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By Matthew Handley
The whims of the weather gods brought a halt to college cricket last week, washing out the first round of this year’s Cuppers competition. Such was the volume of rain that play was impossible both on the originally scheduled Monday, as well as the designated contingency day, Thursday.
According to the OUCC Cuppers rules, if both days are rained off, the captains should “contact the Sports Federation to arrange a bowl out”. For those unfamiliar with the concept, this involves each team nominating five players, who proceed to deliver one ball at the stumps. The team that hits the stumps the most wins. Simple. It is cricket’s answer to the penalty shoot-out. This was the lottery that everyone feared and no-one wanted: a hastily arranged twenty minute cycle to a pitch on the other side of town, only to bowl one ball, miss, and go home again, gutted. Not a great way to spend the only sunny afternoon of the week.
Understandably, the majority of people weren’t thrilled at the idea of their Cuppers destiny being decided by five balls bowled at the stumps, and one couldn’t help but recall the fate of last term’s Rugby Cuppers tournament. When cold weather froze the pitches in late January, playing rugby was off the cards for two weeks, and with a fixed date for the Final, organisers were forced to find an alternative method of deciding first round fixtures.
In the end, they decided to put through the team in the highest division in each case, to the disappointment of many lower-division colleges, who felt they were being denied even a chance of progressing. However, there was no fair way of deciding the fixtures, short of a coin toss, which doesn’t exactly exude ‘magic of the cup’. In the end, their decision was hamstrung by conditions, and the organisers did what they could to ensure that the later rounds would be competitive.
Thankfully for Oxford’s cricketers, the organisers have stepped in, moving the first round back into second week, providing groundsmen with the opportunity to properly prepare the pitches, and providing teams with one more week dream about a run at the Cuppers trophy. We have to hope that play will be possible this week, since the immovable date of the Cuppers final means that fixtures cannot be pushed back any further. Let’s pray for clear skies, lest the dreaded bowl-off be the only way to determine a winner.
PHOTO/ Sue Elias