The University Match

Well after all that, it was rather a sticky day.

A day too hot, you would think, to be running around playing tennis (as they did at Wimbledon, with a lot of brow-mopping); and a day on the brink of being too hot for cricket, lovely though it is to play cricket on a hot day.

...lovely though it is. Cricket on Hampton Court Green, 1836

…lovely though it is. Cricket on Hampton Court Green, 1836

And yet they were playing a cricket match just down the road from the school, at Fenners, the Cambridge University cricket ground. Not just any game either: the University Match, otherwise known as the Varsity Match, has been played in a more or less unbroken sequence since its inception in 1827. It is, therefore, the oldest first-class match still being played.

I doubt there were many attendees. Cricket is changing, and no one has much patience with university, or indeed long-form, cricket. But the Varsity Match used to be one of the most important games of the cricketing calendar. It was held at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, and was widely anticipated, commented on, and remembered. Now it is held in Oxford or Cambridge in alternate years, alongside a one-day match played every year at Lord’s.

Many of England’s greatest cricketers have played in the Varsity Match, and who knows? Perhaps they still are. Except that any young cricketer worth his salt these days is already enlisted on some performance programme or other.

As it stands, Cambridge are reasonably well-placed for victory, although Oxford made a late rally at the end of day two (see the scorecard, here). Day three should be reasonably exciting. And somewhat less hot.

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