For the second week in a row, there were heartfelt speeches and hugs all around on Thursday night, as Harrison Barnes was presented with First XI cap #978. Having combined an irresistible form line with a seamless transition to life as a Student, Pencil has looked every bit a First XI player throughout season 21/22, so it is fitting that he will get to show his class against Camberwell on Saturday.
Set to handle anything the Pies can throw at him, HB will need to be awake to initial-based questions from Nik Sakellaropoulos. No debutant is safe, and Nik might be keen to ensure that the scorer’s pen has one over the Pencil from the outset… Go well, Barnesy!
As well as a First XI debutant, Round 14 also sees a favourite MUCCer play his 150th match for the club. A Student since 2013/14, James Bett is an excellent cricketer and an even better person; his contribution to MUCC so much more than his outstanding on-field performances. To use his own phrase, Bettsy is “fiercely loyal,” and has been a truly wonderful teammate ever since he arrived at the Main. Selfless, humble and persistent with every nickname he’s ever come up with, we wish Jim all the best in 150!
Boosted by the inclusion of Pencil who will assume a spot in the middle order, it is crunch time for the Students, who face Camberwell away at (Lightning) McQueen Park on Saturday – Kachow! Suitably inspired by the movie, Cars, opening bowlers Mark Stafford and Simon Mackin will surely heed the red race car’s mantra, “I am speed,” with the new ball. Of course, if called upon for a second spell, there’s nothing some Rust-eze bumper ointment can’t fix, but if the boys do cramp, Tow-Mater is only ever a phone call away…
As it relates to tyres, Noah Croes is exceptional off them (“off the tyres” in this instance refers to shots off one’s pads). To that end, as the pressure increases at the pointy end of the season, the wicket-keeper batter is confident he can perform when the heat is on:
“Mate, pressure is for tyres,” he said during the week. “That’s why they call me the Michelin Man!”
Always keen for a Disney Pixar reference, Alex Gregory also returns to the First XI this week. Dominant on the field once again, Grego’s tally of runs and wickets is rapidly increasing in season 21/22. Though some of us prefer a Word document, Excel can also be handy for keeping track of such numbers, rumour has it the function is =SUM().
PLAYER TO WATCH: Andrej Yaksender
Fresh from a solid outing for the Victorian Second XI during the week, not even present geopolitical tensions could keep our Polish pro out of the action this week. Alarmingly for the Magpies, too, the square boundaries at Mcqueen Park a particularly short. Expect the “Drejdle” to cut and square-drive a great many runs.
Dominant last week, the Second XI will be treated to a James Bett return on Saturday. Exciting not only because Bettso is the man who loves to beat the Pies more than any other, but also because TOG will be fresh for his 150th after a period of isolation. All the very! Joined by Jeremy Peacock and Young back into the side, the Second XI will be out to make a statement at the Main.
Currently sitting pretty in sixth spot on the table, there is only one thing related to the Students that ought to “drop” tomorrow – and it’s not ladder position. Instead, it’s Yuvraj’s off-breaks, which will also drift and turn as they bamboozle the Magpies’ middle order.
To that end, there will be no relief as Jeremy Peacock rolls out a reliable ten sets through the middle. Under slightly overcast skies on Friday, the groundsman might choose to leave himself an extra inch of grass on the wicket; a nibbling seam screams chagrin for Camberwell.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Josh Hahnel
In superb touch at the moment, Josh had a turbo net on Thursday night blasting balls through the off-side with ease. To that end, his effortless style combined with a retro MUCC training shirt caught the attention of cameraman Rolfs; enough to earn Joel a social media feature on Friday. A big knock at the top of the order, and the posts might keep coming…
Unchanged, the Third XI will be keen to make amends after a difficult loss last weekend.
With Bienvedeux (that’s two Bienvenus!) in the top order, it could be a matter of hello and welcome to a run fest for the Students; a potent batting order right the way down. Rumour has it that Elliott Durrant also cooked up a Bolognese during the week, so don’t bother bringing lunch to Watson Park – Kev’s got you covered!
Blending youthful exuberance with experienced know-how, the Third XI bowling stocks are intimidating, too. From behind the pegs, skipper Sam Skinner will surely throw the ball around, but it will be tough to get it out of Om Patel’s hands; the Wizard looking fast in a brand-new pair of Adidas spikes during the week.
PLAYER TO WATCH: James Anderson
Outkast famously asked the question, “What’s cooler than being cool?” Unfortunately, wires got crossed in the studio version, and the answer came back, “Ice cold!” when the correct answer is, “Jimmy Anderson.” MUCC’s resident finisher, Ando is measured and composed under pressure, and could well put the final nail in the Magpies’ season tomorrow.
They keep climbing the ladder and the Fourth XI are making a Finals berth appear more and more likely every week. Back at PP3 (coming all the way from PP2), the Students will feel right at home.
Welcoming back Tom Uhr-Henry, no thruppence will be safe in Parkville tomorrow, much less one placed on a nagging length outside off stump.
Tharindu Perera is coming in to the contest with strong warm-up game form, too. Having scored the winning goal in Nashball on Thursday, Terry was quickly in “double cobra” position, and wouldn’t he love to show off the celebration again in the middle tomorrow.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Shenan Dias
If you look close enough, Shen has a couple of sparkling little studs in his ears at the moment. With bountiful talent, if he watches the ball with half as much attention to detail, he’ll make a bucket load of runs on Saturday. One of the hardest trainers at the club, too, Shen could get on a roll towards the end of the year!