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MATTHEW FREEMANS SEQUENCE OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
THE OFFICIAL 2007 SEASON REVIEW
APRIL: THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN
Guess who just got back today?
Them wild-eyed boys that had been away
Haven't changed, haven't much to say
But man, I still think them cats are crazy
- Thin Lizzy
In all honesty its probably fair to say that Phil Lynott and the lads werent singing about the start of a new cricket season when they proclaimed the boys were back in town. Nevertheless Offleys finest assembled for the first time in 2007 on April 22 to administer a fearful tonking to local rivals Lilley, a performance that was nicely calculated to put the new tenants firmly in their place.
Considering that the long-awaited lawn mowers only arrived at the eleventh hour in the wake of a break in by some of societies less charming people, groundsman Darrell Cooper had every right to feel proud about his efforts in producing one of his finest pitches of the season in time for opening day.
Offley won the toss and elected to bat first and Steve Hoar notched the first (and as events were to prove also the last) century of the summer as he hammered the Lilley bowlers to all parts of the ground en route to 134 before he was forced to retire hurt with a mysterious ankle injury. Mo Chaudry weighed in with a typically belligerent 77 as the opposition bowlers lost the plot in some style, contributing 62 extras to the cause, as Offley finished on an imposing 321-5.
Lilley fared little better with the bat and were swept away by a combination of Wayne Cutts (atoning for his skirt-winning tantrum in the corresponding fixture last year) and Matthew Freeman.
In contrast to his dismal showing in the final game of 2006, Cutts showed a pleasing ability to land the ball on the strip, generated impressive turn and actually completed an over without stomping off in tears while Freeman claimed 3-20 to suggest that he was poised for big things in 2007 and by big things we dont mean just a king size Chomp bar, although Fiery Freeman would doubtless sell his soul for such a piece of confectionary.
Offley eventually triumphed by the small matter of 207 runs, a margin of victory that constitutes a rout in any language, and ensured they took a firm grasp on the inaugural Hammond-Towndrow Trophy ahead of the second leg of the contest at the end of September.
A comfortable victory over Wotton at Stone followed after the visitors refused to bat first because they felt that the pitch was too dangerous and they had not been provided with a note excusing them from rough games by their mothers. Their request to play with a sponge ball was turned down but they were thumped anyway as they failed to come to grips with the Offley attack.
The only sour note for Offley was provided by Freeman who did enough to suggest that his performance in the season opener might have been a mirage as he persisted in bowling short and wide outside off stump and subsequently sulked when skipper Steve Bexfield refused to set a field for long hops.
Possibly lulled into a false sense of security and superiority, the winning streak came to an abrupt halt as Offley lost their first league game of the season courtesy of an appalling fielding display at Ickleford where they produced a reasonable impersonation of men with no hands. Everything looked rosy at the halfway stage as Offley racked up 239-8 on the back of 67 from Mark Tattersall and Bexfields first half-century since 1998 (2005 actually but it felt like longer). Dave Bridgland added a late flurry and Ickleford faced the task of scoring at six an over from the start.
However, things rapidly fell apart as Hoar swiftly demonstrated the benefits of spending his formative years at the Panesar Fielding Academy and missed a sitter at point, reprieving opener Derment when he had made just two. On the greater scale of things it wasnt exactly a difficult chance and while noone is saying a three-year old would have caught it would be difficult to suggest hed have dropped it either. To be honest Captain Hook would have fancied his chances of snaffling the catch. The ball lobbed up into the air off the splice and floated to earth like a punctured beach ball but Hoar contrived to fluff the chance and blamed it on an errant contact lens.
The situation rapidly became more serious as Jon Cerasale missed a catch in the gulley and stand in keeper Darren Lunney failed to hold on to a regulation edge. All three chances went down off Qumar, a man who has never knowingly missed a sitter, and the bowler stormed off in a huff to patrol the boundary. Sadly it wasnt much of a patrol and Qumar endured a torrid time as he let at least four balls through his legs as he strived valiantly to adopt the long barrier position with all the dexterity of a one-legged crab in the final stages of giving birth.
