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Miracle on Grass


Taylors Lakes Cricket Club legend, life member and games record holder Simon Haigh reflects on an innings from young batsman Marcus Just that quickly became a part of TLCC folklore.

It’s the Tuesday before a season-defining game against Yarraville. We are 3 points ahead of Yarraville and sitting just outside the Top 6. The 1st XI are at full strength which means the 2nd XI looks strong. Real strong. I look at the squad of 13 players to choose from & Tynan agrees, how do we fit the 13 into 11? But I re-assure Tynan, “Don’t worry, we’ll cop a few curve balls before Thursday.” Within 24 hours, we lose 4 players from the top two sides. Problem solved.

I arrive at Yarraville, another ground I hadn’t played at before. Nice ground. Lovely old grandstand. Further confirmation of why I love this comp. The pitch is rock hard, the bowler in me is disappointed, but I know it’s for the better of the game. It’s cloudy & breezy, again the bowler in me is screaming out to bowl first if I win the toss, but batting first is almost always the go in one-dayers. I tell Wolfy (Paul), this might not be a bad toss to lose. The home teams are 7&0 winning the toss in the 2nds this year.

To my surprise and delight, it’s 11:20 and all 11 players are seated in the rooms. That’s a first. We discuss the importance of the game & the plan for the day. Batting order all but sorted. Bowling, not so. Marcus takes the warm-ups and continues to discuss the day ahead. I love what he brings to our side. Not just his batting ability, but he is a leader & he is always engaged.

Time to toss the coin. I’m yet to call correctly this season from four attempts. My plan is to call Tails. A text message from Chops earlier confirms that’s the way to go. I call Tails but as the coin is flying through the air, there’s a pending sense of doom as it lands. Heads. I know Yarraville will bat first. I signal we’re bowling and Justy yells, “I don’t mind that.

The rooms are a bit quiet as we prepare to take the field. A little bit of nervous energy about. That’s been the norm for the 2nds this season. The Just boys get the tunes going – Murder on the Dancefloor is first up. It’s a strange choice but I don’t mind it – good tune. The song is stuck in my head all day.

As has been the case for most of the season, we struggle to get early wickets. We drop a couple of halfchances, mixed in with a couple of mis-fields, but in reality, we bowl & field reasonably well. Jase Denny & I discuss the laws of physics as to how a lofted top edge on the off -side lands ½ way to the point boundary but has so much spin on it that it races to the third man boundary at a 90 degree angle??? A screamer of a catch from Aden S at short third man is just about the highlight of the session. Yarraville make 5/223. We agree the total is gettable, but history suggests that our batting may struggle to reign that in.

Within 10 minutes, our hopes of a successful chase are all but dashed. We are 3 down for 4 runs. Yarraville are up and about with their opening bowler, a left-armer, bending the ball back in to our right handers – Luke Harrison style.

Stefan joins Marcus. I remember thinking we need a 50 run partnership here – minimum. They make it look easy. Runs are flowing with minimum risk. I guess this has been Alex’s message all year – you’ve got to keep the scoreboard ticking. Not much point in blocking out 10 overs to “steady the ship”. 3/4 becomes 3/90 and someone makes the point, “well the run rate is not an issue”. I look up at the scoreboard & nod in agreement.

Stefan departs with the score on 99. His stocks continue to rise. Another gutsy knock. But in the blink of an eye, 3/99 becomes 6/101. The duck pond is filling up – 4 ducks in our top 7. Aussie informs me he actually made a duck as well – the 2 runs he made should’ve been leg byes!!! 5 of our top 7 in the duck pond!!! We need someone to support MJ who is in the zone. He is hitting the ball sweetly, finding gaps, finding the boundary… I knew he could bat, but I didn’t realise he could go BIG and AERIAL on the leg-side. I’m super impressed.

