Oxford emerged from the dressing room after tea on day two in
the knowledge that their first innings had already won the match
and that there was every chance that they could defeat Cambridge
by an innings and take the bonus points on offer. Cambridge pair Harvey and James began day one at the crease
until a solid partnership of 60 was broken by Munday. On a
bowler’s wicket, time at the crease was vital and it was
apparent from the start of play that forging partnerships would
be essential. Cambridge faced an onslaught from the Oxford
bowling combination of Munday and McMahon, and in a hugely
important passage of the game on the first morning their upper
and middle order collapsed. A lot had been expected from the
Akram twins – Adnan and Arfan – at numbers three and
five, yet both succumbed to Munday. Rod Marsh, the former
Australian wicketkeeper and current ECB National Academy
Director, was in attendance with an eye on McMahon, an Oxford
Blue, and will have been impressed by his 3-26, while Munday took
5-52. Cambridge went into lunch on day one at 79-9, though when they
re-emerged Wright put on 24 runs before being caught off the
bowling of Suman with the score at 123. Knappett, the Oxford opening batsman, was caught excellently
by Harvey at 1st slip off the bowling of Wright, who was bowling
a very effective line and length that was jarring up at incoming
batsman Parker and troubling opener Selvey- Clinton. But in a
decisive period with both batsmen enduring numerous close shaves,
the Oxford batsmen settled and were able to take the upper hand.
Oxford were able to build on consecutive boundaries from
Selvey-Clinton in the 10th over, with both batsmen riding their
luck and benefiting from the occasional errant balls from Buckham
and Edwards. Though scrappy at times, particularly with Parker
being dropped in the slips, the level of skill displayed was
awesome and a 120- run partnership developed. Even when Parker looped a catch off the bowling of Wright, the
scores were level and any further runs would simply allow Oxford
to press for bonus points and, though Selvey-Clinton soon
followed Parker back to the dressing room after edging a Wright
delivery when on 69, the damage had already been done. The loss
of two wickets still left Oxford with the chance of pursuing an
innings win. Number 10 Suman doggedly put on 45 at the start of
day two, and when the innings finally came to an end, Oxford had
not only a first innings victory, but also a tidy lead of 125
runs. The consistent line and length of Wright was rewarded with
figures of 5-64, but otherwise the innings was “very
poor” in the words of Cambridge Captain Webley. Chasing a first innings deficit on such a bowler-friendly
wicket Cambridge were always destined to struggle, and the loss
of the top three before the total reached 70 runs seemed to
signify a tacit, subconscious concession of the match. The loss
of James’s wicket off the bowling of McMahon suggested a
loss of belief, and it was unsurprising that Cambridge, their
middle order failing again, found themselves at 86-6 after the
dismissals of Webley, Akram and Mason in quick succession. Even
defensive play from Kay, which saw him survive until the 55th
over, was not enough to put Cambridge in a position of strength.
Oxford went to tea knowing that maximum points were well within
grasp. Cambridge, though, responded well and in a well constructed
and patient innings, Park, in a significantly long 8th wicket
partnership of 89 with Wright, put on 70. His score at number 8
was extremely important to Cambridge, pushing them past the 175
run total required to score bonus points. The stubbornly
effective partnership saw off the remaining overs of the day and
secured some pride.ARCHIVE: 4th week TT 2004