Varsity match to be revitalised
The 2001 season will herald a radical new change in format to one of cricket's oldest annual fixtures - the University Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University.
In a break from tradition - and in what promises to be the biggest change in the fixture's 174-year history - the existing three-day match at Lord's will be replaced by a 50-Over One-Day game. The inaugural One-Day match will take place at the 'Home of Cricket' on Thursday 28th June.
The change has been brought about in an attempt to revitalise the fixture and return it to the forefront of the universities' annual sporting and social calendar.
"In time we hope to transform the day into a popular summer event to rival the corresponding fixtures of the Boat Race and the rugby match," said MCC Secretary and Chief Executive Roger Knight.
"One-Day cricket has proved to be a popular and exciting form of the game and I see no reason why we can't start attracting to Lord's the sort of crowds we see at Twickenham year in year out for the Varsity Rugby Match" he added.
The change in format has been jointly approved by Oxford and Cambridge University Cricket Clubs and the MCC.
"It was widely recognised that something needed to be done to inject some life into this prestigious fixture, and it was unanimously agreed that a One-Day game was the only way forward," said Simon Porter, Chairman of Oxford University Cricket Club.
"The three-day game, formerly played at Lord's, will be replaced by a four-day match to take place annually - alternating between Fenners and The Parks," he added.
Professor Ken Siddle of Cambridge University Cricket Club said: "I have every confidence that the match will flourish in its new format, and I very much hope that both the general public and the universities themselves get right behind the event to ensure its success."
In another exciting development, the women's Varsity Match is to be staged at Lord's for the first time in 2001 and will take place on the Nursery Pitch on the same day as the men's fixture.
Led by Andrew Whittall, the former Zimbabwe international and four-time Cambridge cricket Blue, the 2001 match is being promoted by Sports Marketing Agency, WSM Sport.
He said: "The Varsity Match is one of the most prestigious dates in the cricket fixture list and the pinnacle of many cricketers' careers. I have no doubt that the new One-Day format - together with the added attraction of the first ever Women's Varsity Match at Lord's - will make it a day to remember.
"Entry to the match will be free to students and school children and we therefore hope to attract a sizeable crowd on the day," he added.
Dating back to 1827, the Varsity Cricket Match is the oldest annual fixture to take place at Lord's. There have been a total of 155 official matches between the two sides, with Cambridge leading the way with 56 victories to Oxford's 48.
A number of old Blues have gone on to captain their country at Test level, including Mike Brearley, Ted Dexter, Imran Khan, Majid Khan, Michael Atherton, MJK Smith and the late Lord Cowdrey and Peter May. Amongst the old Blues to have made their mark on the international stage in the modern era include Steve James, Derek Pringle and John Crawley.