Through the looking glass...
258 days ago, the stumps were drawn at the Uni Main. Three days later, the season was scrapped, leaving MUCC’s top two grades stranded just a couple of games from possible Premiership glory. At the best of times cricketers need no encouragement to ponder what might have been, so in ‘unprecedented’ ones? You do the maths…
We Zoomed, Strava’ed and WhatsApp’ed our way through the last nine months. Presentation night and recruitment news was shared virtually and MUCC Talks meant we got to dross with Australian coach, Justin Langer. Antony Keely made Strava compulsory, so we could all see how many kilometres he was ticking off and James Bett established himself as the club’s resident zoom quizmaster. Pandemic notwithstanding, MUCC bonds remain strong.
In a broader sense, the Club is in an enviable position after a torrid and extended off-season. We are blessed to have a committee so dedicated to the Club’s success and prosperity. The current committee brings together current and past players and it is a testament to the culture of MUCC that it attracts and retains high quality people who are committed to leave it in a better place. So, the Students and their supporters thank all those who have played a role in keeping the club in such a strong position, giving the playing group the best chance for continued success in season 20/21.
To that end, thank you to Keels, his coaching staff and all of the Captains for making such a difficult and disjointed preseason feel so normal. You do an incredible job for the players and we are so grateful to you all for making MUCC such a special place to be.
…And on the 259th day, the stumps were replaced, and cricket was played. And it was good.
In a world where hubs and bubbles have become the norm, it is fitting that the Students will begin their 20/21 campaign against local rivals and perennial contender, Carlton. With all matches taking place within the Princes Park precinct, not even a 5km travel limit from home (the Main) could stop you catching the action from every grade this weekend.
Minor premiers last year, the First XI have established themselves as one of the dominant white-ball teams in the competition, as they play away at Princes Park to kick off the season.
Boosted by prized (and very tall) recruit, Simon Mackin, the First XI add to an already intimidating bowling attack. Mackin, who until last week had not even seen the Uni Main, moved over from WA in the middle of the year as he chases more opportunity at State level. The fast bowler has claimed 101 first class wickets, but more than his cricket, Mackin has already established himself as a bona-fide good guy, his character rubber stamped by fellow fast bowler, Mark Stafford, when he presented Mackin cap 970 on Thursday night.
Facing a strong Carlton side, captain James McNeil will be out to make a particular impact on Saturday. Having injured his knee against the Blues early last season, McNeil missed large parts of the year and is champing at the bit to lead the club to success in season 20/21. Having managed to play some cricket back home in Albury in recent months, McNeil found some form with the bat, and got his photo splattered all over the back pages of the Border Mail (again). McNeil headlines a strong middle order that will also include stylish batsman, Noah Croes. The young Dutchman who has been navigating the sandbelt with ease since golf courses re-opened, will also take the gloves this season as he looks to build on an impressive early portion of his First XI career.
Player to watch – Steven Reid: AD Reidy (That’s After Dad) is coming off another exceptional season and considering he has spent nine months embracing his newfound fatherly instincts, there is some pent up fast bowler aggression that could let itself loose on the weekend.
Martignago, Mckenna (VC), Young, Yaksender, McNeil ©, Scammell, Croes +, Mackin, Ahmed, Reid, Stafford
The MUCC Second XI has become a force to be reckoned with over recent years; having been a permanent top-four feature for a while now, new skipper, Daniel Hutton will be looking to continue that trend this season.
Round one in the Second XI is full of feel-good stories, and none more so than the debut of James Browning. The left-arm fast bowler has had a terrible run with injury since arriving at MUCC four years ago but has remained unperturbed and his attitude exemplary. He has played in the 5th XI as a batsman, scored across the grades and when his body has allowed it, terrorised batting line-ups. After an extended break, he has been able to get himself right to go and bowled beautifully in our two practice matches and the whole club is excited to watch him go to work on the Uni Main this weekend. He also calls himself J-Bizzle, so if you weren’t excited before, you should be now.
Joining JB in a Second XI debut is resident good guy, Elliott Durrant. KD oozes class and for a man who has also played in every grade, the opening batsman thoroughly deserves his crack at Second XI level. Adding to the wealth of country-based talent at MUCC, the Sale local also has some of the safest hands at 2nd slip and will love standing in the cordon next to great mate, James Horn.
