Oxford’s Men and Women both suffered Varsity defeats on Friday, as Cambridge completed a T20 Cricket double.
After comfortable victories in both the 50-over and T20 contests last year, the Women’s Blues meekly surrendered their Varsity crown after limping to an abject 74/9 in their twenty overs. Cambridge had no trouble in knocking off the runs, winning by nine wickets with some 50 balls remaining.
The Men’s match which followed was a somewhat tighter affair, but despite Matty Hughes’ valiant fifty, the Dark Blues fell just short, losing by ten runs after something of a recovery following a poor start with the bat.
Despite winning the toss on a sunny day which seemed perfect for batting, Oxford Women got off to the worst possible start at Fenner’s.
Wicket-keeper Charlotte Graham was run out in calamitous fashion off just the third ball of the innings, and strike bowler Lucy Binsted picked up the wickets off Vanessa Picker and captain Sophie Taylor within the first four overs to leave the visitors reeling at 11/3.
Imogen Brown and Sam Moore threatened some resurgence as they found some fluency at the crease, but the innings never really got going as wickets continued to fall.
Oxford managed to rack up 204 in this fixture last year, but their pitiful batting effort was epitomised this time out by Lucy Taylor’s tortured 32-ball stay at the crease, which yielded only three runs.
Leg-spinner Chloe Allison finished with a remarkable set of figures—four overs, two maidens, the wicket of Brown and just three runs conceded—as the Light Blues’ attack dominated.
A target of 75 was never going to be enough to challenge Cambridge’s batsmen, and openers Barber and Fisher accumulated steadily through the powerplay overs to reach 30 without loss.
Sarah Attrill picked up the wicket of Fisher, but as the Light Blues pierced the field with ease, they charged towards their target, eventually winning with a flick to fine-leg for four from Barber (33*).
This was Cambridge Women’s first ever win in a Varsity T20 fixture, and it was a fine way to do it.
The Men’s game saw two in-form sides face off: Patrick Tice’s Cambridge had won seven of their previous eight games, while Oxford’s Varsity treble last year was followed up by a series of strong results this season.
Despite losing the toss, Oxford got off to a strong start, with Toby Pettman’s medium pace proving hard to get away. He snared two wickets and took a catch within the first eight overs, and a sharp run-out from Matty Hughes saw the hosts slump to 34/4.
Tim Moses led something of a fightback, but dismissals in the middle overs meant Cambridge were 68/6 from 14 overs: a recovery was needed.
Fortunately for the hosts, Pettman (4-0-17-3) had bowled his full allocation, and returning Blue Johny Marsden’s increased pace played into their hands.
Moses slammed him for fourteen runs off the first three balls of the 18th over, and despite his eventual dismissal for 43, Rory Sale carried on where his teammate had left off, sending the final over of the innings for a further eighteen to leave the hosts 129/7.
Sale’s 14-ball cameo yielded 24 runs, which proved to be absolutely vital.
Vice-captain Dan Escott had been in fine form with the bat for Oxford, so it instantly felt like a bad sign when he was dismissed in the second over for just one: Moses proved impossible to keep out of the game, and forced an edge behind out of the Lincoln student with a nasty bouncer.
Jamie Gnodde and Alex Rackow came and went without proving the scorers with much trouble, while Hughes started to accumulate at the other end.
And just as Mathew Naylor became to settle at the crease, his lengthy partnership with Hughes was ended by a run-out at the worst possible time.
Hughes took the game into his own hands with the required rate climbing, and slammed two lusty blows for six in the fifteenth and sixteenth over to keep the run chase alive.
But some excellent death bowling from Moses and James Poulson, coupled with a lack of support from the other end, meant the Mancunian could not manage to pull off the chase: he fell in the final over, and Cambridge saw out the game to complete a ten-run victory.
The result meant it had been a disappointing two days for the Dark Blues, who were defeated by Manchester University yesterday in the BUCS National League 50-over semi-final.
However, their fighting performance will at least give them hope against of next week’s 50-over clash at Lord’s and the four-day game in Cambridge next month.