The luckless bowler on each occasion was Tattersall who ended up standing around with his hands on his hips like a particularly aggrieved teapot. The portly all-rounder finished up with figures of 4.5-0-55-0 which is rather rubbish really. Derment went on to record his maiden century a piece of information that did a great deal for captain Richie Barkers sense of humour, prompting immediate threats of resignation and recrimination and the hosts cruised home by seven wickets.
MAY:CAPTAIN, THE SHIP IS SINKING
Captain, the ship is sinking
Captain, the seas are rough
Shall we abandon ship?
Or shall we stay on it
And perish slow?
We dont know
Captain you tell me what to do
All things considered it wasnt much of a month, if only because it featured the Shenley Village fiasco, the game that ultimately cost us the Saracens League title (and Im sure youd all agree another blue polyester pennant would have been nice).
Elsewhere the first three games of the season were lost to rain and Barker decided that captaincy was affecting his batting and stepped down in favour of Bexfield in the hope that his form would return (ha!).
Things started well with an eight-wicket win over Luton Town & Indians. Freeman arrived with a new plan, based around leg stump long hops, while Colin Keeley turned back the clock to produce a marathon 22-over spell that yielded a single wicket and sidelined him for a month. Chaudry was in the runs again but the real story was former Indians star Steve Singh Hoar punishing his former teammates in some style to set up an easy win.
This was also the day that Freeman revealed to a wider audience that he didnt drink Ribena and if that was the only beverage on offer then he was going to have to leave the field and have a drinks break of his own. (So help me he did as well.)
Everything (including the venue, the pitch, the outfield to say nothing of the prospect of victory) looked bleak the following day when Offley conceded 257 against their old chums Houghton Town at Icknield. Tattersall was thumped to all parts (although he succeeded in lowering his economy rate below double figures) while Cerasale served up a slower ball that has yet to re-enter the earths atmosphere. However, Barker took 4-16 to spark a late collapse and even after slumping to 10-2 the memory of 2006s miraculous recovery from the depths of 11-6 allowed Offley to hope for a miracle even though the smart money suggested that annihilation was on the cards.
The hosts were determined to take no chances, cunningly allowing their substitute fielder to bowl and then trying to bring back their leading bowler under an assumed name, novel tactics which England might do well to bear in mind at the end of a limited international when they are trying to work out whether to give Chris Tremlett another chance to get smashed round the ground or let Paul Collingwood serve up another over of dibbly-dobbly offerings that would embarrass Keeley.
Some might call it bending the rules. Others might accuse Houghton Town of creeping up behind the spirit of cricket and throttling it. Indeed some might even go as far as to call it cheating. However, such sceptics should all pause for a moment to consider the facts and then graciously decide to salute their initiative.
Anyway it didnt work, so hell mend them as they say.
Rizwan proved the catalyst as he played his best innings for the club, scoring a sparkling 42 before being run out. Nathan Brodie and Bridgland both weighed in with runs while Tattersall maintained his fine form with the bat. However, the real story was Cerasale. The aging all-rounder went into the game on the back of two ducks and some gratuitous abuse from Cutts offering him batting tips and pointing out that he had already scored more runs than Cerasale in his lone trip to the crease. Six runs to be exact.
Stung by such scornful criticism from a man of such little talent, Cerasale produced one of his finest innings for the club, hammering 75 to set up a dramatic victory, a victory which tasted even sweeter following the news that Houghton Town supremo Ken Willis will not return in 2008.
Which is a shame. Honestly. It is. I mean it. Stop laughing, Tattersall.
Rain washed out the next two games and by the time the Shenley Village fixture rolled around a tornado, hurricane or monsoon wouldnt have gone amiss. Wed have got more points from an abandonment for a start.
