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Premiership Win for our Cricket Men

Photograph: Maccabi-AJAX men’s thirds WIN Premiership (Mercantile Cricket Association D South grade)

“It’s the best game of cricket I’ve played in,” Maccabi-AJAX men’s thirds captain Zak Pollak told The AJN after his team triumphed by five runs, and with just four balls to spare, in their Mercantile Cricket Association D South grade grand final versus Monash Uni last Sunday at Princes Park, Caulfield.

The Jewish team’s only two losses all season were against Monash Uni, but under coach Stefan Lidstrom’s guidance, they felt confident all week they could win when it mattered most. And when they did, as shadows lengthened across the ground, throngs of cheering fans ran onto the pitch, embracing the members of the first Maccabi-AJAX men’s Third XI team to compete in, let alone win, a grand final in six years. “I’ve never been hugged by so many people in such a short time!” Pollak said. “To experience that support, and win a grand final with these guys, felt unbelievable.”

Man of the match, veteran all-rounder Jeremy Hoppe – who celebrated the birth of a baby daughter just 12 days earlier – said, “seeing our fans run to us and cheer so loudly was super special. “Every player’s dream is to perform well at the pointy end, and win a grand final together as a team, and we did it!” Sent into bat, Maccabi-AJAX’s Andrew Rotstein (14), Pollak (run out for 34 off 49) and Elijah Mills (15) battled hard during a tricky period when seam bowlers were getting the ball to move around.

A 62-run partnership between Nadav Lowinger (39 off 49) and Hoppe (42 off 73), and a handy 20 by Justin Gross, ensured Maccabi-AJAX reached 10/201 in their 45 overs, despite a late collapse. “I was confident that 201 was good enough, and I was really happy with our top order – which has been good all year – and especially the patient way Jeremy played, and how Nadav was striking the ball so well.”

Eli Paneth removed both of Monash’s opening batters cheaply – including one via a superb catch by Zak Bierenkrant – but then a steadying 120-run third wicket partnership put Monash in the box seat, needing only 43 runs with eight wickets remaining. A huge turning point came at the start of the 28th over, when Pollak nailed two stumpings in consecutive deliveries that were smartly bowled by off-spinner Hoppe – both purposely a tad wider from the stumps to set a trap. “We had a plan and it worked –and it felt a bit like it was happening in slow motion,” Hoppe recalled.

A few overs later, Hoppe trapped danger man Rishupal Chhabra leg before wicket for 81, and Gurpreet Singh was run out for 7 via an accurate throw by Hoppe to keeper Pollak, and suddenly Monash were in dire straits at 7/177. Two late wickets to Elijah Mills – whose nine-over spell leaked just 16 runs – and a crucial maiden over by Justin Gross, left Monash needing six runs off their final over, with just one wicket left. Bierenkrant clean bowled Monash’s number 11 batter on the second ball, sealing the win for the Maccabi men.

Credit AJN

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