Oxford slumped to a disappointing defeat in the
inaugural Charles Russell Varsity Twenty20 match. Having let Cambridge score 155-8 in their overs, Oxford stumbled and fell thirty runs short of the
target.

 

Winning the toss and
electing to field, Oxford enjoyed a perfect start. In the first over, a confused call left both
batsmen at the non-strikers’ end. The fielders’ task was easy: AS Ansari was
run out. Cambridge’s running was poor throughout their innings,
as the batsmen struggled to react to the imperatives of Twenty20 cricket.


Another
failure to adapt to the game’s format was evident in Oxford’s bowling. Umpires Royle and Tomlin were as
strict on wides as in professional Twenty20 matches, and opening bowlers James
Macadam and Ed Morse were repeatedly called for straying too far from the
stumps.

 

The successful run out
of Ansari proved to be a Pyrrhic victory for Oxford, however. Wicketkeeper David King was injured
in the process, and had to be replaced behind the stumps by Brendan McKerchar.


Without
a specialist ‘keeper, Morse’s stray deliveries were even more costly than they
would have otherwise been, and the repeated concession of five wides did the
Tab batsmen’s work for them.

 

From the other end,
however, Macadam removed Timms. A wild slash found the edge, and the ball flew
straight to Hill at second slip. Two wickets in the first two overs, and Cambridge were reeling. New batsman MacLellan, after
hitting one huge six over extra-cover, was also run out.

 

Despite the constant
fall of wickets, Cambridge were scoring quickly enough to maintain a strong position. O’Driscoll
was next to go, slapping Hill to the man at mid-wicket. Cambridge’s run rate was impressive: just under ten an
over for the first half of their innings.

 

Just when Cook looked
like taking the game away from Oxford, another mix up led to another run out. The
new pairing, Owen and Heywood, accelerated the scoring, the former bringing up Cambridge’s hundred with a glorious straight drive for
four.


Cambridge’s captain Owen, leading their charge, fell to
a great diving catch by Alex Ball at midwicket off the bowling of Hill. Cambridge had looked like they would accelerate away
towards 200, but tight bowling from Hill (4-0-13-2) and Sadler (4-0-21-1)
restrained them.


Baker was trapped LBW
and Cambridge’s momentum was sapping away. Sadler took a
catch at midwicket to remove Heywood, before bowling Ben Jacklin in the next
over. The final over started with a big six from Hemingway, who was run out off
the last ball. Cambridge closed with 155, a strong total but not as
high as maybe it could have been.

 

Oxford openers Bernie McKerchar and Oli Sadler
started confidently: the former’s lofted drive for six into the pavilion was
the shot of the day.  The Dark Blue
openers raced to 38/0 off the opening bowlers Kemp and Jackson, but the
introduction of O’Driscoll worked for Cambridge.


Sadler clipped the ball straight to Hemingway
on the deep midwicket boundary. It was Hemingway who bowled the next over, as Oxford lost two quick wickets. Kruger, after hitting
his first ball for four, fell LBW and next man in Alex Ball skipped down the
pitch and was stumped. In a matter of minutes, 38/0 had become 42/3.


Having
lost King, the number five, to injury, Oxford could not afford for numbers three and four
both to get ducks.

 

Rebuilding began with
McKerchar, showing no signs of fatigue after his 19 overs of stand-in wicket
keeping, and new man Spencer Crawley. McKerchar had adjusted better to the
demands of Twenty20 batting than any batsmen on either team, picking the gaps
in the field and hitting out when necessary.


He was warmly applauded upon
bringing up his 50. Just minutes later, though, he was back in the pavilion. A
mix up with Crawley left McKerchar stranded, and he was the fourth
run out victim of the day.

 

With their best
batsman out, Oxford never recovered momentum. Crawley was next out, bowled by Baker for 22. Hill and
Dingle led a recovery, but some exceptional fielding from Cambridge meant that they could never sufficiently
increase the run rate.


The need for quick runs forced risk taking, and Hill’s
gamble resulted in his being stumped. Next batsman Shephard was run out coming
back for two. At 99/7 (but with only two wickets remaining because of King’s
injury), Oxford looked finished.

 

Dingle continued to
battle on, hitting a huge six to midwicket that sailed over the heads of the
throngs of spectators. Needing 38 from the final three overs, any hopes Oxford had left were extinguished when Dingle (26)
was out LBW off Ansari.


Macadam and last man Morse hung around for another
over, but it was now a lost cause. A diving catch at backward point by Ansari
dismissed Macadam and ended the match. Oxford were 125 all out: Cambridge had triumphed on foreign soil.