Masters At Ross Gwilliam Field, Macquarie University Sports Ground On Sunday 11 December, 2016: Report By Terry Pontikos
Scrooged: A Cricketer’s Club Christmas Carol
The Blues Masters side has ended its year on a successful note with a thrilling victory over the previously unbeaten Macquarie University.
It was the turn of the C.C.N.S.W. Masters men to play ‘Grinch’, restricting the University side to a gettable 155, and then reaching the score late in the day. In a highly disciplined batting display that invited a tense last hour of play, the Blues used a miserly run rate to arrive at the target with restraint being a continuous theme.
As a contrast to the recent collapse to Warringah, the top and middle order were all about the value of their wickets and it was refreshing to see. Macquarie University was full of confidence on their home deck, boasting the Comp’s two leading wicket-takers, slow bowlers at that and also a handful of the top ten batters.
The wicket was generously grass-covered in areas but dead all over in terms of sustained support for pace and seam. The bounce was low but steady on a small outfield that made scoring tricky when fields were set deep.
Richard Bryant extracted spitting bounce early, bowling at a blistering clip. A lone uncaught fine edge between keeper and first slip to show for his troubles.
On a day which saw Mike ‘The Treasurer’ Weaver not only come back from a long lay-off but also take the helm with the brackets ‘c’, the Cricketers’ Club seemed steeled for a long-haul effort in warm conditions.
Naturally Weaves lost the toss and was itching to get out there. He’d been living and breathing every nudge for one and cut for four for months. Training sessions, tours, you name it. He’s been the most active injured player in the history of league cricket.
It was the big test finally for his ‘gammy’ knee, the wretched cartilage betraying a man who just can’t seem to get enough cricket into his system and certainly not from want of trying.
Macquarie University came out to bat with stride and purpose, with openers Rose and Sutton teeing off early with a mixture of commanding and daring shots, racing to 70 runs from 12 overs. The scorching start included six finely struck boundaries that left the Blues shell-shocked.
Cricketer’s Club, as far as energy in the field was concerned, was phoning it in for the first ten but almost to a man became revitalised when Lee Witherden (9-1-40-1) broke through Rose’s concentration to rock his off peg. The wicket followed a series of saved boundaries. The breakthrough sparked a team-wide lift in attitude that caused a four-wicket crash for 13 runs before drinks to see Macquarie University stagger to the break at 4-83..
Sutton retired after a brilliant and breezy match-high score of 52* but not before being troubled by Richard Bryant’s (8-0-43-0) pace and later Witherden’s length and movement through the air. The Blues were exerting great pressure from the field now and would be rewarded with two later order run outs through the trusty arm of Jim Hadley, both at stages when the Blues wanted to strike to keep their momentum.
David Benson (6-3-18-3), a man with the Midas touch with the pill this season, again set the tone with a great spell of wobbling darts at first change. He knocked over Macquarie’s number 3 and 5 bats with castle cutters and together with Graham Buck (9-2-20-2), ensured a game-winning 5 wicket combined haul for only 38 runs in 15 overs. ‘Bucky’ bowled a beautifully controlled spell that proved he has the ability to contain as well as claim key wickets. University couldn’t buy a run at one stage, the sluggish wicket and deeper set fields proving a challenge for incoming batsmen.
While Macquarie’s tail wagged somewhat, universal opinion was that this was one of the C.C.N.S.W. Masters’ finest efforts in the field and with cherry. All the bowlers applied tight lines and discipline with runs at a real premium. Catches were held and players backed each other up in the field in a pleasing display of teamwork.
Benson (‘Beno’,) Witherden (‘Lee-Roy’) and Hadley (‘Hadds’) covered plenty of ground, using their still-lively arms to good effect from the boundary. Weaver (’Weaves’) and Craig Somers were omnipresent in close, applying pressure and saving runs being added to the ask.
Macquarie went into a spiraling funk they never really emerged from. Mick McCormick (3-0-8-1) chimed in with the wicket of the stubborn Edgerton. Mark Delaney took a ‘special’ skied catch at mid-off from ‘Beno’s 3rd set of rocks, holding his nerve and the nut as the ball swirled down upon re-entry to the stratosphere.
Jim ‘Wizz’ Hadley (5-0-18-1) trapped University’s number 10 plumb in front after the batsman attempted a reverse park of his feet in front of the poles to a ball that was hitting all three halfway up.
‘Mr Favellous’, Brett Favell kept a clean and tidy wicket in a great day out, having a hand in the two run outs and stopping an avalanche of runs down leg, conceding only 2 byes for the innings.
If the Blues had turned ‘Scrooge’ in the field then it was quite clear they would encounter similar starch from the undefeated University. A total of 155 seemed simple but mid-range chases like these in cricket rarely are for most teams.
A bounty of a lunch spread awaited both sets of combatants. The cold chopped fruit plates and sandwiches would have done Jamie’s school dinners proud for the presence of healthy choices and kept on loving parched players throughout the afternoon. Full marks to the Macquarie boys. This scribe rated it the best spread of the season to date.
Mike Weaver (33) and Craig Somers (10) started the Masters’ climb deliberately and cautiously, using ten overs to knock off the first 30 runs. Both men were in good nick but University gave very few cheap runs. Instead of regular boundaries, bunting singles around seemed the smart play.