Shenley made 192 after batting first, a total that looked gettable despite Bexfields two-over spell that lasted at least three overs and cost 15 runs. The captains day got even better when he was bowled without scoring after missing a full toss. It hardly looked costly as Hoar and Darren Lunney put on an impressive partnership but after Hoar fell for another half-century things began to get a little dicey as a restructured batting order ground to a halt and Bexfield succumbed to a panic attack. Lunneys lengthy vigil came to an end on 31 when he fell to a tame dismissal and although Chris Austin dug in for 11 Offley began to slip behind the rate once Chaudry holed out at mid off.
Nine off 12 balls looked on until Barker consumed seven of them in amassing a single before hitting it straight up in the air to bring one of the most painfully pointless individual innings in club history to an end and when Freeman failed to connect with the last ball of the match Offley had to settle for a draw and a woeful seven points, their worst effort in two seasons of Saracens cricket.
Over the course of the season the decision to shake up the batting order was to cause plenty of sleepless nights for Bexfield as he tossed and turned and chastised himself for the decision that allowed Ickleford to open up a commanding lead at the top of the table. Still in fairness it would be unfair to blame the skipper for opting to give some of his players the chance to spend time in the middle. If we must blame him for anything (and we must) its for bringing himself on to bowl because he was rubbish.
Rizwan bagged his first five-wicket haul for the club as he took 5-17 to set up a narrow win over Therfield in a contest where Offley had looked second-best for most of proceedings. After spending most of his Offley career tearing in with no reward as Fate and Fortune flicked two fingers up at him, it was genuinely satisfying to see Rizwan earn his just rewards for a fine spell of bowling that dragged his team back from the brink.
The month ended with a six-wicket win over St Albans on a hilltop in the middle of Harpenden. Brodie took the plaudits with a sparkling 78 and Freeman revealed himself to be a conscientious objector in the fielding stakes by refusing to make an effort when Qumar bowled before a couple of none too subtle threats convinced him that it might be a good idea to try and stop everything that came near him.
Yet ultimately the game will be best remembered for Cutts protracted run-in with local authority in the form of the park keeper who objected to cars being parked with a ten minute walk of the ground. After exhausting all the usual diplomatic channels, Cutts abandoned his patient, winning tone and informed the park keeper, a bug-eyed, shaven-headed, red-faced individual, that he was brain dead.
Cutts subsequently ended up parking further away from the ground than anyone else so make of that what you will.
JUNE: WHOLL STOP THE RAIN?
Long as I remember the rain been comin' down
Clouds of mystery pourin' confusion on the ground
Good men through the ages tryin' to find the sun
And I wonder still I wonder who'll stop the rain
- Creedence Clearwater Revival
All in all there wasnt a great deal to be said about June other than the fact that it was wet and Offley contrived to fall further behind Ickleford in the rain.
Amid the showers Brodie launched an early bid for the prestigious skirt award when his patience snapped with Freeman against Kings Langley. Freeman had been in the thick of the action, diving over a couple of balls and producing a stream of gormless remarks, when it all proved too much for the normally virtuous and understanding Brodie, a man who I am sure you will all agree has the patience of a saint.
Finally provoked beyond all reasonable limits and evidently exasperated beyond belief, Brodie interrupted his run-up to the crease to storm over towards Freeman at point and hurled the ball at his head from point blank range. Fortunately for all concerned (Freeman who would have sustained life threatening injuries, Brodie who would have found himself on a manslaughter charge and the nine fielders who would have risked perjuring themselves in the witness box) the ball sailed wide of the mark and landed in the car park.
Kings Langley used their entire 53-over allotment to rack up 152 (2.86 runs an over) and then informed Bexfield that as his team had bowled their overs too slowly they would forfeit any bonus points in the event of a draw. The game was in the balance at 96-5 but Lunney produced another fine innings and shared a key partnership with Austin to seal the victory for Offley and keep the promotion bandwagon on track.
