On a glorious Mayday, Worcestershire won the toss and elected to bat on a flat pitch. The new ball swung a bit, and the Oxford opening bowlers Charles Morris and Jamie Thompson bowled good lines and lengths to keep the Worcestershire openers, Pardoe and Mitchell, quiet.
After the first hour, Worcestershire had scored just 24 off 17 overs, and no boundaries. Some excellent fielding in the deep allowed Oxford to limit the run rate of their county opposition, and the lack of scoring opportunities forced the batsman to attempt some risky singles.
Oxford thought they had their man after a direct hit from mid off, but the umpire ruled that Pardoe was just home. However, Oxford were unable to make this pressure tell, and they didn’t help themselves by dropping two catches in the slips. As the morning wore on, Worcestershire began to score more and more freely, with the pick of the shots being a straight drive from Pardoe, the second of two consecutive boundaries.
Lunch was taken with Worcestershire 103-0, and after lunch they began to dominate. Mitchell was the main aggressor, and having reached his fifty soon after lunch with a boundary from his 121st ball, scored his next 50 runs off just 43 balls. He eventually caused his own downfall nicking a wide ball from Owain Jones through to the keeper Davison while trying to force the pace even more, having scored 118 from 180 balls, with 17 fours.
This brought Alexei Kervezee to the crease, but he only lasted 4 balls, slapping spinner Sam Agarwal straight to Cornelis Bodenstein at point. Oxford were then able to squeeze the visitors, who could only manage 37 off the next 13 overs, when they would have been hoping to score quick runs before the second new ball. Charles Morris, coming back on to bowl one over before taking the second new ball, bowled a good lifter to Pardoe, who could only glove the ball through to the keeper. Pardoe showed great application for his 89 off 244 balls, being willing to play the silent partner to more aggressive players like Mitchell.
At this point, with the new ball just three deliveries away, Oxford may have harboured hopes of cutting through the middle order and into the tail, but Morris and Thompson were unable to swing the ball. Realising this, Neil Pinner and Joe Leach went on the attack to create a score which would allow their side to declare. They hit the ball to all corners of the park, but the best shot of the lot was when Leach launched Ben Kemp back over his head for a straight six.
Pinner fell to a good low tumbling catch in the deep by Lloyd Sabin off the bowling of Kemp for 54, but Worcestershire were able to keep the scoring rate high, and they declared at 6pm on 348/4, with leach having smashed a valuable 55 from 66 balls, with four fours and two sixes.
The Oxford openers were able to navigate the last twenty minutes safely, but they now they will have a lot more to do tomorrow if they want to get near to Worcestershire’s total.
John Morris, father of Oxford captain Charles Morris, thought that there was not much more Oxford could have done, saying “The Pitch is really slow, compared to the pitch against Durham which had pace and bounce. The 1st new ball moved a bit, the 2nd didn’t. There is nothing in the pitch for the bowlers, so if Oxford bat well, this is headed for a draw.” Worcestershire batsman Joe Leach agreed, but still harboured hopes that his side could force a result, saying “The wicket is good, but it could spin on the last day. It will be a tough job to take ten wickets, but if we can, hopefully we can then bowl them out cheaply on the last day. But it is a good wicket.”
PHOTO/Oxford University Sports and Cricket