Cricket: Oxford quick to lose the initiative

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The Independent Online
Oxford U . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .153-6

Cambridge U

ENCOURAGED by victories over their County elders en route, the boys in blue might have anticipated a few more captive customers than the trickle that clicked through the turnstiles here yesterday. As it was, only the presence of a gaggle of giggling schoolgirls punctured the funereal silence. The odd pall-bearer would not have gone amiss.

The last time both sides passed through the Grace Gates girded by first-class conquests was in 1971, when Majid Khan led a particularly bright Light Blue XI, containing future Test players in Phil Edmonds and Mike Selvey. These luminaries were outshone, however, by Dudley Owen-Thomas, whose 146 helped secure him the Young Cricketer of the Year award, usually a guarantee of prosperity.

Not, alas, in this case. Regarded as a privileged toff amid the classless environs of John Major's beloved Oval, Owen-Thomas reacted to what he perceived as inverted snobbery, left after a couple of fraught seasons and became a solicitor. As the scant success of Andrew Wingfield-Digby and Roddy Kinkead-Weekes later underlined, a doubled-barrelled name in the post-amateur era is probably more hindrance than help.

Richard Montgomerie, a gifted opener on Northamptonshire's books, did little to enhance his prospects of professional acceptance after Oxford had opted to bat yesterday morning. Eyes aglaze at the sight of Cambridge's amiable seam attack, he pulled lavishly at Simon Johnson to be held at mid- on off the splice, his partner, the Australian Jason Gallian, having pre-empted him with another reckless hoick off Johnson that ballooned to point.

When Tony Hooper persuaded Alistair Storie to locate backward square in the 18th over Oxford were on the rack, which just about justified Chris Keey's subsequent sloth, four runs in 14 overs before the skies wept in sympathy for the undergrads in the Allen Stand.