Tattersall and Gary Davison starred with the bat to set up a crushing win at Baldock. The pair shared a stand of 155 to help Offley post 230-4. Baldocks batsmen did little to suggest they had ever played the game before and the final seven wickets went down at a cost of six runs amid a succession of hoicks, mows and general spasticness (I know it isnt a real word but real words cant really convey how bad they were is spasticicity a word?) as Offley eased home by 169 runs.
Freemans Man of Steel reputation took a dent as he missed the first Saracens game of his career as West Herts were thumped in some fashion as Barker claimed five wickets before Chaudry and Hoar shared a scintillating opening partnership to effectively settle the issue within the first ten overs of the reply.
Offleys batsmen produced a rather less scintillating performance against North Herts leaders Hatfield the following day with only Bridgland (62) getting to grips with the pitch and the bowling as Offley limped to 172-6. Freeman excelled himself in the field by holding on to a fine catch to dismiss the dangerous Gale but the game was almost up by then and ended on an appropriate note when Freeman sent a wayward delivery towards second slip to end the game with a wide.
In all honesty it wasnt much of a game it certainly wasnt much of a contest and did a nice job of indicating where this years Offley side belonged in the league table as they stepped up to face one of the league the heavyweights and came off a distinct second best, bruised and bloodied like a welterweight. Or Audley Harrison.
The following week Brodie hit 73 to set up a comfortable victory over Therfield in a game that was only really memorable for Steve Baron discovering the hard way that it is not advisable to try and stop a speeding cricket ball with an outstretched ankle.
Elsewhere the rain dominated proceedings as Offley had three games abandoned without a ball being bowled but they did succeed in getting back on to the pitch at Boxmoor, a game that might have been more enjoyable had it not been for the persistent showers, howling winds and a failure to claim the last wicket.
The Boxmoor game stands out primarily for the memory of a splendidly hungover Hoar being hit by a succession of deliveries and playing and missing at countless others en route to 94 as he paid a grave price for playing a game on a forecast and misjudging the strength of the rain the night before, giving a fine impersonation of a man with no discernible talent. At one stage he could have been mistaken for a young Wayne Cutts as he flailed away unsuccessfully outside off stump. He will make more runs in the future and will certainly play better innings but it is unlikely he will ever do so while under the influence of so much alcohol.
Yet despite Hoars contribution and 75 from Brodie Offley were unable to force home the victory. Despite some hefty blows from a huge gentleman named Vinnie, including one that landed on a car roof, Boxmoor never came close to chasing down 224 but they did enough to survive and hung on at the end, negotiating the final five overs with nine wickets down despite a late burst from Freeman who produced his best display since the first day of the season.
JULY: ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES
Laughing at jokes that arent funny
Blaming it all on the blues
Taking my chances for freedom
Betting with nothing to lose
Winning on nothing but hunches
Fighting my way to the top
Rolling with all of the punches
Wondering if theyd ever stop
- David Alan Coe
All in all it was an interesting month. Another three games fell foul of the weather, two of our players wound up in hospital following a mildly disastrous trip to Reed, Ickleford received the rout of their lives at Wardown Park and Offley negotiated their way to the final of the Herts Village Trophy.
After rain washed out the rematch with Houghton Town (shame) Northwood came to Offley and thrashed the home bowling all around the ground as they plundered 111-8 from 51 overs, skipper Dickson leading the way with a mesmeric 13 from 76 balls. Freeman picked up three wickets and it should have been a formality for the hosts. Needless to say it wasnt thanks to a batting collapse that set the tone for what was to follow in the coming months.
Brodie looked ready to end the game in a hurry but when he fell in the thirties Offley collapsed as Cutts and Jeff Francis both fell for ducks and Bexfield played all round a full toss. Everything rested on the shoulders of Lunney, a man who had taken 43 balls to accumulate a single and had been dropped three times in the process. However, the Geordie German dug in, determined to protect his wicket as if it were Hitlers bunker and ground out an unbeaten 42 to seal the win as he shared a key partnership with Freeman who capped one of his best all-round performances for the club with an unbeaten 17 as Offley closed to within 36 points of Ickleford ahead of the big showdown.
