A busy week for the Blues saw them continue their fine early season form. Two more resounding BUCS victories and a 10-wicket victory against the Duke of Norfolk XI at Arundel have left coach Graham Charlesworth with a lot of selection problems.
On Sunday the Blues travelled to UWIC under the captaincy of Dan Pascoe. Bowling first the Blues restricted UWIC to 244-8 from their 50 overs. A lot of the damage was done in the powerplay with Don Gordon and Lou Dingle restricting the UWIC openers to just 50 from the first 15. Pascoe finished with 3-37 as the UWIC tail capitulated, whilst Sam Agarwal and Alex Scott also bowled tightly in the middle overs, finishing with 2-50 and 1-46 respectively.
Robin Thompson and Sam Agarwal opened up for the Blues in reply, but when both fell cheaply to some aggressive bowling, the score was 29-2 from 8. There then followed a flowing 112 run partnership between Olly Richards and Ben Williams. Richards, 51, hooked magnificently as the UWIC openers seemed intent to bounce him out on a good deck. At the other end Williams played compactly and fluently, reaching his 50 from just 53 balls. When Richards was run out, sacrificing himself when Williams slipped attempting to turn for a second run, the Blues were 142-3 from 27 overs. When Tom Bryan came in, Williams simply seemed to accelerate, scoring the second 50 of his hundred in just 34 balls. When Bryan was eventually out for 26, Anthony Wilkinson came in to help Williams finish the job. The Blues went on to win by 6 wickets with 7 overs to spare, Williams finishing on 123 not out.
Next up was another BUCS match against Bath in the Parks. Again bowling first Paul Higham and Raj Sharma (returning to skipper the side) got the Blues off to another fantastic start. Bowling their maximum 10 overs each without a break they restricted Bath to 45-3. After that it was over to John Lodwick (2-25), Dan Pascoe (3-34) and Sam Agarwal (2-8) to finish the job, bowling Bath out for just 129.
In reply, Robin Thompson (31) batted well, gloriously straight driving their opening bowler down the ground. When Agarwal fell for just 16, Thompson was joined by the in-form Ben Williams who finished not out again on 56 and is still to register an average for the Blues. Sharma (16) and Tom Bryan (5*) helped finish the job as Oxford won convincingly by 7 wickets.
Finally on Friday the Blues made the long journey down to Arundel to play the Duke of Norfolk XI in a timed declaration game. Bowling first seems to have become the modus operandi for the Blues, and good opening spells from Nick Buchanan (14-3-59-1), Matt Swan (5-0-20-1) and Barney Gilbert (6-1-21-1) had the opposition at 69-3. Then it was over to the spinners to toil away on what seemed a very good, flat deck. Dan Pascoe (again captaining the side) struck in his first over, making it 72-4, and finished with figures of 2-26. He was ably assisted by Anthony Wilkinson who bowled exceptionally well and was unlucky to gain no reward from his six overs along with Alex Scott (2-45) before Robin Thompson came on to clean up at the end (6-3-8-2). The opposition had set the Blues 206
In reply, Thompson and Tom Chadwick were imperious, finishing on 70 and 131 not out respectively. Having not expected to open until a freak injury to Anand Patel saw him dislocate a finger in the opening 10 overs, Chadwick proceeded to stake a real claim for a permanent Blues place. Quick running and powerful driving were trademarks of their 206 run partnership, and the Duke of Norfolk XI really had no reply. It was an exceptional batting performance, paced perfectly in the conditions.
It capped an exceptional week for the still unbeaten Blues. The opening bowlers consistently hit their areas, spinners are creating pressure and the batsmen are all finding some form.