Somers was the first to depart, unable to extend his superior run of form when he feathered an edge to the keeper from the bowling of Payne. Jim Hadley (41* ret) took to the centre as the Blues team sat back, expecting fireworks as per Big League program.
But ‘Hadds’ was having none of it. He studiously applied himself to grinding a start until the faint run rate saw him glitch back into ‘Axe man of the Apocalypse’ mode. He skied an attempted straight slog so vertically that by the time it came down, the entire University slips cordon were under it and playing rock, paper, scissors to decide who’d pouch it.
The indecision proved costly. The ‘keeper called off other catchers in better positions and promptly made a hash of it, over-reading the position of the ball and grassing it back over his shoulder.
‘Hadds’ sought to re-apply himself and make the opposition pay. His next lash out would be more substantial and saw a collective gulp from the Macquarie team as Jim swatted one expertly long over mid on, one bounce.
At the other end, ‘Weaves’ was putting theory into execution, turning the strike and showing inventiveness of his own such as his cheeky cross-line fetch to a vacant mid-wicket boundary that helped break the shackles. Their partnership added 37 for the second wicket.
‘Weaves’ finally lost concentration after facing a series of full pitched balls from Coey and then battered the next wide half-tracker straight down the gullet of gully. However he’d more than done his job in a fine return from the Masters’ Administrator and Chief Financial Officer.
Mark Delaney (15), the swashbuckling leftie looked to force the pace early. He too benefitted from an early life after clubbing a high dolly to mid on which was spilt by the Englishman with the mad ‘fro, Sutton – who’s mane was a manic mix of Barry Richards and Ronald McDonald.
Mark cut and drove well, looking to milk the slow straight-breakers of Folkard for boundaries but with a stacked off-side field more often than not the ball found University men rather than open ground. Patience was the order of the day as the pair compiled a further 27 runs in 10 overs, ticking the Blues towards the target.
Hadley was resolute, standing in defiant defence like an ancient Druid at a Stonehenge gala day. University was already ruing lost chances and heads began to drop. There would be another couple of chances as Blues batsmen were given lives through further poor catching. Another way to look at it was the scoreboard pressure applied to the fielding team through their modest tally. But scoreboard pressure runs both ways.
Jim retired with the self-confessed ‘slowest 40’ of his career but, for the balance of the batting line-up, his retirement simply made the game ‘safe’. At 100-odd for 3 in 30 overs with 55 more runs to rub off and the bulk of the batting intact, we could not possibly lose it from here. Could we?!
The runs dried up after Jim left and Mark was stumped off the wily bowling of Folkard. New batsmen Mick McCormick (14) and Brett Favell (8) attempted to lift the rate but found the going tricky. After the platform had been successfully laid, it seemed smart enough for the duo to continue with circumspection in their shot selection which runs contrary to the natural instincts of both players.
Both belted early boundaries before bogging down to the ultra-slow bowling of Folkard and Edgerton. With a pair of spinners barely pushing it through and a field set on containment, the run rate dipped back down to under three an over. Even with seven wickets in the bank it looked like a touch and go affair with over 5 runs per over now required from the last ten.
Just as ‘Favs’ started to find some rhythm he missed a straight one from Edgerton to go leg before. Pontikos (7) came to the crease intent on turning the strike and exploiting tiring fielders with quick singles. A boundary and consecutive threes from the pair dialed the pressure down.
The batsmen discussed a hit and run mentality with so many wickets still in hand and overs disappearing. Pontikos was immediately run out by the bowler after a suicide attempt at a single. This brought David Benson (3*) to the square with the Blues now only 16 runs adrift with three overs remaining. Run a ball stuff.
Mick became Edgerton’s second scalp, also falling leg before to a straight ball. The task of reaching the victory target would be left to a pair of bowling heroes, ‘Beno’ and Richard Bryant (12*). ‘Richo’ made short work of the cleanup, smashing a four then a booming straight six to claim the winning runs in certain style.
The Team was: – Craig Somers 10; Mike Weaver (c) 33, Jim Hadley 41* ret Mark Delaney 15, Brett Favell (w) 8, Mick McCormick 14, Terry Pontikos 7, Richard Bryant 12, David Benson 3*, Lee Witherden dnb and Graham Buck dnb
The Result was: –
Macquarie University C.C.: 10-153 (D. Benson 3-18) (39.5 overs)
C.C.N.S.W.: 6-156 (J. Hadley 41* ret; M. Weaver 33) (38.4 overs)
By 4 wickets.
FoW: – 1-30 (C. Somers) 2-62 (M. Weaver) 3-94 (M. Delaney) 3-105 (J. Hadley 41 *retired) 4-123 (B. Favell) 5-140 (T. Pontikos) 6-147 (M. McCormick)
The Bowling was: – L. Witherden 9-1-40-1; R. Bryant 8-0-43-0; D. Benson 6-3-18-3; G. Buck 8.5-2-20-2; J. Hadley 5-0-18-1; and M. McCormick 3-0-8-1
The Fielding was: – Stumpings: Nil
Catches: one each to M. Delaney, J. Hadley and M. Weaver
Run-outs: – two to J. Hadley
Player Points: – 3 points to J. Hadley; 2 points to D. Benson; 1 point to G. Buck