Members will almost certainly by now have seen MCC’s announcement that 2022 will be the last year in which they will host Varsity Matches at Lords as part of their regular fixture programme. Oxford and Cambridge Universities firstplayed against each other at Lord’s in 1827, and the University matches have been staged there annually since 1850, interrupted only by world wars and (more recently) the Covid pandemic. Both universities are immensely grateful to MCC for hosting matches over such a long period, and for the hospitality they have accorded to players and members alike. Memories of a proud history of keenly contested matches and great individual performances will live on. Of course CUCC regrets the ending of such a long tradition, but it fully respects and understands MCC’s desire to prioritise its commitment to professional cricket while providing opportunities for a greater diversity of teams, including more female and junior cricket as well a ‘road to Lord’s’ for national competitions.
In fact the recent announcement by MCC reflects the continuing evolution of university cricket over recent decades. The men’s 3-day University Match was played at Lord’s until 2000, since when an annual 4 day game has been played alternately at Fenner’s and the Parks, retaining its first class status until 2020. Since 2008, T20 matches have also alternated between Fenner’s and the Parks. Meanwhile both the men’s and women’s teams have continued to play one-day (50 over) matches at Lord’s since 2001, the women on the Nursery Ground simultaneously with the men on the main square, and the teams have shared an after-match reception generously provided by MCC. Fittingly, the end of this great tradition in 2022 will be marked by a first, as both the men and women will play back to back T20 matches on the main square. The Universities have always adapted their fixture programmes to changing circumstances and will continue to do so in the future. The great traditions of university encounters will assuredly live on, at venues and in formats that provide equal opportunities for women and men and that are in tune with the modern age.