Oxford Victorious Once Again at Lords

A victory by 9 runs for the Dark Blues on Friday showed their continued dominance in the one day game, as it marked the fifth consecutive win for Oxford at the Home of Cricket.

The Oxford success sees them draw level (1-1) in the 3 match Varsity series, with lots resting on the 4-Day First Class game coming up soon on the 4th July. Bouncing back from the agonizing defeat of the t20 game at Fenners was a tough ask for the blues, which saw them fall 10 runs short of a Cambridge 133 despite the best efforts from captain Matthew Hughes, attaining the game’s highest score of 60 off 52 balls.

However the tightly knit XI shown fantastic determination and character on the day to produce a fantastic comeback victory:

Having won the toss, Hughes elected to bat first, where he and Dan Escott later made their way through the famous Long Room to go and open the batting. The Hughes/Escott combination has been a rather destructive one over the last couple of years, as they both scored centuries against Cambridge in the 4 Day game last year.

Escott scored more freely in the opening overs, showing Cambridge he is the in form man, as he opened his scoring with an elegant straight drive off the bowling of Crichard, and proceeded to slap consecutive boundaries through the offside. Hughes struggled as he battled hard against the skill of tall Cambridge seamer Tim Moses, however his innings kick started when he drove Crichard through mid on towards the Red Bricks of the Lords Pavilion, which was accompanied by the first minor eruption of the day from the rather large Oxford contingent buried in the Bowlers Bar.

A drag on from Escott saw 2nd year PPE student Matthew Naylor come to the crease, who has been an anchor in many of the Oxford innings already this year, he and Hughes manipulated the spin of Rory Sale and the accuracy of James Poulson well to achieve the stable base of 80/1 off 20 overs.

In the next over a strong straight drive from Naylor clipped the bowlers hand, leaving Hughes completely stranded at the non-strikers end and run out for 32. This brought the experienced Jamie Gnodde to the crease, who played quite beautifully, using his strength and skill to score with a strike rate of over 100 from the first ball he faced. Gnodde punched the bowlers hard off the front foot and pulled anything short of a length to the boundary without fail, his assertiveness was complimented wonderfully by the patience of Naylor at the other end, who welcomed Winder to the attack by skillfully lifting him over the top of the infield towards the Pavilion.

The run rate climbing saw the return of Moses to the attack, who without the new ball in his hand, Gnodde made light work of; as he eased him backward of point through the offside for consecutive boundaries.

The dismissal of Naylor for a typically considered and sensible 52 (score at 162-3 off 36 overs) brought Nick Taylor to the crease, who made 100 the previous week against a strong MCC side and accompanied Gnodde in pushing the run rate. After hitting the first maximum of the day into the stands at Lords off the bowling of Sale, Jamie Gnodde was eventually out to Moses for 76 off just 60 balls, a quite remarkable and mature innings for the dark blue side.

Towards the end off the Oxford innings, wickets continued to tumble around Nick Taylor who was persistent and sensible as he scored at a run a ball. This brought the strong physique of both Rugby and Cricket blue Jonathan Marsden to the crease, who proved to be the crowd favourite, as he whacked an extremely useful 16 off 12 balls, including the biggest hit of the day into the second tier of the Grand Stand.

Oxford wrapped up on 264-8 from their 50 overs.

The Cambridge openers Colverd and Chohan came out positively, not holding back any confident strokes, however they both fell to Marsden now with the ball in his hand. Marsden and Oxford fresher Toby Pettman both bowled confident opening spells, Pettman made a very strong start to his no doubt long varsity career with 3 wickets in the t20 match the week before.

The game was extremely well poised and in the balance, with the crowd beginning to realize just how well matched both of the sides were, until disaster struck for Oxford… a diving attempt from seam bowler Tom Brock at third man lead to a dislocated shoulder, and left Hughes with the problem of only 2 seamers to conduct for the rest of the match.

The character of the Oxford side was truly tested to its maximum capability, and captain Matthew Hughes decided to take the reigns and, despite expecting not to bowl before the game, had to try and rattle through a rather “invisible” 10 overs of part time off spin.

However the real stars of the Oxford dark blue bowling attack were yet to emerge, a second wicket for young fresher Ben Swanson, bowling with fantastic control with his slow left arm off spin, saw Tim Moses join Angus Dalgleish at the crease at 111-4 off 25, the game truly in the balance. As proved in the t20 game, Moses once again was the obvious Danger Man, as he took a liking to Swanson, hitting him into the newly built Warner stand for 2 gigantic blows, the Cambridge dressing room and support was all of a sudden alive, Dalgleish and Moses playing confidently and the cleanest strike of the day from Moses off the bowling of Pettman, cannoned down from at least 20 rows back of the Warner stand. It became quite obvious to the Oxford men, that Moses must have been removed from the crease in the next 10 minutes, otherwise the ask may have been too much.

Hughes had no choice, he threw the ball to pace man Marsden who produced a near perfect Yorker to uproot the off stump of the Moses giant, the game and the dream was alive once again for Oxford.

In took real guts, determination and skill for 19 year old Swanson to come back having been dispatched into the stand only 30 minutes earlier, and remove Angus Dalgleish for 68 off 86 balls, diving forward for a catch off his own bowling, which in hindsight won Oxford the game. Swanson finished with figures 10-0-58-4.

Without Yorker man Brock, James Gnodde was also asked (now with the ball) to go well beyond his call of duty, making it quite clear to Hughes that he wanted to bowl the death overs, and what a remarkable job he did with Marsden returning to bowl his final two overs from the other end.

The game was concluded by Marsden, once again producing a perfect Yorker to remove Tice and top off a well deserved Man of the Match performance.

Cambridge finished on 255 all out, losing by 9 runs. What a wonderful game, without doubt a privilege for all of the players to be a part of, and one of the most exciting varsity games in recent history.

Both teams now look forward to the 4 Day match, the decider, and what a spectacle it will be.