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THE DREAM TEAM
Over the course of the past decade more than 120 players have taken the field on Offley & Stopsleys behalf.
Needless to say that some of them have not taken the field with any great degree of success. England had Ravi Bopara we had Balmer Bains although in his defense not even Bains ever got run out first ball from slip. Yet theres no doubt that over the years the club has fielded a number of players who have been about as much use as the proverbial chocolate teapot, players who have plumbed such grotesque depths of ineptitude as to make Matthew Freeman look like Andrew Flintoff and not just in the number of ailments that have afflicted both great all-rounders.
However, what would happen if the worst eleven players ever to represent the club were to take the field together? Would they bat first, safe in the knowledge that they would be skittled for around 30 and that the game would be over faster than it took New Zealand to humble Bangladesh (Six overs)? Or would they look to strike a lucky blow or two with the new ball before conceding 400?
In the interests of keeping the current squad happy theres not enough strength in depth to alienate any of the existing team by marking them down as one of the worst players in club history only those players who have moved on to pastures new are eligible for selection in the Dream Team. At least that was the original intention. Unfortunately one current player (albeit one who briefly retired before making a comeback) has presented credentials that are simply too outstanding assuming thats the right word to ignore and duly takes his place in the team.
Brian Moslin and Balmer Bains get the task of opening the batting.
During his time with the club the pipe-smoking Moslin liked to wax lyrical about the days when he routinely racked up 1,000 runs in a season. One can only assume that Moslin spent his days locked in mortal combat with children from the blind school. Either that or he was a liar on a monumental scale. In seven innings the flower-pot hat-wearing Moslin accumulated a princely 50 runs at an average of 7.14. Anyone who ever had the misfortune of sitting through a Moslin master-class would be able to attest that his strike rate in terms of runs per 100 balls was roughly on a par with his average. A chronic reluctance to run combined with an utter lack of ability to hit the ball off the square ensured that Moslin was never going to be a great deal of use in a run chase. Even when he produced his highest score, a masterly 18 at Elstow, he spent so long in the middle compiling his runs that the rest of the batsmen were forced to slog from the start as darkness descended and they battled to reduce a required run rate that had reached double figures. In a word, useless, but a solid enough building block for our team of crack no-hopers.
While Moslin digs trenches at one end, Bains can be relied upon to provide a little eastern exoticism at the other, borrowing money and purloining cigarettes whenever the chance presents itself. Despite once making 24 in his days as a Stopsley player (six boundaries on a scorching hot day with a blisteringly fast outfield five of which went through the slips or gulley region), Bains never scored more than 13 after the move to Offley. His 16 innings yielded 72 runs at an average of 4.80. Never afraid to sacrifice his wicket for the good of the team, Bains was always prepared to go for his shots. Or at least his shot, an optimistic mixture of a forward defensive prod and an agricultural mow that often seemed intended to propel the ball through the batsmans legs. Rarely helped by his choice of bat, Bains was invariably on his way back to the pavilion within five minutes of arriving at the middle. Despite that he invariably though he did alright. He usually didnt which is why he gets the chance to open with Moslin.
Considering that he made only a fleeting appearance in Offley colours, Michael Cunningham may feel a little aggrieved to find himself in the ranks of the worst ever team. Then again considering that Mad Mike seemed to go through life with a permanent scowl and a Travis Bickle-style attitude its hard to remember him being anything other than mildly irate.
Ostensibly recruited as a batsman, Cunningham appeared briefly at the start of the 2006 season and during four trips to the crease produced precisely one scoring shot, a wild slash over the slips at Holtwhites Trinibis that brought him three runs. Cunninghams extended traveling Fan Club, presumably on secondment from the Addams Family (or the Mansons, depending on ones point of view) and featuring Ma, Pa and Sis, duly exploded into rapturous applause and looked ready to throw a parade for him - or at least reward him with a specially baked cake - before he was promptly sent on his way back to the pavilion.
After the heady heights of scoring three on debut, Cunningham fell rapidly to earth. His second innings for the club failed to produce a run and his last knock for the club ended in similar disappointment. In between his third innings also produced a duck giving him an average of 0.75. Cunninghams dismissal without scoring at Kings Langley led to him attempting to smash his bat into smithereens on a concrete step before Mad Mike Senior shouted at him very loudly and warned that it would be the worst for him if he went through with his intentions.
A suitably chastened batsman duly refrained from chucking the bat out of the pram along with the dummy although the more cynical members of the team could have been forgiven for wondering if Cunningham would actually have made contact with the step. Even if he had hed probably have just edged it. Cunningham takes his place in the team at number three.
Darren Saunders is the superstar of the team and accordingly bats in the pivotal number four spot. Unlike most of his teammates who were simply content to play a bad game, Saunders made the mistake of talking a good game before backing it up with some fairly ordinary performances. Claiming to be a mainstay of the University of Lampeter XI was one thing; claiming to have removed the logos from his bat on the grounds that they clashed with his sponsorship deal was perhaps something else, especially when his team were discovered to have lost a one-innings match by almost 400 runs after they were bowled out for about 22 in response to a target of 420-1. Saunders also had the capacity to drop chances in the field that tended to prove crucial ask Keith Towndrow to talk you through Saunders inept effort to hold on to a sitter from one-armed superstar Ali Shah some time. Just dont ask Towndrow how far Shah hit the next ball Saunders averaged 3.75 with the bat and despite some redeeming characteristics hes well worth his place in this team.