One of lifes little ironies dictated that before Offley could face Ickleford in the crucial Saracens League clash they had to go through the formalities of playing them in the North Herts League. Despite losing Barker to the first ball of the match as he dragged on a ball destined for second slip, Offley racked up 242-8 with Bridgland, Tattersall, Brodie and Bexfield all weighing in with key runs.
Ickleford faced a daunting task and once Derment had been dismissed for 5 (or 112 fewer than he managed in the first game) by Tattersall the hosts were always struggling. Cerasale claimed three wickets and only a late flourish from the tail allowed Ickleford to stave off the ignominy of a 100-run defeat.
The fixture at Ickleford provided a mere aperitif for the main event at Wardown as Offley geared up for a do or die clash. It looked bleak early on as Hoar, handicapped by a broken wrist, fell for two and despite a typically fluent innings from Tattersall Offley struggled to 115-5. Barker went on his way after top-edging a leg-side full toss and in the words of the official match report gave his latest impersonation of a retard encountering a cricket ball for the first time. Considering Barker wrote the report we should probably take his word for it.
However, Bexfield and Lunney dug in and after some early reconnaissance they began to play their shots with Bexfield hammering five consecutive boundaries to lift Offley past 200 and leave Ickleford with nothing to play for but the draw. They never came close.
Once Rizwan had resisted the temptation to storm off after Tattersall had been given the choice of ends it was a foregone conclusion. Tattersall ripped into the visiting line up like a fat bloke let loose in a pie shop, ripping the visitors apart as he claimed seven wickets including the prized scalp of sometime Offley player Martin McCulley. Barker claimed the other three wickets (not for the first time picking up more wickets than runs) as Offley sauntered to a 134-run victory to slash Icklefords lead to just five points.
The next days game at Crawley Green was abandoned before the halfway mark and was notable for little other than Keeley marking his return to the side by forgetting to pick up Brodie. This oversight on Keeleys part led to a frank exchange of views with Bexfield (especially in the light of Brodie making a duck after having to pay his own way to the ground) and culminated in Keeley sitting in his car and threatening to drive home before Chairman Bridgland used his diplomatic skills to smooth over the incident.
July 18 isnt really a significant date in the history of the world (on various days throughout history on that date England has booted out the Pope, Hitler published Mein Kampf, Elvis Presley made his first recording and 14-year old Nadia Comaneci regarded the first perfect 10 at the Olympics (shell always be a perfect 10 for Wayne) but it marked the moment that Offley went up for the cup.
Following a bye against Hexton they clashed with their friends from Pirton, in particular their special chum The Loathsome Groves, a man so objectionable that he makes Simon Cowell, Peter Kenyon and John Mansfield appear cuddly in comparison. The only people who appear to hate Groves more than the opposition are his own team.
Tattersall and Bexfield led the way as Offley scored 132-7 before Chaudry struck the decisive blow by castling The Loathsome Groves for 37 and then cementing his place in club folklore by pointing the objectionable **** on his way to the pavilion. Groves thanked the bowler for giving him directions but pointed out he didnt need to be shown the way. Presumably because the objectionable **** has been sent on his way often enough in the past to have a good idea of how to make the walk back.. Anyway we won.
The game with Knebworth was washed out although not before Barker registered his first half-century of the season, an event that prompted much rejoicing in the streets as evidence that miracles do happen.
Barkers return to form was cut short the following day at Reed as he optimistically attempted to hook a fast bowler off the front foot and ended up at Addenbrooks with a three-inch cut beneath his eye, an incident that introduced the nickname Pudsey into club folklore. Chaudry ended up at the L&D after fielding a fierce square cut with his nose and Freeman succumbed to a bout of indigestion as Offley crashed to a seven-wicket defeat that effectively ended their hopes in the North Herts League.
