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Offley & Stopsley CC Vs Shenley Village III- 19th May

Match Drawn

Offley & Stopsley crashed off the top of the Saracens League as they made a veritable pig’s ear of a run chase and were forced to settle for the wrong end of the draw. Chasing 194 for victory Offley were cruising with Steve Hoar and Darren Lunney sharing a profitable second wicket stand before it all went wrong amid a succession of poor shots and even poorer judgment.

Steve Bexfield won the toss and had little hesitation in subjecting his team to their customary 53-over stint in the field. Matthew Freeman and Rizwan took the new ball but struggled to get the ball in the right place as the visiting openers proved willing to chance their arm and hit over the top. Rizwan dropped a very difficult return catch before Freeman made the breakthrough. Sangarin miscued to cover and although Mo Chaudry threatened to confuse the issue by steaming in like a fire engine going to the wrong fire and calling for the catch as the ball looped over his head, Nathan Brodie circled round behind to take a good low catch.

Chris Austin accounted for the second wicket when he did well to block a wayward legside delivery. Stubbs unaccountably called for a single and McClellan resembled a mortally wounded wildebeest running through quicksand as he ploughed up the pitch towards safety. Austin swooped on the loose ball and produced an impressive throw that left the batsman yards out of his ground. Stubbs continued to play his shots and young left-hander Evans showed an appetite for Jon Cerasale’s bowling. However, Cerasale had the last word when he removed both, Stubbs expertly snared at cover by Brodie and Evans trapped in front by a delivery that failed to rise above shin height.

After that the innings developed into a war of attrition with Richie Barker working his way through 20 overs of flighted filth designed to take the pace of the ball and frustrate the batsmen on a turgid wicket. Cerasale also bowled effectively in his longest spell since the Falklands War and the run rate was kept in check until Bexfield introduced himself for a two-over spell that lasted three overs and conjured up images of Wayne Cutts’ inability to cut the strip against Lilley last year.

While we’re on the subject of Cutts it would be remiss of your correspondent not to mention a truly magnificent star jump. Cutts, positioned at midwicket, reacted to a vigorous pull shot by jumping to safety like a startled five-year old girl, clasping his knees around his chest and allowing the ball to run away to the boundary. It seems unfair to mention it now but had Cutts shown a touch of courage in the line of fire, he might have stopped the ball and saved the three runs that proved to be the difference between victory and a share of the spoils. Still, we win as a team and we lose as a team, Wayney, so don’t feel responsible in any way.

Barker had Hunting expertly caught by Austin off a thin edge and finished with 3-51, picking up a couple of wickets in the last over. Rizwan also bowled well at the death after replacing the wayward Bexfield to restrict Shenley to 193-8.

Bexfield’s day got worse shortly after tea as he missed a full toss and was bowled for a duck. With Hoar surviving a convincing shout for caught behind and Lunney making his customary scratchy start, Offley struggled to generate momentum. However, both batsmen discovered their touch and timing and the runs began to come, steadily at first and then at a more rapid rate as the boundaries began to flow.

The job looked to be at least half done when Hoar miscued a lazy shot and offered a simple catch to cover. Lunney made the cardinal sin of following his partner back to the pavilion by slicing a full toss into the atmosphere. Brodie and Chaudry repaired the damage but the momentum began to slow before Brodie was trapped plumb in front after playing back. Austin joined Chaudry and the required run rate began to rise in the wake of consecutive maidens. Both batsmen produced some effective blows - Austin produced a magnificent overhead smash after running down the wicket – before Chaudry was well held off a firm drive to set the nerves on edge. Rizwan came and went before Austin was run out backing up leaving Barker and Cerasale to score 9 off the final 12 balls.

Offley’s chances took a dent as Barker mustered a frankly abject single off seven balls before another rotten innings ended with him skying some sort of cross-batted effort to the keeper. The ball dropped softly into the gloves just as Barker’s season average dropped into single figures. Cerasale reduced the asking rate to 3 off the final ball but Freeman, under pressure and facing his first ball, was unable to connect as he swung for the boundary.

All in all not a good day at the office for Bexfield’s team who picked up a dismal seven points, their second worst performance in two seasons in the league. Not for the first time a lack of cutting edge with the new ball hurt Offley’s chances to make early inroads. However, the batsmen must take responsibility for one that got away with a series of misjudgments. It would also help if one unnamed batsman with delusions of being a slow bowling all-rounder stopped pissing around in the lower reaches of the order and scored some runs.