Mixed results in Varsity Cricket

Tom Woolford & Alex Levin 2 October 2009

1 Day Men’s Varsity Match: Cambridge lose by 6 wickets

4 Day Men’s Varsity March: Cambridge win by 10 wickets

Women’s Varsity Match: Cambridge win by 10 wickets

Cambridge captain Akbar Ansari was unequivocal in his assessment of Cambridge’s limp defeat in the 50-over Varsity match at Lord’s: “We batted really badly collectively.No excuses.”

Cambridge won the toss and elected to bat first, expecting a thunderstorm to interrupt Oxford’s reply in the afternoon. But Cambridge openers Christopher Grammer and Philip Ashton walked out under cloud cover to be greeted by a ball that was, claimed Ashok, “moving around a lot”. The Cambridge top order failed to get on top of the tidy Oxford bowling by Jonty Strachan (4-30 from 8.1 overs) and particularly Rajiv Sharma, whose extraordinarily controlled spell, in which he conceded just eleven runs in ten overs, merited more than the two wickets that he took. Cambridge collapsed to 24 for 5 in the ninth over, with Grammer (10) the only batsman to depart with more than two runs.

Cambridge almost doubled their total between the fall of the sixth wicket and being all out in the 41st over. Ananya Sen scored 15 off 27 deliveries, while number nine batsman Matthew Cook top-scored for Cambridge with a 26 from 68 balls. An explosive innings from Cambridge’s star bowler, Ruel Brathwaite (15) saw the West Indian receive just twelve deliveries but launch a pair of them for six. His dismissal ended Cambridge’s hopes of totalling near 150: when Cook was out next over, Cambridge had managed just 123 and left ten overs of their allocation unbatted.

Oxford’s openers applied themselves effectively and Cambridge’s hopes rested on Brathwaite. However, the Barbadian was inconsistent, sending too many down leg side. He bowled McKercher in fifth over, bringing Sharma to the crease but couldn’t find his line to the all-rounder who worked six runs off the first four balls that he faced.

Ansari reacted to Thomas Probert’s being pulled for six in the eighth over by brining on the spin pair of Francis Brown and himself to try to stem the runs. But the change didn’t work and the score reached 91 before the fall of the second wicket. Cambridge needed a monumental and sustained effort from Brathwaite and final figures of 3-38 was not enough to stave off Oxford’s victory.

However, Cambridge fared much better in the four-day first class match against the same opposition the following Tuesday at Fenner’s. Ansari once again won the toss and this time decided to field.

Cambridge got off to a good start as Oxford’s opening batsman McKerchar was run out by a direct hit from Ed Pearson off the third ball of the game and King soon followed, leaving the score 1-2. Sharma once again looked threatening, but this time Brathwaite managed to take him out for 12 before proceeding to bowl Oxford captain Ball with a delivery that hit the top of off stump. Rain called a premature end to the first day.

On Day 2 Probert got the first wicket of the day with a stunning caught and bowled to dismiss to leave the score 57-5 and end his spell with the extraordinary figures of 21-13-20-2. Oxford were bowled out for 152. Cambridge openers Grammar and Ashok got off to a watchful start with the wicket still doing a lot. But with the score on 16, Grammar edged Sharma and was caught by King for 2. Sen and Ashok added 62 before Sen was caught behind for 16, with the score at 78-2. Cambridge ended the day on 155-2.

On day 3, Ashok fell shortly after making his maiden first class century for 112, with the score now at 180-3. Brown (30) and Ansari added 85 to take the score to 265-3, before a dramatic collapse took the score to 303-9. Ansari was the last man out for a magnificent 132. Cambridge put Oxford back in and they ended the day on 124-4.

On day 4, regular wickets saw Oxford bowled out for 263. This left Cambridge 40 to chase and openers Grammar and Ashok accomplished this in under 9 overs to seal an emphatic ten-wicket win for the Light Blues. Their victory was their first since 1998 and only their second in the last 18 years.

In the women’s Varsity match at Lord’s nursery ground the same day, Cambridge triumphed in their last match of a distinguished season in which they won both promotion to the premier division of universities cricket and the BUCS Trophy. Captain Susan Little won the toss and sent Oxford in to bat. Despite not losing a wicket until the nineteenth over, Cambridge’s bowlers reduced Oxford to 156, with Ellie Fielding getting the prize wicket of opener LeMarchwho was superbly caught in the deep by Helen Bellfield. The dismissal cued a procession of wickets shared out between Fielding (3 for 36), Bellfield (3 for 29) and Clarkson (3 for 22). Cambridge’s response was emphatic. Captain Susan Little (54*) and Charlotte Hornsby (71*) carried their bats and eased to victory in 31 overs. Little admitted there were “a few dodgy moments” but paid tribute both to batting partner Charlotte Hornsby and coach John Welch for “an awesome season.”

Tom Woolford & Alex Levin