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Offley & Stopsley, 101-7, beat Houghton Town, 100 all out,

OSCC Won by 3 wickets

Link to Scorecard

Offley defied the odds to settle another old score at a windswept Icknield. A day that featured a pitch invasion from a drunken vodka-walloper, a heroic fielding display, a truly abysmal batting collapse and a couple of slightly marginal LBW decisions ended in glory as Dave Bridgland hauled Offley over the victory line against Houghton Town.

The hosts won the toss and elected to bat in blustery conditions. Paul Bridgland was given the thankless task of opening the bowling into the wind but he defied the north-face-of-the-Eiger conditions to claim 2-26 in a determined opening spell. Gary Davison bagged the first of three catches to dismiss Bob for a duck before Dave Bridgland toppled forward at slip to claim a fine catch and make it 18-2.

Offley were flying high and even the intervention of 1961’s Miss Polish Vodka Drinker failed to halt the Offley assault. After sweet and reasoned diplomatic entreaties from Colin Keeley and Nathan Brodie the charming lady was persuaded to abandon her sit down protest and allow play to resume. Bridgland claimed his second catch at slip to account for Marrinder as Mark Tattersall struck with an away swinger. Skipper Martin Bigmore maintained the quality fielding display with a sharp one-handed catch to account for Javed and then kept his nerve to hold a swirling catch out of the clouds to remove the dangerous Naveed for 26 to leave Houghton Town rocking at 64-5. The Gods looked to be smiling on Offley as Steve Bexfield held on to a top edge and the hosts limped to the drinks interval on 97-6.

Dave Bridgland replaced Tattersall and immediately made a mockery of his two fine slip catches by spilling a sitter. However, Kabir wafted the very next ball towards long leg and Paul Bridgland bailed his brother out. Davison then hogged the limelight with an acrobatic, gravity-defying catch to give Keeley a deserved wicket after toiling into the gale before Bridgland whipped out the last two batsmen in successive deliveries to leave Offley needing 101 to win and the small matter of 57 overs to knock them off. A walk in the park perhaps – of course any walk through the park at Icknield includes negotiating the dog turds, drunks and peasants on motorbikes.

Offley began in solid fashion as Bexfield put his new bat to good use to guide a boundary through square leg. However, he quickly made the misjudgement of putting his pad to good use and was adjudged leg before to Kabir. Bexfield’s subsequent actions – petulantly flicking his stumps with his bat and hurling his helmet at the scorer – suggested he did not agree with the decision.

Matters took a turn for the worse when the dangerous Kabir produced a fine spell of fast bowling. Mo Chaudry was the first of six victims in a three over spell when he missed Kabir’s slower ball and then Richie Barker produced his third two-ball innings in a row to leave Offley rocking at 10-3. Davison came and went in the blink of an eye before Brodie had his stumps rearranged to make it 10-5. Tattersall joined Bigmore and the pair dug in, raising the total by a single run before Tattersall attempted a somewhat ill-judged smear against Naveed and was bowled to leave the scoreboard reading 11-6. Five batsmen in a row went without scoring, the finest use of five rings since they designed the Olympic logo.

Yet Tattersall’s dismissal spelt the beginning of the end for Houghton Town if they had but known it. Surveying the wreckage with disdain, Dave Bridgland walked to the crease to join his bemused captain, marching out to the middle like Astur, the Great Lord of Luna, coming on with stately stride. Big Dave Bridgland and Bigmore dug in and slowly began to repair the damage, lifting the score to the heady heights of 20 (and the poisoned dwarf who malignantly cackled something about “at least you’ve made a bit of a game of it” can poke it up his arse) and then ever upwards. Bridgland launched a mighty six downwind, clearing the longest boundary on the ground and offering evidence that Offley would not be blown away by the gales.

At the other end Bigmore stood firm, Horatius guarding the bridge or Boycott at his bloody-minded best, depending on one’s point of view. While Bridgland peppered the boundary with the occasional big shot, Bigmore was content to accumulate singles, jealously hoarding his runs like a small child guarding his sweets to the evident frustration of the Houghton Town bowlers. Appeals became ever more frequent and high pitched as the score passed the 50 mark and runs began to flow. Kabir began to tire as he reached the end of his epic spell and with no help at the other end to stem the tide Offley inched ever closer.

The stand was worth 84 and only six more runs were needed when Kabir served up a tired legside delivery that brushed Bigmore’s thigh as he shaped to pull and sped away for four leg byes. Two to win… Or not as the case proved with a despairing and ridiculous appeal being answered in the affirmative by the umpire to send Bigmore on his way for 27 and set Offley nerves on edge once more. Keeley headed for the crease and dug in for five balls before trying to settle the affair with one blow. Needless to say he missed but so, fortunately, did the ball. Bridgland took matters into his own hands, moving to a brilliant half-century with ease before settling the contest with one final sweetly placed shot, a rapier thrust through the heart of Houghton Town.

Scenes of mild jubilation and pandemonium ensued as Offley celebrated a famous triumph. Bexfield had the good grace to apologise to the scorer after the helmet incident, while the umpire had the gloating nerve to apologise to Bigmore for, “a bit of a dodgy decision.” Aye well, scoreboard dude. I trust that everyone remembered to wave as we went past Houghton Town on our way up the table. Link to Scorecard


After the battle was finished, the victors went unto the Sportsman and lo, there was much rejoicing and quaffing of strong ale. The stump-smashing, helmet-tossing Bexfield and three of the Offley Olympians (Barker, Tattersall and Davison, also known as Huey, Duey and Louie) worked their way through a couple of pints each and then worked heroically together to finish off seven jugs of Carlsberg Cold (at least until Davison wussed out and went home leaving a full pint) as the celebrations continued long into the night.