On a marvelous autumn afternoon in front of a large parochial home crowd, Old Scotch fell short in their quest for back to back MCC premierships when they went down in the Grand Final by 45 runs to an inspired Old Geelong outfit.
Winning the toss, Old Scotch skipper Matthew Grose gambled by inserting the opposition to bat first on a good wicket. Old Geelong got off to a capable start, when the Scotchies through the agency of last years Man of the Match Will Hayes chimed in with three quick wickets to grab an early break. Hayes was simply inspired as he reduced Old Geelong from 0/32 to 3/46 to give the Scotchies heart.
The stumbling block to an Old Geelong batting collapse was undoubtedly young Geelong CC Premier star Angus Boyd, who fresh coming off a Premier cricket ton, expertly held the Old Scotch bowlers at bay to enable Old Geelong to rebuild momentum. At 5 for 87, the Scotchies still would have backed themselves to restrict Old Geelong to under 150. But, as long as Boyd was at the crease, he represented a huge obstacle to Old Scotch's premiership chances. Boyd and Langley put on a fine 59 run partnership to advance the score to 146 when Langley was removed by Shearer, but Boyd in harness with the lower order kept piling on the runs until in the final over, Boyd perished for a fantastic 93. The pick of the bowlers was Will Hayes with 4/33 off his 8 overs.
Old Geelong totaled an impressive 188 off their 40 overs. An admirable score on a large ground with a slowish outfield on any normal day. A formidable score for a Premiership decider on this day. Matches against Old Geelong in recent years have traditionally been high scoring, so the Scotchies were reasonably confident at tea knowing exactly what they needed to do if they wanted to go back to back.
However, the Old Scotch run chase got off to a bad start when star batsman Tim Hosking was dismissed LBW for 9 and the score on 19. Sam Shearer and Cam "the Cobra Kid" Melville steadied the ship advancing the score to 46, when Melville was unluckily strangled down the leg side to be dismissed for 26.
This brought Tom Murray to the crease, and in harness with Shearer continued to accumulate steadily as the score mounted up to 2 for 97 - essentially half way to the target with 8 wickets still in the shed and considerable momentum being built. With a long batting order to follow, the Scotchies were only one more really good partnership away from being within sight of the Holy Grail.
Then out of nowhere, the game turned on it's head.
Murray uncharacteristically spooned a catch on the leg side to be dismissed for 16. Was it a break in concentration brought on by the strain of having kept wicket for 40 overs? The inquisition will continue all winter long, but whatever the cause for Murray's brain fade (his second out of character dismissal whilst chasing in as many weeks), precipitated a change in the whole momentum of the match. What was to follow in the aftermath of Murray's dismissal effectively sealed Old Scotch's fate for season 2016/17 as 5 wickets fell for 6 runs in a spectacular batting collapse brought on by scoreboard pressure.
Last week's semi final heroes Seb Armstrong and Sam Murray both fell in the space of a matter of minutes of each other, either side of the dismissal of the in form Shearer who was stumped for a fine, but unfulfilled, 46. And when Will Hayes was involved in a tragic mix up with skipper Mattie Grose to be run out for 1 and the score 7 for 103, Old Scotch were effectively dead in the water.
Skipper Matt Grose in partnership with teenaged prodigy Ollie McLeish, who is in Year 12 this year, attempted a rear guard, but with the run rate mounting to a virtually impossible ten runs per over, Grose's heroic, but forlorn innings terminated on 22, and McLeish soon after was dismissed for 10, with the score 9 for 139. The 50 runs still required for victory were academic as the large pro-Scotch crowd had long accepted that this day had gone awry for the Scotchies. The only interest was how long last pair Harry Short and year 12 student Chris "Action" Jackson would last before the corpulent lady would sing. Jackson was duly dismissed, bowled for 1 amid scenes of Old Geelong celebration, and Old Scotch season came to an abrupt halt on 143 - a distant 45 runs away from what had become an improbable victory.
The jubilant celebrations from the understandably ecstatic Old Geelong players was in stark contrast to the blank, emotionless faces of the vanquished Old Scotch playing group. Each one wondering where it all went wrong, and how a marvelous season ended on such a low note. To the victor the spoils. Old Geelong were magnificent and played the better cricket throughout the afternoon. The Old Scotch boys endured a bad day on the biggest stage to endure the bitter taste of defeat. But this young team under the inspirational leadership of talismanic skipper Matt Grose will surely return better than ever next summer to make amends,
Congratulations Old Geelong - you were magnificent and deserved your win. Commiserations to our lads - your time will surely come around again. Congratulations and thanks are extended to the School and the Old Scotch Collegians’ Association for hosting the MCC Grand Finals at Scotch and making it a fantastic event. Thanks are also in order to every player who answered the call this season to represent our great club. To all those that have helped us get on the field, including, (but not limited to), Tim Shearer, Rick "Cowboy" Western, Billy McNaughton, Tim Hosking, Johnny Stavris, Sam Shearer, Dave Armstrong...and anyone else I may have missed, we as a club thank you, because if not for you, none of this would ever be possible. And finally, to our wonderful supporters; thanks for coming out in such impressive numbers to support us in the Grand Final and thank you for your support throughout the season. Without you, we are nothing.
We look forward to seeing you all again next season. In the mean time...