Oxford MCCU (a combination of the best players from Oxford and Oxford Brookes) put up a credible performance against reigning county champions Warwickshire, losing on the final day by the narrow margin of 21 runs. The match was one of the few first-class matches Oxford play each season and a chance for the two universities’ leading cricketers to test themselves against some of the best players in the country.
Warwickshire batted first and got off to a shaky start losing Varun Chopra early on. Irish international William Porterfield and Ian Westwood took Warwickshire to 86-1 but they were dismissed by Cornelis Bodenstein in quick succession. When Bodenstein took another quick wicket to leave Warwickshire on 92-4, Oxford were well on top.
Former England internationals Tim Ambrose and Jim Troughton led a Warwickshire revival putting on 112 runs in 30 overs. Again however one wicket brought two, with off-spinner Agarwal dismissing both men in the space of a few overs. 52 not out from Tom Milnes together with some patient support from the tail brought Warwickshire’s score up to a respectable 293 when they declared for the loss of nine wickets.
That left Oxford with a tricky passage of play to negotiate before the end of the first day’s cricket. Milnes again starred for Warwickshire, this time with the ball, dismissing Sabin and Bodenstein before the end of the day, leaving Oxford reeling on 2-2 overnight.
Things did not get much better for Oxford the following morning with two more wickets falling cheaply. However opener Agarwal, not out overnight, remained at the crease and and compiled a fluent 108. This, together with solid scores lower down the order from Williams, Morris and Ellison, meant that Oxford reached 270 before they were dismissed. Oliver Hannon-Dalby was the pick of the Warwickshire bowlers with 4-50.
Warwickshire’s second innings got off to a good start, with Chopra and Westwood putting on 50 for the first wicket. While they were both caught behind with Warwickshire’s score in the 50’s, at 92-2 Warwickshire looked to be in a position to bat Oxford out of the game. However a staggering collapse followed with Warwickshire losing seven wickets for the addition of just 21 runs. While the last wicket pair added 18, Warwickshire were dismissed for just 131 with Ellison, Morris, Kemp and Bodenstein sharing the wickets between them.
Yet again though Oxford’s innings got off to a poor start, Agarwal falling for a golden duck. More wickets followed leaving Oxford on 13-4, with Warwickshire’s Tom Milnes again doing early damage with the ball. Lloyd Sabin and Ben Williams saved Oxford’s blushes with a partnership of 95 but once they were dismissed the tail folded, with Milnes picking up 7-39.
While Oxford will be disappointed with the manner in which they lost, only losing by 21 runs to a side which included several regulars from last year’s county championship winning side is a significant achievement. The result should give Oxford great confidence about their prospects for the rest of the season.