Much like Geelong sides of 2007 – 2011 (think Bartel, Selwood, Ablett and Corey), the Students were irrepressible in the middle on the weekend as they claimed victory in the middle two grades against the True Blues.
Similar to Pat Cummins, MUCC’s own skipper Fergus McKenna boasts a squeaky-clean reputation. Not perfect, however, he is yet to win a toss in season 21/22, so Harrison Emms decided to toss the coin for the Students on the weekend. Chagrin, he also lost, but would not be deterred, suggesting, “it was a good flip, Jake (Hancock) just read it out of the hand. I’ll be better for the run.”
In any case, Uni would bowl first, and it was JP who made the early inroads. Another to the “Player to Watch” tally, JP put in a fine shift with the new ball, claiming the first two wickets, before Doug, in his return to the First XI, struck early in his spell to have Prahran 3/82. A steadying partnership in favourable batting conditions meant Uni had their work cut out for them in the heat, but a well-lubricated section of the crowd (perhaps they got lost on the way to John Cain Arena?) kept everyone entertained. The coach pulled off a run-out from long-on to remove Hancock, before Simon Mackin (2/30) completed another fine day with the ball, to go with JP (4/46). Uni would need to chase 253 in the afternoon.
Undone by spin early, the Students were reeling at 2/6, before a controlled partnership between Ferg and Dr Drej settled nerves at the Main. Combining for 74, McKenna (45) and Yaksender (30) made batting look rather simple, before they both fell in quick succession, stifling the chase. Domann (38) showed his class once again – preferring to look busy at the crease than setting his Microsoft Teams status to busy – as he and Young (36) worked the Students back into the contest. Again, wickets in clumps hamstrung Uni late in the piece, eventually bowled out for 201.
What typified those Geelong sides under Mark Thompson was a clarity of role; every player knew and performed exactly what was expected of them and the system was more reliable than clockwork. The same could be said of the Second XI.
Bowling first, the Students spread the load as an imposing attack of quickies all nabbed wickets. Molden (3/36) was the pick of the bowlers, as he – unlike Spiderman – showed there was a “way home” for the Prahran top order – and that way was back to the pavilion. Walker (2/22) was impressive again, as was the ever-reliable Jeremy Peacock with 2/38 through the middle. Not even bowling with a 142 gram replacement ball would stop the Students, as they bowled Prahran out for 172.
Steady in the chase, Hahnel (23) got the Students off on the right foot, alongside Bienvenu (20). A pair of ‘Westsiders’ (Insert Antony Keely W logo here), Uni continued their strong Greater Melbourne representation in the middle order, as Harrison Barnes accumulated yet another 50 to all but shut the door on the True Blues. The continuation of a fine run of form, the pencil is sharp just at the minute, erasing opposition and playing with a straightness akin to a ruler. Ritchie (25), Bett (21) and Horn (15) sealed the deal for the Students, as the Second XI secured another strong victory
In slow and stifling conditions at Princes Park, the Third XI batted first – Lucien Bienvenu tackling long COVID symptoms as he paired with Ali Khan at the top of the list. A steady partnership, Bienvenu departed for 18, while Khan managed 29. Again, Michael Forwood compiled a classy 50, as he gave the Students the upper hand and took the score towards 150. Some typically handy hitting from Yuvraj Singh (25) gave Uni momentum, before the skipper, Tom Savill, finished the innings with a characteristic maximum (he did spend some time around the range hitting drill last week, so expect more of the same in future).
Naturally, the Wizard broke through for Uni’s first wicket, but a measured top order batting display from Prahran kept them on track for the target of 191. Thankfully, however, the Students had the services of John McRockMelon. On his return from injury, Dwayne showed his class has, if anything, ripened, with 4/36 to earn the mantle as TRP Player of the Week.
Leaving the lower order too much to do, Uni secured victory in this one as the innings closed at 8/177.
On a low and slow wicket, Uni’s youthful Fourth XI side bowled first on the weekend. Though the openers struggled to break through, Rithin Rakes bowled a wonderful spell of leg breaks to crack the contest open for Uni. With 3/38 from his nine overs, Rithin was the pick of the bowlers, as Uhr-Henry and Dias also snagged wickets. Unfortunately, Uni bowled 37 extras, to push Prahran well over 200, meaning the batting line up would have their work cut out for them, chasing 220.
A commanding opening partnership between Raf Epstein (21) and Lachie Melican in his return to the field, gave Uni hope. After Raf’s departure, Pelican continued on his merry way, blasting 69 with 7 fours and a six, to keep Uni in the contest. Not enough went with him, however, as only Verma (18) and Rakes (14) managed double figures in the middle order. Ultimately bowled out for 159, the Fourth XI will need to regroup quickly.