Cricket: Sunday best from Hicks denies Cambridge

Oxford University 259 & 203-6 Cambridge University 411 Match drawn
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The Independent Online
A LANDMARK day in Varsity cricket history. It was the first time there had ever been play on a Sunday - although it was the second time it had been scheduled for the Sabbath.

Rain, possibly courtesy of divine intervention, ensured no play was possible on that first occasion in 1988 and the weather had a dart at ending the proceedings prematurely in this, the 154th confrontation between Oxford and Cambridge Universities yesterday.

It certainly made a better fist of ending play than the Cambridge attack.

They did winkle out the odd Oxonian, enough to quicken interest and take the match deep into the final hour, but the Light Blues will have been disappointed - not least their captain, Quentin Hughes, who scored a first-innings century - that they were unable to polish off the Dark Blues after dominating the match.

Oxford are not the strongest of batting sides and had needed some first- day anchoring by Australian Nathan Ashley to keep them in the match. Sadly, Ashley was unable to repeat his feat second time around so it fell to the nightwatchman, Tom Hicks, to shoulder the burden.

He did so admirably, making a bit of a monkey of the opponents' attack, as he resisted them for a total of two and a quarter hours, taking his overnight 12 on to his maiden first-class half-century. It was not a chanceless innings, but who cares? The fact that he had been dropped on Saturday when he was on four, then twice yesterday on 12 and again on 26 would have mattered not a jot to him. He rode his luck and carried Oxford with him.

He eventually fell leg before to the last ball of the first over after a lengthy stoppage for rain, which had started falling during the lunch interval and lopped the best part of two hours' play from the afternoon.

The wicket-taker was Greg Loveridge, who won a solitary Test cap for New Zealand against Zimbabwe on his 20th birthday in January 1995.

Another antipodean, the Australian Byron Byrne, then ensured that Oxford honour remained intact and that there would be no repeat of last year's Light Blue triumph by sticking around until the end.

Byrne scored an unbeaten 49 as he and his seventh-wicket partner, David Eadie, dug in for an hour and a quarter to see off everything that Cambridge could bowl at them, including a solitary left-handed delivery from the right-handed leg-spinner Loveridge in the final over.

Hughes then called it a day with seven overs to spare, Byrne and Eadie having added 44 runs in 25 overs together.

Cambridge might have been further down the road to a possible victory had Hughes not opted to bat all the way through on Saturday. A lead of 100 would probably have been ample and a declaration then would have given Cambridge time to make inroads into the Oxford second innings. As it was, they opted for a lead of 152 and the Dark Blues were able to hang in there.