A week out from Christmas, and Santa – the big jolly fella – is just around the corner. Santa will have to wait, however, because this week is all about a different man, the world’s nicest man; Sam Skinner.
Skinnsy plays his 200th match as a MUCCer on the weekend. An incredible achievement, Sam has been a Student since 2007/08 and played in every grade. Arguably one of the most talented and gifted players to have donned the Baggy Black, Skinnsy has the unique ability to bat both left and right handed and is one of the finest wicket-keepers going around. As work commitments have piled up of late, he has taken to mentoring the next generation as skipper of the Third XI, ensuring young players are given the best possible introduction to Melbourne University Cricket Club. Thanks for everything Skinnsy, we are blessed to have you at the Main!
Undefeated going into Christmas is the goal and won toss would be a handy bonus. The First XI are return to the Main this week and welcome back Angus Molden to take on the Panthers. Gus, who is the club’s authority on film and television, saw Spiderman during the week and gave it high praise, suggesting it is “the best cinema experience. Ever.” So, avoid him if you don’t want a spoiler. Fortunately, the Panthers can’t avoid him, so he might well spoil their day with the ball.
Noah Croes is coming off a birthday weekend and a century for the Crusaders. Incredible capacity to back up, Croey is in good touch with the bat and could be keen to add another big score to his Christmas stocking.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Andrej Yaksender
Giving an Australian twist on a Polish White Christmas, Andrej will more than likely replace the snow with a down pouring of white kookaburras as he plunders the Panthers to all parts. Already with 200 runs under his belt for the year, Yak might need to loosen said belt by a notch after another big score. “Always room for pudding!”
Back, again. No, not Slim Shady, instead it’s the Second XI and they will be keen to right a pair of Shepley wrongs; returning to the scene of two nail-biting contests from season 20/21. Boosted, this time by two handy inclusions, the Second XI welcome back Daniel Hutton, and young pace ace Tom Walker. Coming off 4 wickets last week, TJ could break this one apart.
James Horn has been in excellent form behind the stumps and could well be putting his catching gloves to good use tomorrow. He might even have Hugo Bienvenu for company in the slips; Huggsy has pinged a hamstring but is still more than capable of speaking out the side of his mouth, “even with a bung hammy I’m quicker than you blokes,” he chuckled mid-week. He’s probably right.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Josh Hahnel
Now on school holidays, Altona’s favourite primary teacher will be keen to fill his boots this week. He nailed the choreography for the Christmas performance and has already demonstrated an enviable skill at the “smoke-bomb” venue departure technique. Some might say the stars are aligning for Josh…
Desperate to get ahead of the ledger heading into the break, the Third XI will have plenty of motivation in Skinnsy’s 200th. Welcoming Lucien Bienvenu for the first time this season, Tom Savill also returns; school may be out, but class will be in session for the Panthers.
Flat at the best of times, a week of warm weather could see Princes Park looking more like Royal Parade on Saturday, so look for the top order to get set and put the hammer down. Key amongst these will be Jayden Kennedy, who is playing in his second last match as a Student. JK’s blistering power could come to the fore and set this one up for the Students.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Lachie Pedley
He is Hilda’s favourite son, and with a sliding in-swinger, Lachie Pedley has an appointment with a few front pads tomorrow. Part of an imposing pace attack, Peddles’ cadence will be high, and he might well secure a bag big enough for checked luggage as he heads North for Christmas.
Shenan Dias takes the captain’s armband to lead an incredibly youthful Fourth XI side on the weekend. Always full of beans, look for Shen to come up with some innovative plans as he goes about engineering another victory for the Fourth XI.
Raf Epstein returns to the Fourth XI this week. Full of runs, Raf is a man on a mission, and will no doubt be keen to make every moment count on Saturday, not least because he’ll be working the Boxing Day Sales in a week’s time and would love a happy memory to cling onto.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Hamish Connor
A proud Lowerite, Hamma loves to don his yellow bandana at every moment at training. To that end, his fearsome seamers will wreak havoc on a traditionally inconsistent Shepley wicket. Expect a few wickets and then a trivia night victory. GO Lowery!