For those of you who play university sport you probably cannot help but feel a twinge of jealousy for Oxford’s Blues cricketers, who get to experience taking on the tabs not once but three times a year.
This year was much anticipated, with some new faces and dreams of more success. Coming off the back of a sterling 2013, where Cambridge were beaten in prestigious four-day fixture in their own back yard and at Lords in the one-day game, hopes were high coming into this season.
Unfortunately the start was muted, as the 20/20 game was called off for heavy rain. Luckily the British summer relented and allowed us the joy of two uninterrupted fixtures, one on 20th June at Lords and the four day game in the Parks from 30th June- 3rd July.
The Lords game promised much and delivered, as Oxford clinched an incredibly dogged 1 wicket victory despite the best efforts of the Cambridge bowlers, who until that moment had been devastating.
Then came the biger one. The First class varsity fixture is spread over 4 days and played alternatively in Oxford and Cambridge. One of the most prestigious sporting events between the two universities, the ‘University Match’ has been played since 1827, and featured greats representing Oxford such as CB Fry and Imran Khan. After a fabulous comeback in the one-day varsity match at Lords, the team where in high spirits for another potentially epic encounter.
With a strong new group of players, including newbies Fogerty, O’Grady, Gorman and Sakande Oxford were favourites for another varsity double. The game started at 11am on 30th June, with Oxford’s captain Kennedy winning the toss and opting to bat.
To the surprise of all, things initially took a shaky start for Oxford’s openers. Dowdall went out for a duck and Fogarty and Dowdall quickly followed. Before long Oxford was 37-3.
Indeed, the boys looked quite nervy until Ferraby and Kennedy steadied the ship, with both players amassing 174 runs between them, helping Oxford reach a commanding total of 210-3. By the end of the first day Oxford had gained 321-7 and the game was nicely poised going into the 2nd day.
Soon enough Cambridge were in bat, having bowled Oxford out for a respectable first innings total of 360. A notable mention should go to Cambridge’s Sears whose performance translated into bowling out 5 Oxford Batsmen for the total of 73 runs.
As expected, Oxford asked serious questions of Cambridge’s batsmen early on, having managed to take 5 wickets for a low total of 105. Oxford’s Williams and Marsden were causing havoc for the Cambridge openers, but just like Oxford’s first innings, Cambridge managed to settle into the game, as Hearne gained a much needed 88 runs.
By the third day Cambridge were 120 runs behind and 7 wickets down. Oxford managed to eat into this total pretty quickly until the light blues were all out for 275, 85 runs behind. Oxford capitalised on this lead, eventually declaring at 285-5, a grand total of 370 runs ahead. Praise ought to be given to Oxford’s Captain Kennedy, who selflessly put his team before personal glory, as he declared when only another 9 runs would have seen him earn a first class century.
Going into the fourth day Oxford knew they would have to attack. It was going to be hard for Cambridge to reach 370 runs, especially given the standard of bowling that had been displayed by the Oxford team, but equally the blues knew they would have to put on a strong performance to get past Cambridge’s ten batsmen.
Unfortunately it was not to be. Cambridge were disciplined and stayed level headed. Despite Abbot falling early to a Davies catch, by lunch at 75/1 it was becoming clearer that neither side, baring a catastrophic collapse, were going to be beaten. Cambridge ended on 195/4.
A draw probably was a fair result for the two teams, where neither team seemed especially stronger than the other after two tight varsity matches. However, after having beaten the tabs at Lords, and being unbeaten in varsity matches for yet another season, the blues can certainly be proud of their efforts. Special mentions should go to Oxford’s Ferraby who produced 176 runs over the two innings, and Cambridge’s Sears for a strong first innings performance wearing the Oxford batsmen down.
After 170 matches, the contest’s role of honour reads 58 Cambridge victories to Oxford’s 55, with 56 draws between the sides.