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The Independent Online
NORMAN HARRIS

reports from Lord's

Cambridge University 284-4 v Oxford University

The Edrich Stand was packed for the start of the 150th Varsity match. At least, it was packed in rows 10 and 11, with the blue shirts and dresses of a Notting Hill primary school.

The St Francis of Assisi contingent offered a noisy accompaniment to any ball pursued to the boundary, but mostly they kept a hard-pressed teacher very busy in trying to prevent the premature consumption of lunch sandwiches.

Out in the middle everything was so calm and orderly as to suggest that both sides had agreed to make it so. On a placid pitch, the Cambridge openers seemed to have time at their disposal.

The morning's modest 33 overs produced a modest lunch score of 83 for 2, but after the interval Russell Cake and John Ratledge embarked on a long stand. Both of boyish build, one wearing a cap and the other bareheaded, they played forward so classically as to provide the day's only echoes of the bygone age.

Cake went on to make the day his own. Surprisingly nervous for one who had made a fairy-tale century against the 1993 Australians, it took him 21 balls to get off the mark. Patiently, he acquired his 50 - and then cut loose. Consecutive balls from the opening bowler, David Mather, went for 6-4-6-6 on the Tavern side and hastened Cake to a century, which he reached with a typically measured cover drive. His second 50 had taken 44 balls.

By then the blue shirts had long since disappeared and only a scattering of Lord's regulars saw Cake's dismissal trigger the fall of four wickets for 17.

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