Abbots Langley were brushed aside with the minimum of effort as Cerasale turned back the clock to claim 6-25 before Bexfields men followed it up with a 27-run win over Great Gaddesden. Barker anchored a subdued innings with 53 before Rizwan ripped into the top order and veteran seamer Paul Bridgland claimed four wickets to seal a relatively comfortable victory.
The month ended with a quarter final victory over Graveley. The game was all over with Graveley marooned on 22-6 as Tattersall claimed 4-7 but they fought back to reach 80-7 and Offley did their best to squander their chance of silverware as they capitulated to 29-4 amid a flurry of rash strokes and general ineptitude. However, Bexfield and Chaudry kept their nerve to set up the win and prevent the type of recrimination that would have made the Nuremburg war trials look like a night down the pub.
AUGUST: I FOUGHT THE LAW
Breakin rocks in the hot sun
I fought the law and the law won
I needed money cause I had none
I fought the law and the law won
- The Clash
It wasnt dull.
After all we went to the cup final, went to Yarmouth, helped the police with their inquiries, produced one of the worst performances in club history against Baldock and got royally thumped by our chums from Holwell.
The trip to Chorleywood produced one of the great games of the season as ten-man Offley went up against 11. The hosts batted first and carved their way to 186 as they took advantage of some iffy bowling and a fast outfield. Barker and Chaudry looked to have won the game for Offley with a crucial third-wicket stand but a dramatic collapse left Offley on the brink. Keeley produced a key innings in his first trip to the crease all year but suddenly Offley found themselves down to their last pair as Chris Latino marched out to join Barker in the middle with 14 still needed for victory.
Few would have bet their homes on Latino surviving long lifelong pal Freeman predicted he would be stumped first ball but the batsman survived for long enough to enable Barker to reduce the required total to three runs before ending it all with a straight six that sparked dramatic celebrations, albeit ones that were dampened by the news that Ickleford had won by nine wickets.
Things went pear-shaped the following day with a grotesque batting performance against Baldock. Tattersall rose above the wreckage with an unbeaten half-century as Freeman bagged a pair for the weekend and an under-strength Offley team did little to contradict the suspicion that it was the weakest unit ever to take the field in a league game as they slipped to defeat.
A seven-wicket win at Potton was notable primarily for Rizwans five-wicket haul and Lunneys skirt-clinching tantrum. After allowing himself to be run out first ball Lunney did his best to invade the field during the drinks break to remonstrate with the opposition wicketkeeper. Demonstrating a robust determination that would have served his ancestors well when they attempted to invade Stalingrad, the German Geordie did his best to fight his way past numerous fielders and teammates to make his point before ultimately accepting defeat and getting in his van and driving home. On the pitch Bexfield maintained his composure and carried his bat for 68 to seal victory.
Lunney was still spitting feathers the next day when Bexfields team rolled up at St Albans for the Herts Trophy 20/20 finals day, grandly announcing that he was in no fit state to play but being ordered out on to the field anyway.
Tattersall and Bexfield set up a comfortable win over Great Gaddesden in the semi-final as they both scored half-centuries before Cerasale claimed three wickets to shatter the opposition reply.
Following a four-hour interlude where various members of the team gorged themselves on alcohol, chicken wings, burgers, chocolate bars and in one unforgivable instance a salad (you know who you are Mr Austin) Offley returned to action to take on Bengeo in the final. Chaudry kept the innings alive with an unbeaten 49 as wickets tumbled around him thanks to some wonderfully inept umpiring from the neutral officials. Elsewhere Brodie and Keeley competed for the title of most senseless run out, Brodie attempting to take two to short third man, Keeley running a single to gulley and Lunney hit a magnificent straight six before throwing a tantrum (and his bat) about his low standing in the batting order.
