maker Tom Murray suffered what could only be described as a brain explosion, to be dismissed for a duck attempting a wild slog sweep off his stumps. Murray's dismissal had the Old Melbournians players and supporters whooping with joy. The Old Melbournians were buzzing as they suddenly found belief that an improbable victory was now a possibility and their supporters found voice, emphatically reminding the now quiet and grim faced Old Scotch camp of the pressure packed situation.
However, just as in last years Semi Final, Sam "Junior" Murray and Seb "Stretch" Armstrong proved to be the saviours as they batted sensibly, putting on an unbroken 64 run stand to win the Semi Final for Old Scotch by 6 wickets with almost eight overs in reserve. Both Murray and Armstrong finished on 29 not out, and the A-Team were through to consecutive Grand Finals. The sidelines were a mixture of joy and relief, as the Scotchies had to fight tooth and nail through out the season to earn the right to defend their crown.
Over on the Meares, the Celebrities were back playing finals after a hiatus of three years. Skipper Matt Foskey had essentially a full strength team on the park with star paceman Angus Harlock back in the line up, and young medium pacer fresh out of Scotch, Will "Bonners" Bonwick, replacing opener Vic Nicholas in the line up when the latter failed a Friday fitness test. The Xavs team was the strongest seen yet, with a number of players having recently turned out against the Old Scotch A-Team in a recent fixture and others plying their trade elsewhere on Saturdays. The Scotchies knew this was going to be a far different ball-game to the recent clash in January when the Scotchies recorded a resounding victory at Barkers Road.
Xavs skipper Edwards won the toss and had no hesitation in electing to bat on a benign Meares wicket. The Old Xaverians batted well with a number of players getting off to good starts. The Old Scotch bowlers did exceedingly well to restrict Old Xavs to 156 on the lightning fast Meares outfield. Pick of the Old Scotch bowlers was the ever reliable Ben Summerfield who captured 3/27, with the rest of the wickets being shared around in an even effort.
The Old Scotch run chase got off to a steady start as Mark "Money Shot" Griffiths and Harry Hackett scored steadily at the rate of three runs an over. Hackett was the first wicket to fall, when he fell in the 15th over for 17 and the score on 50. English gappy Luke James was soon after stumped for 5, and the Old Scotch score at drinks was 2/61 with talismanic skipper Matthew Foskey at the crease with Griffiths. The pair further consolidated, and at the 30 over mark, the score was 2 for 92. Ten overs to go, and 65 runs needed. With the run rate now more than a run-a-ball, the time to hit-out was now. Eight wickets were in hand, and there was sufficient depth in the batting to reel in the total.
At the 32 over mark, Mark Griffiths eventually fell for a stoic 42. Griffo had again shown why he is so highly regarded around the club with this wonderful performance. This brought the hard hitting Alisdair Reeves to the crease to join Foskey, with the run rate now more than a run a ball. Reeves set about changing all that with an astonishing cameo innings where he blazed boundaries almost at will to suddenly put the Celebrities ahead of the run-rate and on course for victory. This was stirring stuff that you read about in history books or even Boys Own adventures. Reeves was playing an old fashioned "stand and deliver" classic with able support from the gutsy Foskey who was perspiring freely and even vomiting at the end of overs from his exertions. Reeves eventually perished, when he swung wildly and was bowled leg stump. Reeves innings may have been worth only 28, but, to the Old Scotch cause, it was the stuff of legend, as his six boundaries in his short stay brought victory well and truly into sight.
With the very capable von Moger joining Foskey at the crease, hopes were still high. Foskey had won games off his own bat a number of times during the season, so both the Old Scotch spectators and the Old Xav players knew he was the danger man. What followed next, however, was a spectacular implosion that undid all the hard work that had placed the Scotchies in a commanding, if not match winning, position. First to go was skipper Foskey, who taking on the Xavs fielder, Clark, on the boundary for a second run, needed a direct hit to have any chance of dismissing him. No disrespect to Clark, he had never shown any capacity either this day, or in the past, to be considered a threat to do this. But, this was one of those days. Clark's throw from out near the boundary miraculously hit the stumps directly. A diving Foskey appeared to have made his ground...but the umpire adjudged him out. This was a seismic momentum changing moment. Foskey's brave vigil came to an end on 24. Foskey battled fatigue, illness and other factors to try and get the Celebrities across the line, but, his innings was cruelly terminated in freakish circumstances.
Foskey's demise precipitated a batting collapse as wickets then tumbled more or less every four or five balls thereafter, as indecisive run outs - both Stavris and Armstrong were frozen mid pitch staring at the mid off fielder as he threw down the stumps at the bowlers end - and other pressure induced panic strokes led to a monumental implosion, From 4/130 at the 34 over mark needing a very manageable 26 to win off 36 balls with six wickets in hand, it was suddenly was 9/145 at the commencement off the last over. How did it come to this?
Eleven to win, ten to tie...and a tie would be enough for Scotch to go through to the Grand Final. But asking the last two batsman to pull this off was a tall order. It should never have come down to this. Bonwick and De Gouvea were brave, but when Digger faced up to the last ball of the day, a six was needed. That Digger was out LBW attempting an audacious slog sweep was academic, as it was an impossible situation. The loss by 5 runs threw up a hundred "what if's?". Reeves innings should have made the remaining runs a formality and a sober approach of getting any kind of bat (or pad) onto ball and running easy singles, and the occasional two, would have forced Old Xavs to bring the field in. Then the boundary shots would come into play to finish the game. But the meltdown happened in the space of less than ten minutes, and the momentum had shifted before the Scotchies had a chance to regroup.
Xavier were understandably jubilant in pulling off an miraculous victory against all odds, They had slayed the top placed Old Scotch in their own den after barely making the finals themselves. This was a famous Old Xaverian victory - all credit to them, and we all wish them well in this weeks 2nd Division Grand Final. For the Celebrities, this was undoubtedly the-one-that-got-away, but once the soul searching ends, each and every one of the boys who represented Old Scotch Cricket Club in Second Division can be proud of themselves. They were competition front runners sealing top spot easily with many wonderful victories and heroic performances over the course of the season. The team is young enough, and homogeneous enough, to win flags in the not too distant future. Their time will come.
But back to the great news...the MAIN EVENT, so to speak...
The MCC Division One Grand Final will be played against Old Geelong on the Main Oval at Scotch College at 12.30pm on Sunday 4 March. All Old Boys are encouraged to attend as the boys look to go Back to Back and write another new page in Old Scotch Cricket Clubs glorious history. Bring your mates, bring your kids...but most importantly, be there so you can say "I was there".
In the mean time...
SURROUND YOURSELF IN THE EXCITEMENT!