Warwick Varsity Match Reports
With a strong indoor season to date boasting seven consecutive wins, Warwick’s finest 18 (minus an injured 1s skipper Henry Hayes) were prepared for a very tough set of games against a formidable Coventry outfit. Despite the last encounter between the two being a Coventry win, Warwick had taken the last three varsity series, so it really was anyone’s game. Upon arrival at the fortress that is the Desso Hall, Warwick encountered slightly more media attention than they are used to, with the ECB holding a conference that was almost certain to overrun. Despite this slight setback, we just about managed to get the hall clear and the netting set up, ready to let varsity commence…
Having won the toss and elected to field, skipper Jonny Bradshaw led his men through a short warm-up and before we knew it the umpires had come out and we were underway. What looked to be a promising first over from Charlie Yorke-Starkey turned rather expensive when Cov opener Marney hit a six off just his second ball. Nathan Mead had similar trouble and after just eight balls Cov had found 19 runs. Proceedings changed quickly, however, as Yorke-Starkey refused to stay away from the action and took aim at the stumps, hitting under pressure and sent Marney back for 13. The euphoria felt from this first wicket was short-lived, however, as the watching crowd were then shown some very nice strokes by the other opener, Hussein, accompanied by a sprinkling of wides. After five overs, Coventry were 72-1 and looked as if they weren’t being troubled at all. Once Hussein had retired, the settled number three Mathias was run out for 11 and Warwick were in with a bit of hope if they could keep this slice of momentum going. New man Azariah was also run out the very next ball, really widening the game up, and the tension grew as we entered the final three overs. The last batsman, Suleman, spent longer than Warwick had anticipated at the crease, but not to our detriment, as he only scored at a rate of a run-a-ball. Hussein hadn’t been gone long but was required to revisit the crease, and picked up the run rate once more. With two balls to go, Suleman was run out to leave the last delivery for the in-form opener. Thankfully, the shot was spooned up to Chandi (whose solitary over we won’t discuss), who took it off the wall to leave Coventry all out for 116 (10.0).
Skipper Bradshaw opened the batting with Chandi, and found himself pinned down by a very consistent bowler, a no ball being the only blight of the six balls. Perhaps this added pressure was what got to Chandi on the first ball of the second, as he played a very questionable shot straight to short extra cover. 3-1. Yorke-Starkey came in next and hit some lovely shots to put Warwick back on track for what was still an unlikely victory, seeing us to 37 off of the first four. Once Bradshaw found the blade of his bat, the pair of them were in full flow, seeing us to 51 at the halfway mark, before the skipper retired and Hussein picked up the scalp of Starkey (only after a couple of dangerous sixes, however). Kunwar Khan, the new man in, continued where his predecessors had left off, reaching a rapid 20 whilst Nathan Mead at the other end could only watch. However, this burst of runs could only propel the UWMCC to 96 runs, and with two overs to go, John Samuel and the returning Jonny Bradshaw had the task of finding 20 runs off 12 deliveries. After a couple of plays and misses by Samuel, and some heated words from the skipper, Cov’s part-time bowler decided to give us a couple of no-balls to keep the game moving, and after some good running between the wickets we needed just 7 to win with seven remaining. Samuel, who had bowled so credibly earlier on, appeared to struggle under the looming pressure, caught off the ceiling off the last ball of the over, and it was all down to the skipper to see us home. Fortunately for Jonny, he didn’t get enough runs to put us within one good shot of victory, as that surely would have lowered morale significantly. Instead, he saw an inswinging yorker go crashing in to the base of the stumps. Pandemonium from the Coventry end of Desso, and heartbreak for Warwick.
After a big run chase came crashing down at the last minute in the 3s game, we knew that both the 2s and the 1s were must-win scenarios if we were to vanquish Coventry once more. With larger-than-life Rory ‘The Moose’ Annandale winning the toss and electing once again to field first, it became a game of limitation from the off, giving them the same total as last time was surely too much to ask for our limited batting lineup. Things didn’t start too well for UWMCC, with Vivek’s first over going for 13 (including a whopper of a six) and Clayden’s first two balls going for back-to-back boundaries. Despite some much-needed dot balls to end the second, Coventry’s openers Amrinder and James found their way to 53 from 4, and the WASP showed a score prediction of a large 125 from their allotted 10. The double-change of bowlers worked well, with Piers Fisher bowling some neat spin and skipper Moose only getting hit for one six in his first two balls (the other one he overstepped). Annandale’s over ended with possibly the most needed wicket in UWMCC history, seeing a fine catch from Vivek ending the innings of new batsman Wijesinghe, who had been brought on to replace the retired Amrinder. Of course, 73-1 off six was far from ideal, but luckily The Moose wasn’t finished there.
James, the slightly slower-scoring opener, was trapped LBW by Piers in the very next over, out for 24 (how crucial that may have been). The following ball, Cov captain Pearce thought he was able to beat The Moose’s powerful arm, and was wrong, as Rory put all of his weight behind the underarm and hit one stump to leave Coventry 77-3. What had looked like a lost game was now wide open, with batsmen 5 and 6 at the crease and scraping around for runs wherever they could find them. The eighth over saw the two of them take many risky singles, eventually found out by some more good fielding from Moose, but only after doing some more damage to his bowling figures. With Amrinder back into the mix, the bowling needed to be kept tight in order to force Coventry to make their own runs, but that plan wasn’t relayed to Robert Clayden, who served up a juicy half volley and had barely looked up by the time the ball had hit the back wall. Something must have changed after that, because the next four balls were on point, enough so that yet another two run-outs were created by lack of scoring options. Coventry had collapsed to just 104 all out, and Varsity was hanging in the balance.
