© 2019 – Nicolas Rackow for OUCC
(By Amy Hearn and Elodie Harbourne)
The Women’s One Day Varsity match took place at the Parks this year, rather than at the Lord’s Nursery Ground, but the change of venue did not deter the girls. In fact, playing on their home turf (#FortressParks anyone?) seemed to spur them on, as did the support of a fantastic home crowd.
It was a beautiful day for the OUCC Women’s Blues to record their sixth One Day Varsity win in a row – the most consecutive One Day Varsity wins for the side since at least 1979 (the last year in which records are available). Captain Vanessa Picker continued her excellent run of form, both with the bat and at the toss, as she called correctly and chose to bat first.
Picker and her fellow opener Olivia Lee-Smith batted with intent at the top of the order, and their partnership of 110 – the pair’s highest this season – set a platform for those to come. Lee-Smith was eventually dismissed by Larman for 40 (75), her highest score for OUCC. She was replaced at the crease by another OUHC star, sixth-year medic Sophie Taylor, who turned out for Oxford in the closing matches of the cricket season after returning from her elective. A year away from cricket seemed to have done Taylor no apparent harm, and she continued Lee-Smith’s good work at the crease.
Picker and Taylor put on a brilliant 157 for the second wicket. The two almost saw Oxford through to 50 overs, until Taylor was bowled by the penultimate ball of the innings, for a well-made 50 (63). The infamous Caitlin Deacock strode to the crease to face the last ball, albeit with less confidence than she had done in previous encounters with Cambridge, but could not score.
The highlight of the innings was not, unfortunately, the antics of Caitlin Deacock with bat in hand, but a much more technically correct knock from the ever-consistent Oxford captain. Picker carried her bat for an impressive 135* (165), as Oxford posted an imposing total of 2-266 from their allotted 50 overs.
Reflecting on Oxford’s innings, Picker said she “felt that if we could post a big total upfront, we’d have the bowling depth and athleticism in the field to restrict Cambridge in their run chase. We managed to keep the runs flowing throughout our entire innings, losing very few wickets in the process”. With half the job done, it was over to the girls to demonstrate to the supportive crowd why their captain had spoken with such considerable confidence in OUCC’S bowling and athleticism.
Cambridge struggled from the outset; the combination of a steep total, sharp fielding, and some tight bowling from openers Sam Bennett and Amy Hearn, proving difficult to overcome. Bennett, in her final Varsity after 7 years at Oxford, delivered the performance of a lifetime to end her university cricket career on a high note. She was ably supported by young guns Amy Hearn (1-11), Alice Hart (2-21, taking her tally to 18 wickets this season to finish as the leading wicket taker) and leg spinner Elodie Harbourne (1-9), all of whom will return to the side next year.
Bennett made the first break though early, as Baxter-Chinery was adjudged LBW for 1, and Hearn removed the dangerous Katie Gibson only 3 overs later. Despite declaring that she ‘never bowls well’ in Varsity matches, Bennett then proceeded to rip through the Cambridge middle order, dismissing Linsey, Allison, Binstead and Reeves, to finish with figures of 5-18 from her 10 over spell. It was a brilliant display of pace bowling from Bennett, who was unlucky not to have had more wickets to her name.
It seemed that Bennett could not stay away from the action, delivering a spectacular run out, ably supported by Lucy Duncan, who duly whipped the bails off with casual ease. Cambridge’s Holly Tasker provided some resistance down the order, ending on 18*, but Oxford’s first change bowlers kept the pressure on – even two slips needed to be employed for the leg spinner, quite a rare sight in women’s cricket.
As wickets continued to tumble at the other end, Oxford set their sights on achieving the most ever consecutive One Day Varsity wins for a side. Oxford were intent on providing the substantial crowd with plenty of entertainment before the 10th wicket was to call an end to a memorable day. So, almost as if it was staged, Oxford managed to achieve two overthrows, one at each of the two ends of the wicket (just to be fair), on the same ball, making the batters run 4 runs, only for the umpire to have an itchy shoulder and call one-short.
Cambridge quickly found themselves all out for 66 in 25 overs, a display that was summed up nicely by the Oxford captain, who thought that, “our bowlers, led by Sam Bennett, did an exceptional job at ensuring that Cambridge never settled into the run chase”.
Picker further commented that “Sam had the stumps flying all day and she was very well supported at the other end, with tight bowling from Amy, Alice and Elodie. I’m very proud of the entire team and can’t wait to see what we can achieve next season, with most of the team continuing on”. Sentiments that are surely shared by most.
Oxford won by an impressive 200 runs, the largest winning margin recorded in the last 40 years. This is a testament to the girls’ hard work on and off the field, and thanks must be given to all those who have offered their valuable time and help with training, scoring, driving, umpiring, strength and conditioning, nutrition sessions – you name it. Particular thanks ought to be given to head coach, Graham Charlesworth, for all his incredible support this year.
After another successful season, Charlesworth commented how “it’s always a pleasure to coach the ladies side. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity. I’ve enjoyed watching many of the players improve very quickly in a short period of time. What a way to sign off our season in the sunshine at the Parks! It was a class act from all of the girls”.
Echoing this, it would have been unfair to select a single Player of the Match, so a bottle of champagne was quite rightly shared between Vanessa Picker, who demonstrated her endurance, concentration and experience to bat the entirety of 50 overs, in the heat, on her way to a brilliant 135* (finishing as the leading run scorer this season, with a total of 608 runs this season), and Sam Bennett, who showed her skill and control over the ball to come away from her last Varsity game with the very impressive figures of 10-4-18-5.
Picker had nothing but praise for her team and said that “it was a privilege to captain the team to such a convincing win against Cambridge on Saturday. We’ve had a very strong season and it was an amazing feeling for everything to come together, in front of such a large and supportive home crowd at the historic Uni Parks”.
The Oxford MCCU Women’s team have now extended their lead over Cambridge to win their 19th One Day Varsity game in the years 1979 – 2019, with Cambridge behind with twelve. The women’s game has changed vastly over these years with considerably more time and investment being put into women’s cricket. So, in keeping up with the times (and in view of Oxford’s hopes in maintaining their lead over Cambridge and gaining promotion in the BUCS leagues), the women’s club has merged with the men’s.
Just as Picker explained, “merging with the men’s club has been a huge step forward for women’s cricket in Oxford.” She further emphasised the importance of the merger, saying: “In many ways, we’d already been operating as a merged club. But we now have the structure and processes in place to provide the best possible platform for developing women’s cricket across the University. We’re very grateful for all of the support we’ve received from the newly merged club”.
Here’s hoping for continued success in the seasons to come!
Summary of scores:
Oxford 2/266 (50 overs)
Picker 135 not out
Cambridge 66 (A) 25 overs)
Bennett 5/18 (10)
Hart 2/21 (7)
Harbourne 1/9 (3)