Cricket: Crawley interrupts Oxford gloating

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The Independent Online
Oxford University 400-6 dec

Cambridge University 241 and 35-0

THERE is, it seems, more needle than usual in this year's Varsity match. Piqued by Oxford's inclusion of seven 'foreigners', as the Cambridge coach, Graham Saville, put it, the Light Blues are also fed up with the gloating that accompanied their rivals' unblemished record against the counties. It may safely be assumed that they were less than gruntled at being asked to follow on yesterday.

At one stage, Oxford were even in sight of avenging their most humiliating experience, Cobden's Match in 1870, a contest immortalised by F C Cobden's hat-trick to finish proceedings, the only time the outcome of a first-class match has been so decided. 'Up went Mr Absolom's hat,' the Hon R H Lyttleton wrote, 'down the pavilion steps with miraculous rapidity flew the Reverend A R Ward, and smash went Mr Charles Marsham's umbrella against the pavilion brickwork.'

When Gregor MacMillan's off-spin had John Carroll and Jonathan Arscott taken close in off consecutive balls in the last over before tea, Oxford's first hat-trick in the fixture beckoned. Nick Haste kept the next delivery out, however.

While John Crawley was in residence Cambridge appeared capable of stuffing words down throats. Much to their consternation, Oxford had elected to bat on, rattling up 92 in 66 minutes, Geoff Lovell, Sydney-born and the recipient of the inaugural Bradman Scholarship, completing a fluent century off 145 balls. The advent of Crawley then elevated the entertainment quotient to a higher plane.

Pulling Michael Jeh contemptuously for four to get off the mark, the Cambridge captain waltzed to 50 off 49 balls, an Astaire teaching a class of hoofers. It speaks volumes for Crawley's temperament that his 197 against Sussex last weekend was his first hundred for Cambridge off a county attack in what was his final opportunity to set the record straight. His dominance here, and the pallid batting that followed, merely emphasised the burden those slim shoulders have borne over the past three summers.

One inventive straight hook off Jason Gallian scooted towards the Q Stand as if fired from a pinball machine, but the piece de resistance came off Richard Yeabsley. Shaping to pull one that was banged in short, Crawley looked sunk as the ball died on the lifeless surface. Instead, he bent the knees slightly and swivelled to dispatch the rogue offering to the Grandstand boundary.

Crawley had no chance whatsoever when a delivery from Jeh squatted and struck him around the ankles. Jeh, whose wiry frame and elbow-propelled action conjure up a hyperactive marionette, sprinted to the striker's end, whooping and hollering. The gloating could now resume.