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Graham Croker

A brilliant 132 from young gun Scott Henry and a five-wicket haul from Greg Mail guided Sydney University to a first innings win over Randwick-Petersham in the final of the Sydney First Grade cricket competition played at Bankstown Memorial Oval on Friday-Saturday and Sunday.

Sydney University have become the first club ever to win all three major competitions in one season, with the win on Sunday seeing the minor premiers add the Belvidere Cup to the Limited Overs Cup and the Poidevin-Gray Shield (U21) they won the previous month to culminate a dominant 2010-11 season in the premier Sydney competition. It is their third title in nine years after they broke a 79-year drought to win the 2002-03 competition.

Henry’s defining and patient 360-minute innings, which included 10 boundaries and a six, was constructed after the Students had slumped to 7-99. He was ably assisted by ninth-drop James Crowley (50) who joined in a 165-run partnership to steer Sydney University to 288 after they had been sent in for first use of the Bankstown wicket.

Henry, who amassed over 700 runs in the second half of the season, was awarded the Benaud Medal for his man-of-the-match performance. He was also man-of-the-match in the Limited Overs final, making him the first ever player to win both major man-of-the-match awards in the same season.

Crowley’s innings cannot be underestimated. He batted for 254 minutes and collected one boundary as the pair of left-handers slowly rebuilt the University innings.

Henry, who is studying sports management at the Australian College of Physical Education, and Crowley, a veterinary science student, are both Sports Scholarship holders on the Elite Athletes Program.

The match was delicately poised at stumps on day two, when the Randy-Petes were 5-182 in reply, with opener Damien Wall back in the sheds with a top-score of 67 and Australian opener Simon Katich – batting at No.4 – sitting on 51 not out and posing problems.

But Mail, who had been dismissed for a six-ball duck on day one, imposed himself on the match with the ball when he had Katich caught by Nick Larkin for 53 and combined with leg-spinner Beau Casson to wrap up the tail. Mail finished with 5-30 off 19.1 overs  as Randwick-Petersham, who had finished second on the competition ladder, were all out for 228.

Sydney University Cricket Club coach Gary Whitaker said the result was an “awesome show of character”.

“There was a calmness about the team all season and there was never a show of panic when we were seven down for less than100 in the final,” he said. “There was always a belief in the dressing room that we could get the job done.”

The coach said Henry’s efforts during the season, particularly in the run to the finals, should be rewarded with a State contract. “He scored over 700 runs in the second half of the season and was man-of-the-match in two finals,” Whitaker said.

“James Crowley should also be commended. The longer he stayed at the crease, the more the momentum of the game shifted. And he came into the match after sitting for vet science exams through the week.”

Whitaker also praised Mail for his professionalism. “He’s never out of the match,” he said. “He bowled with the seam up and started getting some reverse swing,” he said. “And he threw in the occasional quicker ball – he’s faster than many think – to get his wickets.”

Sydney University are now title-holders in the premier cricket, rugby union, women’s rugby union and american football competitions in Sydney.

In the lower grades, North Sydney defeated Gordon outright to win the Second Grade title, Manly-Warringah drew with St George to win the Third Grade title, Sydney defeated Gordon on the first innings for the Fourth Grade title, and Manly-Warringah defeated Eastern Suburbs on the first innings for the Fifth Grade title.

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