The Second XI also boasts another Bienvenu. Lucien, having made the switch from Carlton in the offseason, will face his old club in the first round. A powerful all-rounder with a bat so good it has been dubbed ‘the cheat code’, Lucien is a fine addition to MUCC and we wish him all the best as he embarks on his career as a Student.
If you plan on watching the Second XI at the Main on Saturday, beware. You’ll have to get in quick, because with the spin trio of James Bett, Ben Rolfs and John McLaughlan, the boys could get through their overs in record time. Moreover, with the three best spinners in the Second XI competition, you’d be brave to suggest they won’t take a fair few wickets between them.
Player to watch – Mitch Domann: Though not technically on debut (he was selected for a washed-out match in 2018/19), ‘Buckets’ will be batting at number three for the first time in the Second XI. Having made a stunning 93* last week against a fierce attack, the young all-rounder is enjoying the freedom that comes with wrapping up first-year Uni. One to watch, and not only this week…
Durrant, Emms, Domann, Horn +, Rolfs, Hutton ©, Bett, Bienvenu L, McLaughlan, Mawien, Browning
A frightening proposition playing against the MUCC Third XI this week, and with three players making their Third XI debut, there will be some really zippy energy at Princes Park #2
Fresh from rolling out a flat one on the Uni Main, curator, Jeremy Peacock will make his MUCC debut. A crafty seam bowler, Jezza is sure to find the edge of a few Carlton bats, and depending how many Red Bulls he packs in his Esky, he can give the speed gun a real nudge.
Lachie Pedley will also make his MUCC debut this week. The fast bowler from Canberra earned himself the prized mantle as ‘top three funny’ during the week, simply by diverting attention away from himself. If he can handle that sort of challenge with relative ease, then he will have no problem zeroing in on the front pads of the Carlton top order.
Though not a MUCC debut, Alex Gall is playing his first match in the Third XI this week. Tall, handsome and eloquent, he ticks all of the aesthetic boxes for an opening batsman, and happily he’s also taken to blasting big runs with his long-blade Gray-Nicholls.
With such a strong bowling attack (now including Stevenson plus ear piercing) and PP2 home of the longest walk back to the sheds in Premier Cricket, there could be a few despondent opposition batsmen, should the Students hit their straps.
Player to watch – Dan McNab: He’s got a blonde mullet and he’s going to bowl left arm orthodox spin in sunglasses. You’re going to notice him, so why not certify it and make him the Third XI player to watch? A product of the Trinity Grammar Cricket Factory, ‘McSlab’ is in for a big year.
Gall, Kennedy, Iqbal, Bienvenu H, Skinner (C, +), Peackock, Pedley, Warren, McNab, Molden, Walker, Stevenson
Youthful, talented and raring to go. The Fourth XI has a new – Hoppers Crossing inspired look to it for round one of season 20/21.
Shenan Dias and Khush Talati will both make their debuts for the MUCC Fourth XI this weekend. Talented players at Hoppers Crossing, they come to MUCC on the recommendation of club great, Greg Kennedy. Chairman of selectors, Nic Brian summarised it nicely at season launch, “GK said you’re good, so you’d better be!” We wish the boys all the best as Students and can’t wait to see them get amongst it on the weekend. The Hoppers’ duo will be joined by hard-hitting Dan Clark; hailing from Horsham, Clark is also making his debut as a Student and will assume the number three position in the order. Another one to the country stocks, the city slickers are soon to be outnumbered…
The Fourth XI will also be armed with a Savill. Ed, who has played for MUCC in the past will once again line up for Uni. Returning from, as coach Keely put it, “the cricketing abyss” Ed brings experience and skill to a youthful XI.
Player to watch – Om Patel: Left arm, swings it both ways and just graduated year 12. Om is a certified star and you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone more excited than he that cricket is back. He took home three awards from presentation night last year and is primed to race up the grades. Look out.
Savill E, Dias, Clark, Keeble, Epstein, Stone, Patel, Anderson, Lim (+), Talati, Ditchburn ©, Stockley
We are so pumped to be back. Have fun, do something cool, and BYO broom.