The last of the specialist batsmen although he was rarely regarded as such during his time with the club comes in at number five in the form of Dave Griffiths. Griffiths was capable of giving the ball a tremendous heave yet often struggled to connect. When he did make contact with the ball it was liable to travel a long way. However, an average of 6.80 indicates that bat and ball were rarely in the same place and 27 of his 68 career runs came in the same innings. He surprisingly featured in the glorious 2003 Midweek Cup triumph but on the whole his Offley career is best forgotten.
All good teams need a wicketkeeper. This might not be a good team but they still need someone to wear the gloves even if theres not much chance of the opposition batsmen allowing the ball to beat the bat, much less nick one behind. Peter Jack is the man for the job. A stalwart of Simon Warringtons Second XI, Jack was one of the nicer men to ever play for the club. Sadly he was not one of the more gifted. He was not the most adept keeper to represent the club and despite always showing a nice line in enthusiasm he was invariably found wanting with both gloves and bat. He averaged just 4.00 runs with the blade and while he averaged considerably less than four drops per game hes not the sort of man youd stake your mortgage on holding a catch.
John Laidlaw is the first of a number of fairly useless all-rounders and is an interesting choice to bat at number seven. Laidlaw played four times for the club and finished up with the impressive average of 1.33. Despite having a similar batting stance to Shivnarine Chanderpaul although in Laidlaws case he resembled a tall man squatting over a shovel seeking relief from piles Laidlaw was awful. He rarely made contact with the ball and when he did succeed in hitting it he seldom generated the power to get it off the square. Laidlaws chief asset was his ability to bowl floaty, dibbly-dobbly off-spin. However, he was so bad that he never got to bowl for Offley.
Richard Hatfield goes in at number eight. It should be higher but he wont want to and would prefer to concentrate on eating tea or texting people. Hatfield enjoyed a surprisingly long stint in Offley colours before he finally snapped and went feral. Over the years he batted 38 times for an average of 5.86. Despite having some ability for the game he was able to do little with it and seemed to prefer to give the bowler credit for producing a marvelous ball than for taking any blame for his demise. A reasonably talented fielder, Hatfield was cursed with poppadum-style fingers that invariably snapped on impact with the ball.
The captain of our team just the man to organize the tea and collect the match fees would insist on batting no lower than number nine unless the opposition had a quick bowler in which case hed nobly volunteer to go in last. Robert Boatwright may be a staunch contender for the title of worst batsman in club history but he could play a fine forward defensive admittedly he tended to play it down the wrong line. During his illustrious career Boatwright assembled an average of 2.43 in 16 innings.
Despite being a purveyor of utter dross in the bowling stakes, somehow or other he acquired 31 wickets at 14.10 as a result of bowling in favourable circumstances and scattering his best catchers in an arc between deep square leg and cow corner.
Yet despite the runs and the wickets Boatwright was perhaps best remembered for his fielding. Few cricketers have demonstrated such a craven fear of a cricket ball and there is no doubt that when it came to putting his life on the line for the club or taking one for the team Boatwright ranks dead last in the list of players who have turned out for Offley & Stopsley. His efforts in the field were characterized by a yellow streak a half a mile wide and if he did stop the ball it was generally fair to assume it was because he had been too slow to get out of the way.
All good teams need a fast bowler to open the attack. As this is supposed to be a bad team theres no chance of finding a decent quick in the ranks. However, Tony Maidment is a fine choice to take the new ball. During his colourful some might say drug-fuelled career with Offley Maidment picked up 11 wickets at 40.36. Despite being given the chance to prove his worth as a bowler Maidment rarely enjoyed any great success with the ball and was prone to disappear to all parts as he tried to bowl with pace and venom attributes which he sadly lacked.
On the positive side he was usually a keen fielder at least he was when he was not stoned and can probably lay claim to being the best fielder in this team. As a batsman Maidment had his problems in both scoring runs and keeping the bowlers at bay. Despite batting 34 times he averaged just 8.30. Upon further review that average actually marks him out as the best of the bunch. However, because he gets the new ball its only fair that he drops down the order to number ten and gives others a chance to bat before him. Dont worry though hell get in soon enough.
Which brings us, eventually, to number eleven, even though it might not take the opposition long to get here. Whoever fills this spot can lay legitimate claim to being the worst batsman in the history of Offley & Stopsley Cricket Club. Selecting the individual for this position is not so much a case of going through the keyhole as going straight through the gate where the ball frequently goes. Few would argue if Boatwright got the nod for his combination of cowardice and lack of talent. However, ultimately the accolade must go to a man who recently flirted with retirement.
In 74 trips to the crease Wayne Cutts has mustered 173 runs. He has failed to hit a six or reach 20 and boasts an average of 2.93. Despite that being 0.50 runs better than Boatwright, Cutts ends up at the bottom of the list simply because he placed such faith in his batting that he felt obliged to back himself to score 150, 100 and eventually 50 runs in a season. He never won his bet.
Despite his limitations some might say self-imposed limitations with the bat, Cutts figures as one of the more committed fielders in this team and can also be counted on to do stalwart work as both umpire and scorer. He also brings some variety to the attack with his leg spin. Cutts may have bowled the longest over in history (or at least he would have done if hed completed it instead of storming off to sulk) but he has the ability to exact genuine turn. His tally of nine wickets for the club may be a little on the low side but he should have the chance to bowl plenty of overs for this team providing they bowl first.
All in all it is a team for the ages, a crack squad of incompetents ready to do battle for the honour of Offley & Stopsley Cricket Club and take on all-comers. And lack of talent aside why shouldnt they? After all, weve got a second team to fill this season ..