The University of Sheffield’s cricket first team won their section of the draw in the regional rounds of the BUCS indoor National Cup on Saturday at Bawtry Road. Drawn in a very difficult group with Bradford and Leeds Met, Sheffield managed to win both their games to get through to the next stage and are now only two games away from the finals at Lord’s.
Chris Murrall won the toss in the first game against Leeds Met and opted to bowl first with Jordan Calcutt making his debut for the University. Leeds began strongly racing to 23/1 off three overs with Oli Perry taking the wicket.
A tight spell of bowling from Oscar Renton and some excellent fielding saw Sheffield restrict the rate and they were well placed with Leeds 67/3 off eight overs. Perry returned to take another wicket and bowl an excellent penultimate over but Chris Hooper’s last went for two boundaries and allowed Leeds Met to get up to 112/5 off their allotted 12 overs.
The Sheffield chase got off to slow start as Perry fell in the first over and Murrall ran himself out in comical fashion to leave Sheffield 43/2 off five overs. Hooper, having opened the innings, was beginning to find his feet, however, and had put on 30 with Renton before disaster struck. First Renton, then Peter Mounstephen fell in what was to be a double wicket maiden, leaving Sheffield 50/4 with just five overs left.
The game looked dead and buried when Calcutt was out with the score on 75 and only Hooper left in as last man standing. Hooper was not giving up though despite needing 40 from the last three overs and took it down to just 15 required off the last six balls. It was anybody’s game and Hooper, who by this stage had passed his half-century, had only one thought on his mind.
With a straight drive for four and then a cut shot for three the game was suddenly Sheffield’s to lose. Hooper saw it home to win with a ball to spare to complete a truly incredible personal performance. Finishing with 74 not out it is an innings that will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it.
In the final game of the group Sheffield needed to beat Bradford to qualify for the next stage of the competition and Murrall opted to bring Will Aitkenhead into the team in place of Oli Perry to strengthen the batting line up. Murrall opted to bowl first again but disaster struck as Renton broke his finger attempting a caught and bowled. This meant that Murrall and Aitkenhead would have to get through five overs between them.
It proved not to be a problem though as first Murrall and then Aitkenhead picked up wickets. Bradford were reduced to 54/5 as Mounstephen took a sharp chance behind the stumps off Murrall and Bradford had just the last man standing. A couple of chances went down, however, and Bradford escaped to set Sheffield 96 to secure their place at Headingley.
Aitkenhead and Hooper got off to a great start, demonstrating excellent gap management to pick up plenty of twos and threes. They had put on 46 off just four overs before Aitkenhead was run out for 14. It didn’t stop Hooper, however as he hit consecutive boundaries to take him to 28 as he retired. With just 30 needed off six overs it looked a cruise and despite the lose of Mounstephen to another run out, captain Murrall and debutant Calcutt saw Sheffield over the line and into the next round at Headingley.
The next round is on November 12 and will see Sheffield take on two of Stirling, Sheffield Hallam, Liverpool, Newcastle or Durham for a place at Lord’s.