Your traditional season opener in mid-April doesn’t normally consist of cloudless skies, glorious sunshine and a relatively flat wicket. Nonetheless the Blues were straight into their stride with a comprehensive victory over Oxford CC to retain the Town-v-Gown Trophy. Bowling first Paul Higham and Rajiv Sharma ripped through the top order, leaving the opposition reeling at 25-5 after 11 overs. Higham, finishing with figures of 4-17, and Sharma with figures of 2-21, were the pick of the bowlers but were ably assisted by Lou Dingle and Tom Bryan who picked up two wickets each as Oxford CC were all out for 80 in just 30 overs. All in all it was a very good fielding performance. The seamers hit their areas and catches were, for the most part, taken – including a couple of screamers by Ben Jeffery at gully.
Robin Thompson and Jeffery opened the batting and got the Blues off to a flyer; 43 without loss from just 6 overs. When Jeffery eventually fell for 24, in came Olly Richards who continued his fine India form, by scoring a quicker than run-a-ball 28 to see the Blues home by 9 wickets with 38 overs remaining.
The next Blues game was against Cardiff University, and the first game of the BUCS league campaign saw a continuation of the fine form displayed against Oxford CC the Sunday before. Having been put into the field by Cardiff, Oxford were once again off to a flier. Despite having a catch dropped at short-mid-wicket off the third ball of the day, Don Gordon went on to clean up the same batsman with his next delivery. Bowling with control and the occasional burst of aggression, Gordon finished with figures of 4-31 and, along with Raj Sharma, had Cardiff 5 down for 42 after 17 overs. After a probing spell from debutant Anurag Verma it was over to the spinners on what proved to be a slow, turning wicket. 20 overs of spin from Dan Pascoe and Alex Scott yielded just 56 runs and helped to really turn the screw on Cardiff. Although the run rate was low the wickets just wouldn’t quite come as quickly as the Blues would have liked. Pascoe finished with 10 overs, 1 wicket for 28 and Scott 10 overs, 1 wicket for 24. Nonetheless the pressure was very much on the Cardiff lower order to reach a respectable score and clever bowling from Sam Agarwal and Robin Thompson (2-10) ensured that Cardiff were all out for what was hoped to be a below-par 143. It was a very good bowling performance but dropped chances meant that the Cardiff innings dragged on for a lot longer than it perhaps should have done. 3 catches for Agarwal in the field showing how it should be done.
Chasing 143 to win Ben Jeffery and Thompson opened the batting against some erratic, but at times hostile bowling. There was certainly plenty of swing present early on and it is to their credit that they put on the first hundred partnership of the domestic season. When Thompson was finally out for 45, having threaded his fair share of trademark late cuts down to third man, Oxford needed only 8 for victory. A quick cameo from Agarwal came to an abrupt end when he tried to end the game in style with the scores tied – charging down the wicket to the opening bowler only to slice it up in the air to mid off. Confidence in the skipper Sharma was clearly high as the next bat in, Ben Williams, didn’t even bother putting his pads on. Despite a couple of hairy moments, Sharma found a quick single to mid-off to win the game. Ben Jeffery finishing with a very encouraging 76 not out. Again it was a good all round performance, and confidence will be high travelling to UWIC on Sunday.