The two sleeping giants of college cricket collided on Wednesday, Christ Church confirming their status as Second Division favourites with a comfortable eight-wicket win over a depleted Magdalen side.
Magdalen skipper Alex Canfor-Dumas called incorrectly, and after being inserted by Christ Church caption Pomfret, attempted to atone for his misjudgement. He set about the seam bowling of John Perkins, playing majestic shots on all sides of the wicket. The other end was quieter, Sonmir Sidhu playing it safe at the other end. Will Clerk kept things tight.
After five overs each Clerk and Perkins were replaced by Tom Leary and Chris Perfect. Sidhu and Canford-Dumas, however, continued unperturbed on their way to a 50 stand. Five runs later, Perfect broke through, forcing Sidhu to chip a catch to square leg. The next man in, Dave Winterton, was dismissed in Perfect’s following over for a disputed catch behind. Canfor-Dumas looked for a half-century, but ran himself out for 40. Having looked set to register a big total, the loss of Magdalen’s top order put them on 66/3.
Two right-handers, Adam Rushworth and Mahir Kelshiker, led a rebuilding period for the away side, putting on over 20 runs. But Rushworth’s concentration was broken by a drinks break and he missed a straight ball from Leary in the first over back: 85/4. Kelshiker, playing a series of fluent strokes, had Elliot Ridgeon as his next partner. Together they took the visitors to three figures. Christ Church captain Pomfret, sensing that Kelshiker had found out his seamers, introduced off spin from both ends. It was an inspired decision: Kam Adle from one end and Olly Broomfield from the other induced a precipitous collapse as Magdalen lost their last six wickets for 15 runs in 29 balls.
Kelshiker hit Broomfield’s first delivery for four, and attempted the same with the next ball. It was caught at long off, bringing to a close Magdalen’s second best individual innings.
Later in the same over, Elliot Ridgeon was bowled off his pads, reducing Magdalen to 109/6. The helmetless Australian, Paul Bonnitcha was next out, leg before to Adle. Broomfield took his third wicket in his second over, when Magdalen captain Canfor-Dumas gave his wicketkeeper Sean Elias out leg before. It took a fantastic diving catch from Adle at long on to get rid of Peter Kennedy, before George Dix hit wicket off a slow full toss. A remarkable collapse: Adle (2.5-0-7-3) and Broomfield (2-0-8-3) turned the game for Christ Church.
Chasing only 116, Christ Church got off to the worst possible start. Adle, perhaps tired from his bowling exploits, edged Ridgeon to Elias behind the stumps for a duck in the first over. Hard as they tried, Pidgeon and Winterton were blunted by having to use the old ball. Will Clerk and Danny Pomfret, with time on their side, slowly built the up innings, picking off the rare bad balls. Never getting much beyond two runs per over, Pomfret played some classical shots without ever risking his wicket.
Clerk, tall and textbook, a right-handed Alastair Cook, built up his innings with increasing vigour. Whittington and Winterton were very tight; Kelshiker and Dix less so, but Magdalen missed their OUCC strike bowler Alex da Costa. They never looked like doing what they needed to; bowling out Christ Church to win the match.
Increasingly confident of this, Clerk and the previously Boycottian Pomfret began to accelerate their scoring. Only two runs away from a deserved half-century, Clerk misjudged a drive off Dix to provide an easy return catch. Needing 26 more runs to win, number four Simon Oakes had no intention of using all eighteen remaining overs, whipping his first ball through midwicket for four. Oakes was almost stumped in the following over, trying to hit a Rushworth offbreak into the Cherwell River. But the winning runs came comfortably to Christ Church. Living up to their Second Division favourites tag, Olly Broomfield declared, ‘We look hard to beat: the rest of the Second Division should be scared! Now for Cuppers!’ They could well prove to be this summer’s dark horse.