Cricket: Jeh puts Oxford in control

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The Independent Online
Oxford University . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182-7 dec

Cambridge University . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26-4

SOMEONE up there is clearly trying to drop a hint. For the fifth year running, the Varsity match has not so much been disrupted by rain as spat upon from a great height.

More than a day has been lost thus far, in this, the 147th instalment of the oldest of all first-class fixtures, the divine intervention striking just as fears are mounting that declining standards and public apathy may necessitate a new venue. Given that its footballing equivalent has transferred from Wembley to Cambridge City FC, what price Lancing College come the millennium?

Yesterday's 23 overs were dominated by Oxford. Eager to make up for lost time, the Dark Blue tail wagged with sufficient vigour to add 29 runs in as many minutes, Michael Jeh the only casualty when he drove Simon Johnson - the pick of the Cambridge bowlers - straight to mid-on where Richard Pearson swooped to claim a worthy catch.

Jeh, a wiry, Sri Lankan-born, naturalised Australian, was soon back in the thick of it, opening the attack with his compatriot Jason Gallian. Obtaining unsuspected bounce from an apparently placid pitch, they had the openers bobbing and weaving as if they were facing McDermott and Hughes at Perth with the Fremantle Doctor gusting at their backs.

In May, Cambridge had been reduced to 12 for 6 by Surrey, but the carnage that ensued here was considerably more embarrassing. Tony Hooper nicked a riser to second slip in Gallian's first over; John Crawley attempted to turn Jeh to leg only to see the ball lob to gully and Marcus Wight edged the same bowler low to third slip half an hour after lunch. In the next over Garri Jones was caught behind pushing at Gallian to leave the Light Blues fading fast on 25 for 4, 14 short of their record low set in 1858.

The identity of the catchers took time to establish, the scoreboard filling in the blanks with question marks until the fielder in question waved his arms. When the Oxford scorer cannot recognise his own men, anonymity on a grander scale surely beckons. As if to rub in the general disinterest, the umpires were somewhat lax on the PR front. Not until 40 minutes after the scheduled start were the smattering of spectators informed that play would recommence at 12.30, while another lengthy silence prefaced the planned post-tea resumption that never came. Blue days indeed.