Women’s Blues win Twenty:20 Varsity

Women's Blues and Men's Authentics seize victory over Cambridge, while Men's Blues are narrowly defeated.

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A bleak day at Fenners was kicked off by Barnaby Harrison’s impassioned Authentics (Men’s 2nds). Aided early on by some wayward bowling to the tune of a gleeful all Oxford crowd, Tom Oliver and Ben Barber led the ‘tics to 40-1 off the powerplay.

The game was turned as an initially scratchy Freddie Freeman found the middle and put Cambridge’s first change bowler into the Hughes Hall accommodation. From there he never looked back and was finally dismissed for a swashbuckling 35 off 22. Callum Job followed suit with 20 off 14 before skipper Harrison finished the job with some characteristically lusty blows (22 off 11). The innings was honourably anchored by the ever-jazzy Barber who was eventually dismissed for 52 (50) – a potentially matchwinning knock with the aesthetics to match.

The second innings began in true ‘tics fashion with 60 being taken off the powerplay. This being a familiar scenario meant that there was no panic and the first change pair of Chris Mingard (4-0-1-25) and Fergus Neve (4-0-2-15) calmly reeled the Light Nlues back in, building pressure by taking wickets. By the time Jei Diwakar (3-0-0-12) and man of the match Ben Barber (4-0-2-21) came on, the pendulum had firmly swung back in ‘tics favour, and they finished the job impressively, leaving Cambridge 29 short after their 20 overs – a near perfect all round display until Freeman decided the job had become too professional and shelled a goober off the last ball of the game.

An elated group soon settled in for the remainder of the day, consistently clearing the few spectators in their vicinity and providing the majority of the noise for the afternoon.

The OUCC Women’s Blues notched their first varsity win of the season at Fenner’s on Friday afternoon, and did so comprehensively. Cambridge won the toss and chose to bat – a decision which surprised OUCC captain Vanessa Picker – but this minor disruption did not deter the girls for long, if at all. After a disciplined first over from Sam Bennett set the tone for the Cambridge innings, Amy Hearn made the crucial breakthrough with her first ball, Emily Wilkins taking a sharp catch behind the stumps to dismiss Cambridge opener Katie Gibson for 5.

Hearn then removed the other opener, Holly Tasker, in her second over, to leave Cambridge reeling at 15-2. Oxford sustained this pressure throughout the Cambridge innings, restricting them to 80-6, despite a battling 37 not out from their captain Chloë Allison, with two wickets each for spinners Elodie Harbourne and Surabhi Shukla.

Oxford started their chase well, as Picker and Olivia Lee-Smith, the incoming Blues hockey captain, put on 30 for the first wicket, before Lee-Smith was run out attempting a second. She was replaced by her predecessor, Shona McNab, who scored a run-a-ball 19 to help Oxford towards their target but was bowled by Coral Reeves in the 12th over. Reeves took a couple of quick wickets, but the middle order played sensibly despite difficult batting conditions, and Lucy Duncan saw Oxford over the line in the 16th over.

All in all, it was a comfortable win for Oxford, giving them confidence heading into some big games over the next ten days, including playing the MCC at Lords on Tuesday 28th May.

Inspired by the day’s feats thus far, the Men’s Blues were desperate to get going, particularly once Alex Rackow had won the toss under darkening skies and stuck Cambridge in the field. George Hargrave got us off to a flier, lingering blood alcohol allowing him to fully express himself undaunted by the occasion. When he was dismissed for 48 off 36 the going became tougher as the field simultaneously went back and singles became the desired currency.

Cambridge’s bowling became as miserly as their board charging £4 for entry, and against the backdrop of silence their spinners slowly turned the screw. In these tough conditions Matty Naylor, James Bevin and Tom Claughton battled hard to set a platform for the big levers of Pettman and Swanson to clear the ropes. Sadly, neither of these aims was quite fulfilled and Oxford staggered to 131 off their 20. Unideal, but hopefully enough.

Chasing in a Varsity game is like nothing else and no team had ever lost at home in this fixture. The pressure was very much on the Light Blues. Oxford started well with Old Oxonian Nick Taylor walking past the third ball of Ben Swanson’s first over, well stumped by Jake Duxbury. The powerplay went well with Toby Pettman, Chris Searle and Freddie Foster all doing jobs alongside Swanson. Duxbury’s ridiculous one-handed grab behind the stumps will go down as an innings highlight (after multiple recantations it has since become a particular lowlight).

Taking wickets at regular intervals meant the Dark Blues stayed ahead of the eight ball – led through the middle overs by a typically austere Matt Fanning spell – until their set batsmen, biding his time rotating the strike, had a successful swing at the end; a good display of patience and bottle. Oxford went into the last over of the game with the Tabs needing 4 off 6 Pettman balls. A wicket first ball gave Oxford a glimmer. 2 dots gave the Dark Blues ray. Cambridge ended up needing 1 off 1 and scampered a quick single to get home. An exceptional effort by Toby.

It was a really tough loss to take but one that will hopefully drive Oxford to victory in the forthcoming One-Day Varsity (at Lords, Tuesday 5th week) and Four Day Varsity (Fenners, 10th week).

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