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Offley & Stopsley CC , 81-5, beat Graveley, 80-7 - 31st July

OSCC Won by 5 wickets

Offley just about kept their nerve in the summer twilight to seal their first trip to the Hertfordshire Twenty20 Finals Day as they overcame Gravely by five wickets.

Seemingly gone for all money at 22-6, Graveley recovered to post a semi-respectable total and then took advantage of some inept batting at the top of the Offley order to send tremors through the home dressing room before Steve Bexfield and Mo Chaudry led the hosts home and booked their place in St Albans on August 12.

Graveley won the toss and elected to bat and skipper Bracey had time to reflect on the wisdom of that decision as he was clean bowled by Colin Keeley’s opening delivery of the match.

Keeley was a revelation. Gone was the lumbering carthorse of Sunday, apparently booked in for an early date at the glue factory. In its place was a sprightly young colt that gambolled about the field without a care in the world. Keeley added a second scalp by removing Stockhill leg before tacking a back seat to the latest episode of the Mark Tattersall Show.

The corpulent seamer trundled in up the hill from the Kings Walden Road end and had Murphy well caught at mid on by Matthew Freeman. However, Tattersall looked to settle the match with a stunning three-wicket burst in his final over as he ripped through the defences of Hare, Hobson and Barnham to finish with 4-7 to leave the visitors rocking at 22-6.

That really should have been game, set and soldiers but Graveley dug in and took advantage of some moon balls from Mo Chaudry as Preston and Logan both batted with composure and a little luck to drag the visitors up to 80-7 on a slow wicket that once again offered little encouragement for batsmen to play their shots.

Graveley needed early wickets and duly got them as Offley’s top order slumped. Tattersall got an inside edge through to the keeper who swallowed it with the nonchalant ease of a fat man swallowing a pie – perhaps not surprising as he looked as if he’d swallowed a few pies in his time. Richie Barker played a beautiful leg glance, aiming the ball over midwicket, and holing out to extra cover without scoring while Nathan Brodie’s wretched run continued as he was bowled for 2. Jon Cerasale played the shot of the night, launching a majestic straight drive down the ground before being dismissed off a leading edge to a shot that Wayne Cutts might have been ashamed of. That left Offley in dire straits on 29-4 as skipper Bexfield marched out into the night to join Chaudry.

One false stroke could have meant disaster for Offley, to say nothing of a dressing room inquest that would have made the Nuremburg War Trials resemble a night down the pub. However, Chaudry mixed defiance with luck and judgement and Bexfield dug in in typical manner, offering the straightest of pads to anything outside off stump. Graveley juggled their bowlers but the scoreboard began to tick along as the extra piled up – the visitors contributing 21 to the cause.

The winning tape was in sight when Chaudry miscued to mid off as he tried to end the game in one swing but he had done his job, finishing on 25. Bexfield completed the job, ducking under a beamer and then scampering two to seal the victory to send Offley through to the finals day and raise the prospect of players suddenly making themselves available on a Sunday, offering to play twice (hopefully three times) at the weekend and generally treating the captain and chief selector with reverential awe.

Enjoy it while it lasts, Bex.