OUCC’s Men’s Blues side made it seven varsity wins in a row at Lords this week, with a comfortable win over the light blues.
Despite heavy cloud cover and a green wicket, captain Toby Pettman (leading the side in the absence of Alex Rackow who was stuck in the library) won the toss and chose to bat. However, the Cambridge seamers responded well to being put in to field by taking 3 quick wickets within the first 5 overs, as Oxford slumped to 28-3. However, Hargrave continued unphased by this, making his way to an excellent 50 at just shy of a run a ball, through a combination of crunching drives and cuts off the seamers and sweeps off the spinners.
He was superbly assisted by Jei Diwakar, on his Blues varsity debut, who was happy to play second fiddle to Hargrave, picking up singles with ease and finding the boundary with a series of eye-catching cover drives. The two combined to add 91 for the 4th wicket, dragging Oxford out of trouble before Hargrave eventually succumbed to his favoured sweep. This brought Duxbury to the crease, and him and Diwakar continued to work the ball around in the middle with a succession of quick singles. Diwakar brought up his 50 off around 70 balls, but when Duxbury was undone by the Cambridge leg spinner, an Oxford batting collapse followed.
Pettman hit his first ball for four, then ran himself out next ball, and Diwakar followed suit 2 overs later, running himself out for a well-made 52. Searle and Mingard were then swiftly back in the pavilion as well, and all of a sudden Oxford had collapsed from 150-4 to 174-9.
Enter number 11 Matt Fanning. He combined with Freddie Foster to not only bat out the remaining 9 overs, but also put on another 53 runs, with Foster making 26 and Fanning reaching 29 off only 33 balls. The highlight of their partnership came with Fanning taking more than 10 off the last over to give Oxford the momentum going into the break. The two batted with tremendous spirit and nous, with every run scored being loudly cheered by the Oxford balcony, as the team spirit of the Dark Blues shone through. It was to be a decisive, match-winning partnership, posting a slightly under-par but very competitive score of 227.
When it was their turn to bat, Cambridge responded well against the opening pair of Pettman and Searle. The Oxford openers extracted more pace and bounce from the wicket than the Cambridge bowlers and were able to regularly beat the bat, but so too were the Light Blue openers able to find the boundary, as they made their way to 45-0 after the opening powerplay.
Hereupon Pettman introduced Fanning and Foster to the bowling attack, – the heroes of the batting innings – and their impact was instant as Foster bowled the Cambridge opener with his first ball. Both Fanning and Foster ended with 3 wickets apiece, with Foster removing both openers and Fanning vitally removing the Cambridge captain for 0. The two pegged the Tabs back with a superb display of discipline to 74-5.
From here, it always looked unlikely that Cambridge would reach their target. Mingard and Diwakar were introduced into the attack and kept the pressure on as the run rate built. Diwakar ended up with two wickets to go with his 50 earlier in the day, meaning that Pettman and Searle were able to return to finish off the job against the Cambridge tail. Cambridge ended up being bowled out for 171, which coincidentally had been almost exactly the score when Fanning and Foster had come to the crease with Oxford 9 down.
Oxford have now won the last 7 varsity matches at Lords, and this win was particularly sweet having lost the T20 game in Cambridge the week before off the last ball. Fanning was rewarded with the man of the match award, although him and Foster both enjoyed equally superb days. All eyes will now be on the four-day first class match in Fenners, starting on the 2nd July, where Oxford will be looking to win their first ‘away series’ since 2013.