116-8 wasnt enough but Lunney changed the momentum of the game with a sensational run out and Rizwan, Chaudry and Cerasale all bowled superbly. Barker bowled like a drain but turned the match with a dramatic diving catch at point (at least thats what the President of the Herts Cricket Association said in his speech even though Cerasale might have been closer to the point when he said Bexfield turned the match by taking Barker off after a single over) before Keeley and Chaudry kept their nerve at the death to seal victory.
Old Elizabethans were rattled out for 71 as their openers amassed for 43 runs and nobody else scored more than two. Offley cruised to 60 without loss before losing five wickets in a dramatic flurry that left Bexfield on the verge of having kittens again before they finally limped over the line.
The tour to Yarmouth was anything but uneventful. Laws of libel and fresh, gaping wounds prevent me from going into too much detail here but Bexfield had his collar felt for driving a dodgy motor, Brodie rose like the Titanic, Tattersall wore big pants, Austin scored 13 off 91 balls, Freeman blew out the chance of sex on the beach in favour of a dump in the cubicle, Cooper and Keeley shared a fascinating conversation on pitch preparation, Barker admitted a liking for Caroline Quentin, Keeley scored his first half-century for the club in the tenth year of trying, Cutts bounced off a large bowler and was run out before subsequently being advised not to burst by a stranger in the pub and Latino subjected Freeman to a frenzied attack.
I think that pretty much covers it, at least until one day when the full story is told, a day that might be this writers cue to disappear into the night because no one will ever want to speak to him again if everything does come out.
Potters Bar were savaged as Barker, Chaudry and Cerasale cashed in with the bat before Freeman produced one of his better efforts in a disappointing season to claim three wickets and help set up a 149-run victory as Bexfields men kept up their doomed pursuit of Ickleford.
The month ended with Parkin C.C. inflicting a heavy defeat on Offley at the Parkin Cricket Ground in Holwell as the North Herts campaign drifted to a disappointing conclusion. Parkin won the toss and batted first with star man Parkin scoring an unbeaten 176 to help Parkin post a challenging 260-3.
Offley never threatened to come close but had hopes of denying Parkin the bonus point until Bexfield skied a loopy full toss. The captain butchered the spirit of cricket by refusing to walk, claiming it was a no ball, but his old mate Vic the umpire (one of Bexfields pals, no less) sent him on his way. The captain accepted the decision in good spirit, smacking a can with his bat and taking exception to the advice from some fat old duffer that he should never play the game again. Anyway we were all out as Parkin ran through the tail, claiming 4-35 to give Parkin a 130-run win.
Well done, Parkin, well done.
Shame you didnt win the league really, isnt it boys?
SEPTEMBER: THE PROMISE
I followed that dream through the
That dead ends in two-bit bars
And when the promise was broken I was far away from home
Sleepin' in the back seat of a borrowed car
We didnt catch Ickleford.
We chased them all the way though, winning a splendidly bad-tempered affair against Harpenden Dolphins before Elstree forfeited the final game of the season. However, Ickleford beat Shenley (a touch ironic that) to edge home by five points leaving us to console ourselves with the thought of an unbeaten season in the Saracens league.
Still when youve won one blue polyester championship pennant youve won them all, so on the whole better to have gone undefeated and secured the popular vote as the peoples champions rather than winning a title you know in your heart you dont really deserve.
A wave of friendlies brought a breath of fresh air with them as youngsters Mark Ward and Gary Chamberlain made the step up from the Colts team to the front line at Datchworth. Both bowled well with little fortune as Offley eased to victory.
They both claimed their maiden wickets the following week as Preston were thumped in some style but the main story was Lunneys display with the bat. After emerging from a fearful batting slump (12 runs in seven innings, including a six), Lunney had begun to regain his touch and seemed set for a maiden century as he stormed into the nineties. However, with two needed from two balls he swung and missed at the first and was run out off the second after being called through for a leg bye. It was a gallant innings and not even the stoniest of cynics (not even those who stood to lose five crates of beer if he reached three figures) could fail to be moved by his heroic effort. Austins sprightly 36 was almost lost among the pyrotechnics at the other end as the pair ran riot.
