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Offley & Stopsley Vs Hatfield - 16th Sept

OSCC Lost by 79 runs

Six weeks after being destroyed in a North Herts League encounter at Ascots Lane, Offley returned to face Hatfield and were duly put through the mill for a second time in a contest that provoked images of A Nightmare on Elm Street II and pretty much every poxy movie sequel ever made.

Offley’s hopes were hardly hoped by a significant portion of the team failing to find the ground. Mohammed Qumar had evidently struck out in search of the source of the Nile while Colin Keeley, Darren Lunney and Matthew Freeman were roaming around Hertfordshire in scenes reminiscent of an episode from Whacky Races. Steve Bexfield duly lost the toss and Offley took the field with seven players plus a couple of press-ganged substitutes who offered useful service in fetching the ball back from the boundary if not actually preventing it reaching the rope in the first place.

Rizwan and Jeff Francis opened the bowling and it’s fair to say that both have produced better spells. Rizwan opened the ball with a grotesque long hop that crashed back off the fence before anyone had the chance to move before Francis saw his first ball deposited over the ropes for six. The arrival of the reinforcements allowed Offley to slowly claw their way back into the game and the initial breakthrough came when Nathan Brodie held on to his 24th catch of the season to give Francis a wicket.

However, that did nothing more than bring the prolific Gale to the wicket and Offley’s bowlers toiled in vain to dismiss the tediously effective batsman. Mo Chaudry experimented with some variations of spin bowling that seemed designed especially to reach the boundary with minimum effort. Richie Barker narrowly missed dismissing Gale for the third time in three games when he nearly had his hand removed by a particularly fierce return before Freeman finally had the batsman caught at the wicket. Lunney finished with two catches and Freeman picked up a pair of scalps while Qumar dropped a sitter off his own bowling and Chaudry also spilt two opportunities. It was a fine effort from Freeman who ran in and bowled with real pace and fire to illustrate his potential and show what a fine bowler he could be if he were ever persuaded to put the effort in every week. As it is the 2006 season has failed to dispel the image of a charging buffalo one week and a mincing ballerina the next. The club’s boundary fielder par excellence also declined to attempt to catch a fairly comfortable chance on the boundary and instead turned his back on the ball like a frightened child before stopping it with his ample backside. However, Offley had some success in limiting Hatfield to 237 and there were hopes that they could make a decent fist of the run chase.

Bexfield opted for an experimental batting order and sent Qumar out to open the batting with Brodie. Brodie fell for 9 before Keeley came and went in the blink of an eye for a cultured three runs that would have been at least a dozen if he had a proper bat. Qumar and Lunney steadied the ship with a stand of 44 before the wheels came off in a hurry as four wickets went down for eight runs. Qumar was stumped by some distance, Lunney swiped across the line and was bowled middle stump, Wayne Cutts declined to play a shot to a straight bowl and lost his middle pole while Francis proffered a simple return catch as Offley plummeted to 73-6.

Freeman and Rizwan dug in to add 33 as Freeman played some pleasant shots, steadfastly moving into line against the spinners to allay previous accusations of cowardice in the face of the bowling and passed the 50-run mark for the season. Freeman eventually fell for 14 but Rizwan and Barker enjoyed themselves with a stand of 46 before Barker holed out at long off in the dark. Meanwhile Rizwan continued to play his shots and hit five boundaries en route to a career-best 37 not out. There was still time for Bexfield to come in at number 10 and perish to a fantastic catch after making three runs, a dismissal that summed up a dire season. Chaudry administered the last rites to the innings by falling on his stumps as Hatfield ran out winners by 79 runs.