Vivek Naker and Liam David strolled out for the UWMCC, and were looking for singles from the off. The handy Pearce gifted Warwick many runs in wides, and fellow opener Turney gave us even more, combining with our excellent batting to see us not just to 30-0 off of two, but 43-0 off of three and after Wijesinghe’s first over 63-0 off four. Even after the two of them had retired (from 11 and 12 balls respectively, incredible batting) Amish Saini and David Slayden were able to help themselves as well. By this point, Wides was sitting on 24* and unfortunately ready to retire, so Warwick had to continue this surge of runs by themselves. Slayden knew this all too well, and was tempted into playing a very loose shot straight back to Pearce, who seemed almost too surprised to catch it but managed to hold on, bringing the UWMCC crashing down to 99-1. The next victim of this Coventry rampage was R. Annandale, who for the third year running managed to avoid facing a single ball by backing himself to run at the same speed as a regular person – unlikely. Despite this little hiccup, Piers and Amish saw us home to an emphatic victory, and Desso was positively bursting with energy.
Once again, it was all down to the final game, destined to be an absolute belter. Coventry won the toss and wished to bowl, to the delight of sidelined Henry Hayes, who knew full well that this Warwick team was unbeaten in 7 games batting first. Gonszor, Edmonds, Root, Thornley, Sridhar and Goodyear lined up against a very strong Coventry team featuring four-time varsity loser James Aggio-Brewe. Grant ‘Spiderman’ Thornton opened up for Coventry, bowling a mixed bag for Gonszor and Tedmonds to negotiate. 13 runs came off it, and tension only grew for both sides. Coventry’s next over came from a man named ‘Jold’, and consisted of three threes and three fours, sending the crowd ballistic as Tedmonds in particular played some incredible strokes. This party continued into the next over, as Teds hit his fourth four, a lovely straight drive that missed everything on the way through to the back wall. Unfortunately, a reality check came in, as what looked like a good single was given out by the umpire. Rooty joined the skipper Gonszor in the middle, and they looked to continue building a platform for a massive innings. Jacob Sargeant did not face a single dot ball on his way to an emphatic 25, retiring only just after Gonszor having only faced 10 balls. With the score at 84-1 after six overs, Oli Thornley and Suraj Sridhar had an opportunity to go and set a real monster of a score that a deflated Coventry side surely couldn’t handle. Unfortunately, some regalvanisation within the Cov VI meant that this was not to be the case. Wickets from Thornton, Jold and Basit left Warwick teetering on 91-4, Gonszor and Rooty batting in an entirely different scenario from what they had left just minutes before. Neither of them managed to last long, with Gonszor caught off the energised Jold and Rooty not managing a single extra run during his second stint. 95 all out off just 8.1 overs. Had the UWMCC blown it? Would a long streak of Varsity wins finally come to an end? Even an optimist would struggle to argue that it didn’t look likely.
Momentum was well and truly Coventry’s at the start of the day’s final innings. Silence was all that could be heard around the crumbling Fortress Desso, save for the occasional piece of encouragement from the onlooking crowd. Desperate times call for desperate measures they say, and it was evident from the start that Gonszor’s inventive tactics would have to be quite something for the UWMCC to pull this off. Sridhar opened up, bowling two dot balls before being launched for a very nice six. Keeping his focus well, the remainder of the over only saw three runs come Cov’s way, and with an indifferent first over completed, it was up to stalwart Jonny Gonszor to show everyone what he was made of. Wicket, dot, dot, dot, one, dot. Could it be? There was still a mountain to climb for Warwick’s bowlers, but if that guile could be maintained, we were to be in for a treat. Suraj continued bowling, all eyes fixated on the game. One, wicket, dot, dot, three, dot. Unplayable, our spinners seemed to be. Surely sooner or later even Coventry would figure out something, right? Gonszor. Dot, three, wicket, dot, dot, dot. Incredible scenes in desso. 17-3 after four overs. Even at this point, it was still far from over, as only 78 more were needed and the dangerous Aggio-Brewe was lurking. Suraj and Gonszor both had mediocre final overs, but that was fine. Cov needed a miracle now to reach the target of 60 more runs from just 24 deliveries. Club Captain Oli Thornley stepped up to bowl, fresh off the back of two solid catches, and found the wicket of Spiderman, another catch for himself and Cov’s last man, the mysterious Jold, waddled in. Six runs. In fairness to him, it was a wonderful shot, but that only angered our CC. Aggio-Brewe could only negotiate an over from Rooty, managing six from it, leaving a monstrous 44 runs to win from just twelve balls. Thankfully, it only took Thornley five balls to end the game. Three dot balls to set up the score so that only an improbably long string of sixes could possibly lose us the game, and then two wickets, yet another caught and bowled followed by a fine catch from unsung hero Jacob Sargeant to finish them. Strangely, the atmosphere in Desso hall was not only one of pure excitement, but there was plenty of awe, disbelief and bewilderment to go round. A raucous rendition of ‘everywhere we go’, led by the President, only added to the upset of the away side, who had just been taught a cricketing lesson by the 1st VI.