How's that?! Cambridge women record first Varsity win at Fenner's

Image credit: Stephen Turner

T20: Cambridge 77-1 beat Oxford 74-9 by 9 wickets:

Cambridge eased to victory in under twelve overs after a ruthless bowling display saw Oxford reduced to just 74 runs. 

Losing the toss on a flat track in perfect batting conditions, the chances of Cambridge picking up their first win since the competition began in 2011 certainly appeared slim.

However, the Light Blues could not have asked for a better start, drawing blood in the first over of the day. After flicking a Hannah Fisher delivery towards fine leg, Oxford opener Lizzie Fry returned for a second run that simply was not there, with an accurate throw from the deep enough to send her back to the pavilion, run out for one.

Buoyed by this early dismissal, Cambridge made it two wickets in as many overs as Lucy Binsted had the new bat caught at mid-off following some probing seamers in the corridor of uncertainty outside off stump. They say that catches win matches, and indeed the Light Blues were exemplary in the field all afternoon, barely giving their Oxonian counterparts a sniff.

However, they were no doubt assisted by some dubious decision-making from the batting side. Just after it looked like opener Siobhan Stewart had established herself at the crease with some graceful shots through third man, she lost her patience and charged down the track in a bid to heave Binsted out the ground. However, she could only look on in despair as the ball crashed into the stumps, leaving Oxford in all sorts of problems at 11-3.  

Indeed, it is testament to the pinpoint accuracy of the Light Blues openers that it took until the fifth over for Oxford to find the boundary, crashing a short delivery from Fisher through midwicket. With both bowlers struggling a little with the line, conceding a succession of wides that allowed Alycia Jewes and Sam Moore to climb to 38-3, captain Chloe Allison decided to ring the changes. Electing to bowl herself, she checked the Dark Blue tide with some looping leg-spin that proved hard to get away. Always tempting the big shot, she did not even require a full over to make the breakthrough, bowling Brown out for 18 with a magnificent yorker to leave Oxford reeling at 48-5 at the mid-point of the innings.

With last year's humiliating 10-wicket defeat now a distant memory, Cambridge surged in confidence as the wickets continued to flow as readily as the IPA available on tap from the beer tent stationed just beyond the boundary. Indeed, with Nanna Mexico, Hot Sausage Company and Toni's Ices on hand to keep the noisy crowd refreshed, the event had somewhat of a festival atmosphere, yet the fireworks were not to be restricted to the spectators as seamer Preeti Kate blazed her way through the Oxford tail. To continue with the incendiary metaphor on a day pushing 30 degrees, the Dark Blues risked fizzling out before the end of their allocated 20 overs, but somehow managed to stay in to post a bitterly disappointing 74-9.

After the innings break, the opening Cambridge pair of Frankie Barber and Hannah Fisher proved the byword of composure in pursuit of their target. Unlike their more temerarious Oxonian counterparts, they were content to negotiate the good deliveries whilst settling for ones and twos elsewhere. Cruising along at 24 for no wicket after five overs, Fisher then produced the first boundary of the Cambridge innings with a fine pull shot, before Barber dispatched a Attrill full toss behind square for four more. With the winning line well in sight, Fisher then threw the proverbial kitchen sink at a low full toss, but clearly luck was on her side for the fielder could not hold onto her mistimed effort. 

However, she failed to capitalise on her good fortune, missing a straight one from Attrill in the next over to give Oxford the faintest glimmer of hope. That said, with captain and all-rounder Allison next in to bat, the away side were then faced with the prospect of bowling at the two Full Blues in the team. Leading by example, Allison kept the scoreboard ticking over with some easy singles before crashing one through the leg side in an expensive tenth over for Attrill. 

Given the calm and confident nature of her innings so far, it was fitting that Barber found herself on strike with the opportunity to hit the winning runs for the Light Blues after a couple of wides from new bowler Siobhan Stewart. The script was not be tampered with, with the next delivery carted off to the fine leg boundary amidst wild celebrations from the partisan crowd. 

Finishing on 33 not out, this great day will clearly remain long in the memory of the Light Blues opening bat. However, it would be impossible to understate the importance of this victory for Allison herself, a veritable veteran of CUWCC (Cambridge University Women's Cricket Club). Speaking to the captain after the game, what really comes across is her persistence to redress the balance after several tricky years:

'This is my fourth year with CUWCC. In that time I have been on the wrong end of some large defeats. To turn it around with such a convincing victory is a very proud moment.'

Referring to the game in particular, Allison was keen to stress the importance of her team's ruthless efficiency in the field: 'it couldn't really have gone much better. A strong bowling performance was supported by five stunning catches and a run out'.

However, there is little for time for rest as CUWCC travel to Lord's next Friday for their 50 over fixture against Oxford at the home of cricket.

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