As both Uni and Melbourne entered this round at the top end of the Club Championship ladder, it came as little surprise that they fought out high-quality and evenly matched contests across the grades on day one of Round 9.
Melbourne University: 10/285 V MCC: 2/24
After being sent in on a fair wicket at the Uni Main, the Students found themselves in trouble early, losing Harrison Emms on the first ball of the innings. On a wicket that continued to seam around for the first hour and a half, Uni’s top order battled hard, but found it difficult to establish a partnership of substance. McKenna (28) batted nicely until just after drinks, and while wickets continued to fall at one end, Yaksender once again made batting look all too easy. Gregory (9), Young and Martignago (both 13) were all dismissed in and around the lunch break, while the Polish mastermind was going nowhere. Blasting balls through the offside, he moved past 50 for the fourth time this season. Eventually undone for a well-made 70, Yaksender had helped push Uni to beyond 150, but with the score teetering at 6/153, things could quickly spiral out of control.
Soon after, Liam Scammell was removed for a hard-fought 17, and Peter Hatzoglou was caught behind second ball, and Uni were 8/175, and readying themselves to defend a below-par score. Enter James Bett, Steve Reid and Mark Stafford.
Coming together an hour before the tea break, Bett and Reid combined for an invaluable 59-run partnership. While Bett demonstrated superb powers of concentration and discipline, Reid went about blasting his way to a season-high 43 from 61 balls including some gorgeous shots; just ask him about his straight drives! After his dismissal, Uni were not done, however, as former housemates Bett and Stafford added 49 for the final wicket. Their resistance and trust in each other was fantastic to watch, and helped push Uni up to a defendable score. When he was finally dismissed for 48 from 128 balls, Bettsy had helped knock the wind out of Melbourne’s sails, and drawn out the innings to such a point, that Melbourne would have an awkward 9 overs to face before the close of play.
Brimming with confidence from his unbeaten 22, it didn’t take long for Mark Stafford to switch into bowling mode, as he removed Melbourne opener, Jack Harper in only his second over. Steve Reid wasn’t to be kept out of the action either, as he drew Blake Thomson into a big drive in the third last over of the day, finding the edge that was comfortably held onto by Emms at 3rd slip. Finishing the day with Melbourne two wickets down and with two night-watchmen in the middle, Uni can be confident heading into the second week.
Melbourne University: 10/269 V MCC: 3/40
Also sent in, the Second XI were only too happy to bat first on the Albert Ground wicket. Such confidence was quickly vindicated, as Yousaf Iqbal, on return to the side, raced into the thirties at a run-a-ball. At the other end, Max Hatzoglou (11) was the first to go, bringing Noah Croes to the wicket.
The classy right-hander combined with Yousaf Iqbal for a 67-run partnership, and they helped Uni go to lunch with the ascendancy. After Iqbal was given out for 49, Uni lost wickets in succession, as Rolfs, Hutton and Horn all fell at one end. Nick Ritchie (17) showed promising signs on his Second XI debut, but it was Croes who had worked his way into the 70’s who was holding the innings together. When he was ultimately removed for 72, the Students were 7/185, and could easily have rolled over for a sub-par score.
Thankfully, Mark Simpson, comfortably the competition’s best number eight, wasn’t going to let that happen. Sending balls through the cover and backward-point region in trademark style, Simpson turned back the clock as he raced past 50, striking at almost 100. Combining with Abdul Haseeb (38), who harbours fond memories with the bat at the Albert Ground, the pair added 60 for the eighth wicket pushing the score beyond 250.
When the Students were eventually bowled out for 269, they still had 13 overs to bowl, with the chance to make some inroads. Taking this chance in the most incredible fashion, James Horn used his head at bat pad to deflect a well-hit ball up in the air, before taking the simplest of catches as it lobbed off his helmet. When Rolfs bowled the other opener and Abdul Haseeb combined with Noah Croes for his second wicket, Uni had the Demons in trouble at 3/40 and with the upper hand heading into the second week.
Melbourne University 6/53 V MCC: 10/107
On a whirlwind day at PP3, the Third XI have left the door ajar for Melbourne, after a dominant showing with the ball in the first half of the day.
Bowling first on a wicket that offered enough to the bowlers, Uni’s attack took full toll. Openers Lachie Melican (3/34) and Tom Walker (2/11) were impressive, hitting a hard length and extracting enough out of the surface, they combined for the first 5 wickets to have Melbourne right under pressure. So potent were the young pair of fast bowlers that at one stage they combined for 4 wickets for no runs, as Melbourne wilted to 4/27. Some resistance from the middle order saw the Demons push up towards the hundred mark, but it didn’t take long for Kendrick Hatton (4/9) to go about cleaning up the tail and bringing the innings to a close. Still with 35 overs left in the day, the chance was there for the taking for Uni to claim the points on the first day.
Melbourne’s bowlers were also able to make the most of the bowler-friendly conditions however, as the Students lost a flurry of early wickets. Roughsedge and Durrant were both removed early, while Hugo Bienvenu (22) provided some resistance at one end. Unfortunately he couldn’t find any friends to go with him as Stone and Hatton were both dismissed without scoring. With the score currently teetering at 6/53, Uni will be hanging their hopes on the incumbent batsmen, Melican (10*) and Warren (1*) to add the requisite 55 runs to win the match.
Melbourne University: Yet to bat V MCC: 7/236
In favourable batting conditions at Beaumaris Secondary College, Melbourne made steady inroads with the bat, but the Students never really let them off the chain throughout the day, as honours were shared at the end of the first day.
On his return to MUCC colours, it didn’t take Christian Van Der Merwe long to stamp his authority on the match, claiming the first wicket. Captain, Laban Ditchburn rotated his bowlers throughout the day, as nine MUCCers rolled the arm over, but it was Van Der Merwe (3/42) and Daniel “Haircut” McNab (2/40) who were the best performers on the day.
The Students managed to keep Melbourne to 7/236, and with a strong line-up and on a ground that has seen a lot of runs scored to this point in the season, can be confident of claiming a win next weekend.