Aden & Marcus take us to 6/129, but that soon becomes 8/129. Another batsman into the duck pond. MJ is now 76. Marcus reaching triple figures is now my primary focus, as any hopes of winning are gone. I hope Ethan (Just) can support MJ to his ton – which he does. The boys on the boundary are thrilled & I’m relieved Marcus has got there. He is physically spent – it’s been a very warm afternoon. I almost expect him to throw his wicket away now that he has climbed the mountain, but I have severely underestimated the fire in his belly. The runs continue to flow as Yarraville’s bowlers have no answer to Marcus’ onslaught. He then launches a lofted on-drive which sounded SWEET off the bat – in baseball terms, it’s a no-doubter. “DOUBLE-STORY GLORY” I yell. It clears the boundary by 15-20 metres. I keep telling the guys, I never knew Marcus had this in him.

The Just brothers get us to 8/195 off 40. For the first time there is a sense of belief on the boundary. My heart rate is now officially elevated as I continue to pace back and forth padded up. The boys are now sitting in a delegated formation on the bench so as to not upset the Cricket Gods. Mic Brne has been watching for the last hour or so. Mmmmm, do we send Mic out at number 11? That’s a tantalising thought. I look over at Mic and ask, “You got your gear with ya?” He smiles & then turns back to watching the game. Was that a yes or a no? Not sure.

We are now 8/215 off 43 and for the first time today, we are favourites to win. Donkey asks, “What the hell is happening here?” I’m thinking the same. Are we about to witness one of TLCC’s finest victories? We can’t lose from here. It would be gut-wrenching to get so close and not salute.

Marcus fittingly hits the winning runs with a sort of slog sweep over square-leg/mid-wicket that reaches the boundary. BANG!!! We’ve won a game that we really had no right to win. Chasing 223 with 6 batsmen effectively making ducks??? Doesn’t seem possible.

The Just brothers have piled on 96 runs in under 12 overs. It’s just 6 runs short of the 9th wicket club record partnership set in 1991/92. Staggering performance. Marcus ends the day 145 not out off 126 balls including fourteen 4’s & three 6’s. It’s the third highest 2nd XI score in TLCC history. We rush out to the Just brothers to congratulate them. The sense of satisfaction they are feeling right now is the best feeling in cricket. The Yarraville 2nd XI are stunned. I don’t blame them. The umpires are in awe of the win. One umpire asks, “Is that young batsman (Marcus) related to Sachin Tendulkar? Amazing. Amazing.

The Just brothers lead us off the ground and I can’t help but think how proud my old mate Ben would be to see what his sons have just done. The club song is sung with real gusto despite a strange high pitched intermittent beep in the rooms that has disturbed myself and Wolfy (Liam) all day.

The buzz in the rooms is electric. It reminds me why I still play this unforgiving game. I can hear my phone receiving a stack of messages – news of our win and Marcus’ knock, has obviously been well received. I try to explain to Marcus that he has given us a life memory today. To not only make a ton when wickets are tumbling around him, but to then have the desire to push himself to the finish line, is something he should be so, so proud of. I’ve seen way too many batsmen make a decent score and think “I’ve done my job” and then soon lose their wicket & the team ultimately loses. Not Marcus. We were privileged to watch him today.

As we depart the rooms, I tell Wolfy (Paul) that Marcus’ knock is the best Lakers knock I’ve seen since Tuddy's 144 in a SF in 2012/13. The opposition are only now leaving the playing field. I know how they feel. I’ve been there. It’s a dark place.

As I drive home I can’t wipe the smile off my face. I’ve been part of a magical day. The 11 guys who played (plus Mic, Paul & Donk) will never forget that win, and they will never forget Marcus’ knock, and the match-winning partnership of the Just brothers.

There is no happier person than me when someone at the club who takes their cricket seriously has a BIG day. I have always said I’d rather play with 10 guys who care, than 10 talented guys who don’t care. I’m rapt for Marcus because he is definitely in the former group. He has worked tirelessly on his cricket for years, and like any batsmen, has experienced the highs and lows that cricket provides. But I hope he feels that his performance on Saturday has now made it all worthwhile.

The 2nds now sit 5th on the ladder with 5 wins and 3 losses. After being 0&2, there was every indication that this season was going to be a disaster. Not now.

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