In somewhat of an early Christmas present, Uni took the points off the Demons in 3 out of 4 Premier matches on the weekend, to sit on top of the ladder in the first three grades, as well as leading the Club Championship at the Christmas break.
UNI 10/285 def. MCC 10/232
Having claimed two crucial wickets at the end of last weekend, Uni came into the second week confident that a solid performance with the ball and in the field would see them over the line. In beautiful batting conditions at the Uni Main, however, Melbourne’s two tail-end batsmen dug in for the better part of the first session. An inspired spell of short-pitched bowling from Steven Reid rattled the Melbourne pair, before Gregory was able to strike just after the drinks break. When Peter Hatzoglou bowled Charles Lill to claim his maiden First XI wicket, the Students were on top, before Gregory, who bowled beautifully from the Pavilion end for almost an hour, trapped Pucovski (1) in front in the last over before the lunch break. The flurry of wickets saw Melbourne in trouble at 5/90, but still with some firepower to come.
The two teams engaged in an arm-wrestle for much of the second session, as Brown (30) and Buchanan (33) both scored quickly, while nightwatchman Elliott (82) provided stubborn resistance at one end. It was Uni’s bowlers, however, whose persistence was ultimately rewarded. Reid (2/52), Stafford (2/51) and Gregory (2/64) were relentless on a flat wicket, and their partnership bowling meant Melbourne could never really get ahead of the game. 7 wickets down and still 100 runs in arrears, the door was still ajar for Melbourne, but James Bett was quick to slam it closed after the tea break. Claiming a breakthrough in just his second over of the day, Bett removed Melville (10), before the debutant Peter Hatzoglou cleaned up the final two wickets with his trade-mark stump-to-stump leg spin, on his way to the impressive figures of 3/15.
Ultimately bowling Melbourne out for 232, Uni completed an invaluable win over Melbourne, and in doing so, retained the Michael Sholly Cup. Rounding out a particularly impressive first half of the season, the First XI now sit first on the ladder, a position they will be hoping to maintain after the Christmas break.
UNI 10/269 def. MCC 10/225
Coming into the second day in a strong position, Uni were confident of claiming a win on Saturday. Despite some early resistance from what remained of Melbourne’s top order, the Students held firm, before Abdul Haseeb claimed his first breakthrough of the day. When Ben Rolfs and Jacob Stevenson combined for the second wicket of the day, the resistance was largely broken, with Melbourne 6/136.
After the lunch break, friendly fast-bowling Canadian, Haseeb, continued on his merry way, removing batsmen seemingly at will on his way to his second five-wicket haul of the season, finishing with the mightily impressive figures of 5/54. Rolfsy wasn’t done, either, bowling a batsman around his legs (!) as he claimed three Melbourne wickets, and ensure they didn’t scare Uni’s total. When Melbourne were eventually bowled out for 225 in the 69th over, the Students secured another win, and locked away top spot on the ladder at the mid-point of the year.
UNI 7/202 (dec.) def. MCC 10/ 107
With the match evenly poised coming into the second day, Uni still needing 57 runs with only four wickets in hand, the Students needed one of the remaining batsmen to put their hand up and seize the moment. Thankfully, all those who had the chance, did so.
Recent VCE graduates Lachie Melican and Doug Warren resumed the chase together, and sent the Melbourne bowling attack back to school. Batting with positivity and terrific intent, not only did they deprive the opposition of any early joy, but they scored at a rate that saw them close in on the total very quickly. Combining for a 105-run partnership, the pair made light work of the chase on the second day, and after claiming first innings points, started sending bowlers to all parts. Melican (71) finished with his highest score for MUCC, while Warren (40*) showed maturity beyond his years. Captain Tom Savill blasted his way to 30 from 11 balls, before declaring, giving his side the chance to try and take 10 points into Christmas.
Still with more than half the day left to play, the Students couldn’t have asked for a better start with the ball, as the man of the moment, Lachie Melican, struck early to have Melbourne 1/11. Daniel Van Der Merwe and Tom Walker also got in on the action, but it was Melican who was the star, as he claimed another two victims, to take his match figures to 6/59, which along with his match-winning innings, earned him the mantle as TRP Player of the Week.
When stumps were called, Uni had Melbourne 6 down, four wickets away from an outright victory, but the first innings points see the Students on top of the Third XI ladder, their premiership defence well on track at the Christmas break.
UNI 10/115 def. by MCC 7/236 (dec.)
On a difficult day for the Fourth XI, they found a silver lining in the performances of a pair of young MUCCers, but the work was left to too few, as Melbourne claimed the win.
Chasing an imposing 236 for victory, the Students’ chase got off on the wrong foot, as Alexander (0), Kumar (5) and Kleanthous (0) all fell early. The ‘Conversation Hour’ Raf Epstein was resolute at one end, however, and he worked his way to an impressive 47, but he didn’t have enough teammates come with him as Jimmy Anderson (25) was the only other to pass 20. Browning (19) tried hard, but it was too little, too late, as Uni were eventually bowled out for 115.
After a tough first half of the season, the Fourth XI will have their work cut out for them after Christmas, but will be able to find some continuity at the selection table, as more players become available in the new year.
Congratulations to all teams and players on a terrific four months of cricket; sitting on top of the Club Championship at this point in the year is a testament to the efforts of the group as a whole, and the coaching staff and the Club are looking forward to getting stuck in again after a well-earned break. Go Uni!