Mixed emotions for OSCC following semi-final weekend, but a Division One decider awaits!
The Old Scotch Cricket Club has enjoyed another hugely successful season to date, proudly being the only club to have a side competing in the finals in both of the competition's top two divisions. At the conclusion of the home and away season, the First XI finished on top of the table and the ever improving Second XI finished in second position. Along with these results, the club has had a fantastic year off the ground and the already fantastic culture has just continued to grow.
These strong showings in the regular season saw Scotch host two home semi-finals this past weekend, in what was a great day for the club. Unfortunately the gallant Second XI didn't quite have enough to get over the line against a serious and disciplined Melbourne Cricket Club side, but our First XI did manage to sneak past a highly skilled, and even more highly competitive, Old Melburnians outfit in an epic and qualify for the big dance this Sunday.
After falling to OM's in the decider last season, there was plenty of feeling in Sunday's encounter and with two very strong teams going head to head the standard of cricket was extremely high. Asked to bowl first on a grassy but even Meares wicket, the OSCC boys put in a highly disciplined with the ball and an energetic and polished effort in the field. Scotch claimed the immediate upper hand with the early wickets of Regan and Morris and despite a stubborn 67 not out from opener Stevenson, managed to restrict OMCC to 133 off their allotted 40 overs. Wickets were shared in a fantastic team bowling effort, with Pom Alex Wilkinson and Tommy Loveridge the pick with two wickets a piece.
It certainly felt 30 or so runs short of a par score, but, with an uncharacteristically slow outfield and the added finals pressure, was always going to be a tricky score to run down.
Stand-in skipper Matt Mitchell and Noah Croes got the Scotch boys off to a solid but watchful start, with OM's Henry Hall delivering a highly skilled opening spell. He managed to dismiss both openers to have OSCC under pressure at 2/32. Lachie Bangs and Nick Sparks went about stabilising the cause and, despite two regulation dropped chances off the Bangs' blade, managed to turn the tide back in the favour of the home side. A partnership of 40 got the boys to drinks at 2/70 and in a really strong position to get over the line. It was never going to be so simple however, with this Grammar side far too skilled and spirited to lie down. A spirited post-drinks fightback saw OSCC reduced to 5/97, with Bangs holding strong as he brought up his 50. The pressure was immense and there was action with almost every ball. The game was delicately poised and could really have gone either way, but Bangs and returning former OSCC captain Tom Whitelaw counter-attacked and managed to get to within 11 runs of victory with five wickets in hand. But again OM's were far from done and claimed the three wickets of Whitelaw, Tom Loveridge and Wilkinson for four runs, leaving the game on a knife's edge with Scotch needing 11 runs to win with just the two wickets remaining. Will Clark joined Bangs at the crease and the pair were comfortably the calmest two at the ground, steering the boys home with two wickets and a couple of overs to spare. Lachie Bangs was the clear standout and player of the match after surviving some early gifts from the OM's boys and completely dominating from that point to the end, finishing with 62 not out and seeing OSCC in to yet another Grand Final appearance.
It was a classic encounter between two proud and highly talented sides and credit to Old Melburnians on another great season. The reward is a spot in this Sunday's decider against a young and spirited Melbourne High Old Boys side. The big one is on the Scotch Main Oval and gets underway at 12.30 pm and we would absolutely love to make use of the home ground advantage and see as many familiar faces down there as possible!
In contrasting fortunes, the Second XI unfortunately fell short against MCC and couldn't book their place in a first ever Grand Final. Also losing the toss and being asked to bowl first the Scotch boys started well, but unfortunately let MCC get away towards the back end and post a competitive total of 7/165 off their 40 overs. Captain John Stavris led from the front was the pick of the bowlers, collecting 3/31, and first year player Ryan Higgins chipped in with two of his own. In reply, the Scotch innings never really got going and fell 20 runs short despite plenty of fight being shown throughout. Scores in the 20s from Charlie Hocking, James Halse and Charlie Hocking were all very handy contributions, but without a player going on to get a big score the chase was always going to be a very tough ask. This has been a common theme for the boys this season and was likely the only thing holding them back from premiership contention. Having said this, Stav and the boys have had an awesome season. Picking up from the back end of last season, the young group (plus an evergreen Mark Griffiths) showed so much promise and I have no doubt they can take the next step next year. Well done, fellas!
There will be more to follow after this week's big one, but a big thanks for all the support this season to date and I look forward to seeing you all down at the Main this Sunday!
Sam Shearer - OSCC Captain/Coach