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Ten of the best for James Vitali helps Cambridge University clinch Four-Day Varsity Match success

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Cambridge University's squad for the Four-Day Varsity Match. Picture: Mark Pettman (42113563)
Cambridge University's squad for the Four-Day Varsity Match. Picture: Mark Pettman (42113563)

Nick Taylor hailed Cambridge University for signing off in what could be the final Four-Day Varsity Match with first-class status with a bruising 249-run win over Oxford University.

It has been a summer of minimal cricket for the Light Blues, with just one warm-up fixture and another cancelled by the weather, and when they faced their old foes in the 50-over Varsity Match, it was a victory for the Dark Blues at the Parks.

However, Cambridge responded in style on their home pitch, in what could also be the final first-class match at Fenner’s.

Cambridge batted first, and it was a gritty display from Ed Hyde that helped them set a challenging target. The No 7 batsman faced 169 balls for 55, coming in with the score at 167 for 6 and departing with the total on 285 for 9. They were bowled out for 307.

Opening bowlers James Vitali and Padraic Flanagan then really got in the groove for the hosts.

Vitali claimed six for 34 and Flanagan snared three for 30 as Oxford were bowled out for 129.

In the second innings, Pieter Daneel set up the scale of the win.

He smashed 125, adding to his three slip catches in the first innings – and he would go on to get one more – to show his value as a perfect club man.

Cambridge were all out for 257, giving them a lead of 435.

Vitali was to the fore again, with four for 58 for a match haul of 10 wickets, and Niel Botha claimed four for 43 as Oxford were dismissed for 186 to give Cambridge an emphatic victory.

“We always love playing at Fenner’s and, especially having lost on Tuesday, the guys were really keen to show a bit of fight and fight quite hard,” said Taylor, the Cambridge University Cricket Club captain.

“On the first morning, we won the toss and batted first.

“I think it would be fair to say that the opening spell we faced on Tuesday was more threatening than the one that we faced on Thursday.

“In terms of the bowling, our guys came out and just put it in the right spot relentlessly.

“We ended bowling them out for under 200 twice.

“We really backed our batting line-up in the four-day setting, we just had a lot of depth this year.

“I think particularly on the pitch we were playing on, it offered a bit to the bowlers if you put it in the right spots.

“Having that batting depth meant we could keep on going.

“Once we got one or two key wickets on their side, the seamers basically ran through them.

“Despite only having played together a couple of times, we had a real team feeling.”

With the ECB expected to make changes to the cricketing structure – which was mentioned before the pandemic – it means Cambridge’s win could be the last in the current status of the historic fixture.

“This year would have been the last first-class games for the MCCUs, as that was set to end in 2020 and, of course, those games never happened,” said Taylor.

“At the same time, I think the review of first-class status meant that the Oxford v Cambridge game would lose first-class status.

“As I understand it, this is the last one. I think it was the 176th first-class game between the two sides.

“I think it’s possible it will be the last first-class game at Fenner’s, but it was nice to go out with a really emphatic victory.”

The captain was also delighted to reward the efforts of the club’s senior committee.

The game was played behind closed doors because of the pandemic, and it meant that many protocols had to be put in place and guidance adhered to in order for it to be played under first-class conditions.

“It was a really good four days for the club. The whole occasion was a logistical nightmare to get it off the ground, but Helen and Anthony Hyde did the bulk of the admin,” said Taylor.

“It was even better to get the win having had our senior committee put in a huge amount of hours to try to get the game on.

“It was brilliant to secure the win, and very pleasing to get such a good outcome.”

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