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Offley & Stopsley CC 87-4 Vs Abbotts Langley III's 86 all out - 28th July

OSCC Won by 6 Wkts

A depleted Offley strengthened their grip on second place in the Saracens League by routing third-place Abbots Langley in emphatic fashion. Steve Bexfield’s 10 men proved far too strong for the visitors as they came out on top in a low-scoring affair on a wicket that lacked pace and bounce with the ball providing all the carry of a medicine ball landing in a sand pit.

Bexfield won the toss and elected to bowl first despite being a man short in the field with Gareth Mathewson presumed missing somewhere between Malaga and Madrid. Matthew Freeman and Colin Keeley opened the bowling and soon had the batsmen under pressure. Freeman was a little unlucky not to take a wicket in a solid eight-over spell but Keeley made the breakthrough when Bexfield held on to a swirling top edge.

The visitors attempted to break the shackled but a cunning piece of bowling from Keeley resulted in a second wicket as Darren Lunney held a sharp chance at mid off. That wicket doubled Keeley’s tally for the season as the veteran paceman turned back the clock (or the sun dial depending on one’s point of view) and chugged in to the crease like a proud shire horse who refuses to accept that he is destined for the glue factory any time soon.

Freeman gave way to Jon Cerasale and the former fast bowler soon found himself among the wickets as he ripped through the defences of a frankly rubbish number four batsman – for reasons known only to himself the batsman reacted to being bowled first ball by hurling his bat, presumably unhappy at being betrayed by his abject lack of talent – and followed it up by trapping an equally incompetent number five batsmen lbw.

Cerasale picked up his third wicket when the visiting captain edged a catch to Chris Austin before the Bexfield-Keeley struck again to leave Abbots six down as Bexfield took an extremely good catch at mid on. Cerasale’s pace was too much for the number eight before Lunney held a brilliant sharp catch in the gulley to make it eight down. Keeley distinguished himself with a fine tumbling catch at point to give Cerasale his sixth wicket and although the visitors’ last pair dragged the score towards respectability they were finally dismissed for 86 in the 48th over (a scoring rate of 1.79 runs per over) when Richie Barker claimed the final wicket with the aid of a fairly rank shot from the number 11.

Barker and Nathan Brodie began the reply for Offley but the pair were soon separated when Brodie played on to Cranch. The cantankerous bowler soon had a confident shout for lbw against Lunney turned down by Umpire Cerasale but claimed his second wicket when Barker attempted a somewhat optimistic pull shot and was trapped in front for 15, the ball striking him inside the knee on the back leg. The game was in the balance when Bexfield played round a straight one from Cranch and Umpire Keeley had little hesitation in sending him on his way to leave Offley in the mire at 40-3, effectively four down with Mathewson presumed to be quaffing jugs of sangria somewhere Dago-side.

However, Lunney and Freeman dug in to share a match-winning stand of 42. It was the latest in a series of fine efforts from Lunney whose composure under pressure has drawn comparisons with fellow northerner Paul Collingwood while his plethora of not outs have earned him the nickname of the left-handed Bexfield. It’s not quite the same as Zico being known as the White Pele but you get the idea.

The winning post was in sight before Freeman was dismissed by Manish as he played a poor shot and fell for a painstaking 15 from 57 balls. Despite his dismissal it was a fine effort from Freeman who battled hard and played every delivery on its merits – sometimes he may have played it above its merits – and defied the bowlers and his urgent need for a toilet break to carry Offley to within sight of victory. Cerasale quickly ended the game with a lusty smear over midwicket to give Offley the win and keep their title bid alive. The celebratory lager flowed freely long into the night while Freeman celebrated the victory in his own inimitable style – by consuming four flakes and a bottle of J2O.