It was the debutants who pulled the game out of the fire for the Celebrities in their round one clash out at Old Wesley's Syndal fortress. On a cold, dark and wet day, the game was in the balance right until the death as new heroes emerged.
The "A" Team's clash with Old Caulfield out at Glenhuntly Park was washed out in unfortunate circumstances, but out at Syndal, the match pressed on through misty rain and dark clouds. Wesley won the toss and chose to bat in difficult conditions with a wet slow outfield also to contend with.
Celebrities debutant, Will "Shot Gun" Meggitt made the early break through with a delivery that wickedly jagged back to hit the top of off stump. With Ben "I am now giving send offs" Summerfield bowling beautifully, the next wicket fell soon after when he trapped Old Wesley's gun number 3 batsman for a duck. to leave Old Wesley teetering at 2 for 4. With Bonwick and Armstrong getting in on the act with a wicket apiece, the Collegians were 4 for 22 and in desperate trouble.
To Old Wesley's credit, they fought back very strongly, as good teams tend to do, and at one stage they were 4 for 71 - respectable progress in the conditions and the slow, wet outfield. What followed next was inexplicable, as the Collegians lost 6 for 24 in a remarkable batting collapse induced by some extremely tight bowling and sharp fielding from the Scotchies. Old Wesley were dismissed for 95 and "Shot Gun" Meggitt capped off a memorable debut, capturing 4 for 17 in a stunning display of seam bowling.
All that was left to do was knock off the runs and bank the win. Sounds easy enough, but with the dead slow outfield, and the by now corrugated pitch playing tricks with the odd ball skidding through ankle height, Old Wesley's 95 was more like a 150 chase on a dryer day.
Things got off to a disasterous start, as Nicholas was LBW in the second over. The usually reliable Griffiths followed soon after, and when Tilbrook also fell, the Celebrities were in serious bother at 3 for 30. At the other end while this carnage was being played out was another debutant, Charlie "Choc" Hocking who remained unflustered and seemingly immovable.
Hocking was joined at the crease by the third debutant, Santhush Gunawardene. The pair then attempted in their own contrasting way to get the run chase back on track. Choc was all copybook strokes and an unflappable calm that is the hallmark of all great players, whereas Tushy, with unorthodox stroke play (the pull shot over slips had to be seen to be believed), and kamikaze running between the wickets where he nearly ran out Choc at least three times in comical scenes, was a study in the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action.
The pair advanced the score to 3 for 49, when disaster struck. Hocking's vigil ended when a short ball kept low to rap him on the pads in front to be adjudged LBW. Hocking made a priceless 34 that was easily a 50 plus score on a dry day. At 4 for 49, the Scotchies were in deep trouble. Gunawardene was still there on 16, but, the dark skies were making batting harder and harder. A batting collapse saw Armstrong, Gunawardene and De Gouveia all depart in quick succession to leave the Celebrities staring at the abyss at 7 for 66, still 29 runs short and only three wickets in hand.
The 29 run deficit seemed like double that in the sluggish conditions matched with an untrustworthy pitch. Benny Summerfield and Lade staged a mini revival, but as the mood on the sidelines became hopeful of snatching an unlikely win, all hope seemed lost when Summerfield tried to smash a straight ball, only to be clean bowled for a priceless 11. Lade followed soon after, and heads hung low as last man Will "Doc" Bonwick strode out to join everybody's favourite Macedonian gunslinger, Mitch Nikolovski with a further 14 needed for victory.
An unlikely pairing if ever there was one, but with sensible stroke play and smart running between the wickets, Nikolovski and Bonwick edged the Celebrities closer and closer to a miracle win. A boundary to Bonwick and some good shots by Nikolovski, and suddenly, the scores were tied with four balls of the match remaining. Nikolovski nudged a ball to the left of gully, as Bonwick who had started running as soon as the ball left the bowlers hand scrambled through for the winning single to secure a famous victory in emotion charged scenes.
It was a massive relief to escape from Wesley with a win. An ugly win, but they all count at the end of the season. The debutants were all huge in their own way. Meggitt bowled beautifully, Gunawardene is an excitement machine (not always in a good way!) and Hocking was a class above all the batsman on either side on a day that was most difficult for batting. It is so hard to believe this kid is still in year 11 at Scotch? Incredible talent.
Next week the Celebrities have the bye, while the "A" Team take on Melbourne University at Princess Park Oval No. 3. Get on down and cheer on the boys as they look to make season 2017/18 a memorable one.
In the mean time...