A home side batting masterclass allows Exeter to overcome a despondent Bristol outfit and retain the Varsity shield in style.
The Exeter Mens 1s completed a victory by eight wickets in the Cricket Varsity, easily surpassing the 105 run target set by Bristol. The team and club members arrived at the ground early to prepare for a day that promised to be a great spectacle. The Cricket Varsity has always been the club’s most notorious event, year after year producing large crowds of students to frolic and bask in the sunshine around the boundary edge. This year’s match was to be no different as supporters arrived from midday onwards to watch the mens 1s take on Bristol. This year’s turnout was the largest Exeter had ever seen for a varsity game.
The team’s form of late suggested that a win was essential if they were to emulate last year’s success. An early blow came, however, in the form of illness as opening batsman Mikey Cousens was deemed unfit to play. This may well have affected the bizarre decision to bowl first on a wicket that looked in prime condition. That said, early exchanges between Exeter’s opening bowlers and Bristol’s opening batsman proved that there was plenty in the pitch. The first over saw Jonathan Burden finding the edge and a fantastic catch in the slips by Ollie Mills. The early sparring continued with openers Burden and Barton egged on by a crowd in good voice.
The second wicket fell a few overs later when a bewildered Bristol batsman attempted a pull shot off a short ball delivery by Burden. The ball came off the top edge of the bat and flew high into a space just behind square leg. The crowd watched as Rob Craze glided across the field to take a stunning diving catch, which caused somewhat of a ruckus on and off the pitch. Burden quickly struck again with an LBW to leave an intimidated Bristol side 12-3 after six overs. Their top order collapse echoed that of New Zealand, who were similarly crumbling under pressure from the home crowd at Lord’s.
With Bristol crawling to 46-3 off 15 overs, many of the club members were beginning to wonder if they would have to organise another game after the match so as to make sure people had got their money’s worth for the tickets. The Bristol top order certainly appeared as though they were yet to recover from their weekend of partying at their infamous ‘Love Saves The Day’ festival. It was going to take more than love to rescue Bristol from their current demise and this seemed highly unlikely as Exeter turned to spin. Cue Alex Hughes, the master of spin, who marked his run up to the sound of bawdy chants from the EUMCC faithful. Just before the drinks break, Hughes struck with an edge and a great take behind the stumps from Oli Rendell reduced Bristol to 70-4.
After the halfway break in the innings, Bristol began to seriously deteriorate as the Exeter bowling attack tore through some mediocre batting. Craze was called into action again, taking another fantastic catch off his own bowling, and Coldman redeemed his earlier drop with a strong delivery that left the stumps in tatters. It got worse for Bristol as a breakdown in communication between batsmen caused a laughable run out chance for Ollie Mills, leaving the away team faltering on 94-7. Club captain James Rimmer also had his moment of glory, taking two wickets in quick succession. Coldman took the final wicket with another catch in the slip cordon that left Bristol all out for a miserly 105.
As the Exeter players prepared to pad up and complete a convincing victory over their southwest rivals, EUMCC provided entertainment for the crowd with their famous stump challenge. Dehydrated and intoxicated, club members ran in relays out to a cricket stump, circled it a dozen times before running back to their mark in a state that resembled an all too familiar crawl up the high street after a Timepiece social night.
With the revelries over, Morgan and Craze were trusted with the duties of opening the batting for Exeter and they got off to a flying start. A flurry of boundaries off the opening overs suggested that it would be an early finish as the openers raced along at a rate of about four runs an over. Morgan and Craze made a 50 run partnership before the fifteenth over with an impressive array of fours. Morgan lost his wicket in the 20s and was soon followed by Ollie Mills who fell to an LBW appeal. Big hitter Tom Coldman came to the crease and took an over to get going before leaping into action. A cheeky reverse sweep and another couple of big shots saw Coldman hit 14 runs off just three balls. Craze also went into a frenzy of boundaries that saw him come close to 50.
There was no time for the drinks break as the Exeter batsman chased down the insignificant run total in no time at all to mark a win by eight wickets. Appropriately, Coldman hit the winning runs with a glorious straight drive down the ground for four. The match came to an end much sooner than many had anticipated in a game that won’t exactly live long in the memory of Varsity victories. Nonetheless, it was an important win for the Exeter 1s, who have a big game against Loughborough coming up which could make or break their season. All in all, the 2015 Cricket Varsity was a wonderful success for the Exeter Mens 1s. Jonathan Burden’s three wicket haul was well backed up by Rob Craze’s unbeaten batting effort and the remarkable catches that were held onto.
This match was a clear demonstration of the talent that EUMCC has at its disposal, and surely gives a brightly positive outlook for the future. However, there are several departures from the club coming up, and players like Club Captain James Rimmer will need to be replaced by fresh faces at the start of the new year. In the meantime they will prepare for Loughborough.
Freddie Eastwell, Sports team.