The second oldest fixture still held at Lord’s ended in a comfortable win for Cambridge in front of small, but enthusiastic crowd at the home of cricket. The result of the corresponding Twenty20 match a month earlier was reversed, as Cambridge’s superiority told when they took control of what might have been a tricky run-chase.
On a blustery July morning, Ansari won the toss and put Oxford into bat, declining first use of a pitch on the far edge of the square. Oxford started securely, if not explosively, with opener Sam Agarwal showing some touches of real class, successive drives off the bowling of Hopkins eliciting low murmurs of approval from the crowd. But the steady platform he looked to be building with opening partner Dan King was shaken as the pair departed in successive overs, both leg-before, to leave Oxford struggling at 45-2.
The two Sharmas found themselves at the crease, and advanced the score by another 40 runs before captain Rajiv was dismissed, sharply caught at point by his opposite number Ansari. The wickets helped Cambridge keep a lid on the run rate, although their seam attack was for the most part gentle, with the exception of Marc Rosenberg, who alone extracted life and movement from the surface. , The surviving Sharma was joined by Nick Kruger, and the pair conformed to the innings’ existing pattern, a diet of singles leavened with the occasional boundary. Sharma made it to 50, but was out shortly afterwards, surrending his wicket and Oxford’s momentum, on 142-5.
From there, things might have subsided meekly for the Dark Blues, but they were rescued by Australian pair Dan Pascoe and Nick Meadows, who accelerated drastically in the final overs, taking full advantage of the short Mound Stand boundary. Their hefty strokeplay was supported by some wayward Cambridge bowling, especially from returning opener Charlie Hopkins, whose medium pace skidded nicely onto the bat and was dispatched for 39 in two overs. His misery was compounded by the dropping of Meadows; by the time he was out, for a pulsating 67 off 49 balls, the damage had been done, and Oxford closed on 270-9, a good effort after earlier struggles.
Cambridge, faced with a daunting target started cautiously and Dingle was rewarded for his persistence after an indifferent start with the wicket of Timms leg before. His partner Ashok was visibly frustrated with only one run off the first 10 overs, while No.3 batsman Hesketh unfurled some glorious cover drives to help the score along before being caught behind off Jake Lodwick’s first ball. Ansari’s intent was clear as he smashed his first ball for four, and Ashok at the other end was finally finding his stride. This confidence soon led him to take one stride too many against the spin of Pascoe and he was neatly stumped by King.
At this point the match was evenly balanced; Ansari’s new partner Rosenberg quickly settled in, taking a particular liking to the bowling of Tully, evidenced by a gloriously struck straight six. As is so often the case, both fell in quick succession, but any chance of an unlikely Oxford comeback was ended as Brown and Kennedy set about getting the remaining runs with clinical aggression and professionalism. The imposing target of 270 was achieved with just over 2 overs and 5 wickets to spare and Oxford were left to rue missed opportunities in the field and the batting depth and professionalism of the Light Blues.