A trip to Welwyn produced a fine game, culminating in a narrow 2 run defeat when Barker succumbed on the boundary after going for glory. Latino maintained his fine form as he scorched to 40 and Rizwan effectively sealed the Duck Watch Trophy when he registered his seventh blob of the season. The debate still rages over Bexfield's boundary, hitting the ball high and hard the ball lannded squarly on the boundary flag, smashing it to pieces. Everyone except Lunney thought it a four. Lunney was right, it should have been a six and therefore the game would have been a tie.
Keeley claimed his first five-wicket haul of the season to set up a win at Wolverton as the batsmen made heavy weather of chasing down 108 and were indebted to a patient 22 from the ever-improving Freeman.
A dismal performance against St Josephs in the penultimate weekend of the season suggested one or two heavy legs. Lunney laboured to his fifty, taking 18 overs to move from 43 to 57 before being bowled. Keeley was the only other player to pass 20 and with guest batsman Ramiz presenting a strong claim to being the worst ever player to represent Offley a final total of 161 looked at least 25 runs light. Had stand-in keeper Latino now missed opposition superstar Tom Reilly three times (including two in one ball) it might have been different.
The significance of St Josephs last ever game proved all too much for one player, Patrick Turner, who was rendered speechless and lost the use of his limbs with the emotion of it all before falling face first into the carpet. Of course I suppose theres always a chance he could have been catatonically drunk.
Headstone St George were treated to attacking innings from Bridgland and Bexfield, Barkers 70th wicket of the season to tie Coopers record and Richard Hatfields bizarre last appearance for the club as Offley triumphed by 47 runs.
The season ended in a drunken haze of batting collapses. Barker set a new club record by claiming his 71st wicket of the season to help restrict Codicote to 152. Brodie held a fine catch on the boundary to dismiss Codicotes guest player, a certain S.P. Bexfield, and then invited him to have some of that on his onion bhaji.
Offley looked to be cruising at 117-2 after Hoar marked his return to action with 75. However, things proceeded to fall apart in apocalyptic style as Freeman batted 35 balls for an unbeaten 2, ran out Austin and Francis in consecutive deliveries and then ordered Chamberlain to sacrifice his wicket for the cause in accordance with Freemans cunning strategy of taking 17 runs off the final over. Chamberlain and Ward were bowled by successive balls and Offley duly lost by 22 runs. As Freeman later admitted it was a series of unfortunate events, albeit one that summed up his contribution to the season in appropriate fashion.
The curtain came down on 2007 with a rotten performance against Lilley. Offleys 117-8 was at least 20 runs under par as few of the batsmen distinguished themselves. Bexfields bid for 1,000 runs died when he spliced a long hop to the only fielder on the legside, Freeman ran Latino out and no one passed 30.
The fielding was little better as chances went down, dummies were spat and despite a late flurry of wickets Lilley eased home by five wickets to clinch a share of the inaugural Hammond-Towndrow Trophy.
And thats pretty much the way it was. The end of another season the tenth year of Offley & Stopsley Cricket Club that featured some magnificent individual performances including Tattersall against Ickleford, Chaudry against Bengeo and Freeman against Codicote even though the latter wasnt strictly magnificent in the good sense.
Elsewhere there were some truly outstanding tantrums with one or two players suggesting they would be better off batting in tiaras than helmets, to say nothing of run-ins with the law and trips to the hospital.
Amid the showers we played 44 games (winning 30) picked up a pot, contrived to come second despite going unbeaten in the league and had a few laughs and acquired a few hangovers along the way.
I wont say its been a privilege there were a couple of occasions when it wasnt even a lot of fun but all in all it wasnt a bad way to spend a summer.
So as the dust settles and the leaves fall as summer fades irrevocably into autumn, think back on battles won and lost, the memories of glory days in the sun and the promise of better days in 2008.