Too often in college sport, the role of captain is understated as a glorified secretary who organises a team; a player whose input on the field means little. Somerville’s Tom Deegan quashed these preconceptions with a fantastic performance, both tactically and technically, to stun first division Exeter in the first round of Cuppers.
As the rain hammered the soggy crease, Exeter’s Spencer Crawley did likewise to the scorecard; a change was needed from Deegan. Six wickets may have fallen at this point, but the scourge of Somerville’s bowlers remained stable at the wicket. Sensing the OUCC vice-captain could amass his century rapidly, Deegan altered his fielding positions, moving Ed Fuller from deep mid-wicket to a more advanced mid-wicket position.
The move paid dividends immediately. James Khan’s medium-paced swing delivery prompted a loose shot to mid-wicket and the aforementioned Fuller, perfectly placed, caught the slippery ball. As Crawley trudged back to the pavilion, Deegan tainted his cap to Fuller; an understanding which proved to be foreboding at the conclusion of the contest as Somerville won by six wickets in a dramatic first round Cuppers tie.
Exeter captain Quentin Macfarlane won the toss and elected to bat. Fuller’s first over ball bowled through the gate and disposed of de Walden. Sanghera was to follow his team-mate back to the pavilion rapidly, succumbing to Nick Thomas’ left handed ball, skipping off the wet pitch quickly and bowling the Exeter man clean. Exeter were now at 12-2, not the start captain Macfarlane would have envisioned against their lower league opponents. To combat this body-blow, heavyweight hitter Crawley took to the crease.
His introduction sent Somerville sprawling. An early LBW appeal on him which appeared slightly outside of leg stump unfazed the Blues batsman as he magnificently found his range. Two majestic drives to the off-side, first for a four and then a six, sounded a warning to the Somerville bowlers of his talent. Unfortunately for Exeter, whilst Crawley stood tall, stone-like in stature, the rest of the order crumbled around him; even his captain could only muster a single run.
Exeter’s hope of a strong fifth wicket partnership between Crawley and Moir failed to materialise when the latter was controversially dismissed off James Cox’s wild full toss. Adjudged to have been below shoulder-height, Moir argued that it was only allowed to be bowled at waist-height; ambiguity in the rules led to confusion before the Exeter man admirably walked from the crease without troubling the scorecard, contributing to all-rounder Cox’s 3-16.
As Deegan’s brilliant captaining helped Crawley return to the pavilion with an impressive 74, the rain stopped its relentless assault and a cerulean hue filled the sky, reflecting Somerville’s new outlook on the contest. An upset was on the cards as Somerville’s captain claimed the wicket of eleventh man Maynard, ending his fourteen-run cameo and leaving his side chasing 137 to win.
Somerville began tentatively in their efforts to obtain that total, knowing that five runs an over would ensure they caused an upset, whilst their counterparts knew an early wicket could be critical. However, both Sophie Le Marchand and Anthony Woolf exuded calmness; Le Marchand exhibited more expansive shots, including a fabulous hook shot to the off-side, while previous captain Woolf was content with running singles.
Somerville steadily increased their total with 57 runs being scored from thirteen of their thirty overs, but Exeter struck with two quick wickets; firstly Woolf and then James Cox for a duck after getting caught with an awful top edge to mid-off. Deegan strode out to the crease, hoping to re-create the century partnership he achieved last week with Le Marchand; however, their hopes didn’t materialise when the excellent England U-21 wicket-keeper mistimed an aggressive shot. She left the field with an impressive and important 41. For Exeter, it was a crucial wicket, as was the next, which came shortly after.
Typically, it was former Somerville spin bowler Akshay Bareja bowling George Northcott clean which left Somerville on 85-4 and brought smiles to the fielding side.
This brought the aforementioned odd couple to the crease. The exuberant Fuller and the sagacious Deegan smelt the opportunity to recreate their previous innings’ heroics, Fuller eagerly moving from pavilion to crease; and ultimately from college bag to riches. Their partnership started slowly; and whilst the azure sky still shone strongly, it was now firmly radiating Exeter. Somerville needed a run a ball to cause the upset, and with Exeter’s bowling attack of Pattel, Crawley and Macfarline proving increasingly economical, Somerville appeared anxious. However, a quick fire twenty-five runs off twelve balls, including a beautiful four punched to the off-side by Deegan swung the game back in Somerville’s favour.
Exeter missed a simple catch from Fuller and the batting side believed the upset was once more a possibility. Completing the consummate captain’s innings, Deegan guided three to the off-side, bringing the scores level and ensuring he hit a fantastic 35.
With fourteen balls remaining, Fuller’s nick past fine leg raced away for four off Crawley’s bowling, completing his 18 not out and a sensational Somerville upset. Joy for the underdog captained by the dogged Mancunian, whilst Exeter will feel aggrieved by both the controversial Moir decision and their inability to exert pressure when their opponents appeared weary.