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Boxmoor II 119-9 Vs Offley & Stopsley CC 224-5 - 23rd June
Steve Bexfields troops defied the elements but were denied in turn by Boxmoors final pair as they were forced to settle for a draw at soggy Hemel Hempstead.
Heavy rain in the build-up to the game resulted in a rather green pitch where bowling first was the only logical decision and Offley were duly asked to bat after Bexfields form at the toss deserted him and he called wrong.
Nathan Brodie and Steve Hoar opened the batting and displayed markedly different styles. While Brodie burst out of the traps at a sprint, timing the ball like a man in a dream, Hoar struggled to locate the ball with his bat and gave a passable impression of a tit in a trance. Despite struggling to middle the ball, Hoar proved adept at getting his body in line and suffered a painful rap on the gloves from the first ball of the match before taking a blow in the midriff from the fourth delivery.
While Hoar wafted futilely at the ball like an inebriated matador, making contact with nothing but fresh air, Brodie began to unleash a barrage of sparkling cover drives that conjured images of Michael Vaughan. While Vaughan has never scored a century for England in a one day international, Brodie is also searching for his first century for Offley. Despite racing to 50 and hurtling on into the seventies, Brodies search for that elusive century continues after he clipped a delivery down the legside to the keeper after making 75 in a stand of 95. Brodie has now comfortably scored more half-centuries than any other player in club history without going on to three figures and currently possesses a conversion rate that would shame the original Mr 72, Martin Bigmore.
Darren Lunney joined Hoar and the scoreboard continued to tick over as Hoar suddenly discovered his timing and began to take advantage of some poor fielding. Lunney and Hoar shared a stand of 92 the grimly-determined lefthander from the North contributing a princely 14 before they both departed with the score on 187. Hoar fell for 94 attempting a grotesque mow across the line before Lunney spooned a simple catch.
After a brief stoppage for rain that reduced the length of the game by two overs, Mo Chaudry took up the cudgels and seemed determined to make a point after losing his spot at the top of the order and being dropped down to number four. Chaudry plundered an unbeaten 26 from 17 balls, running out Gareth Mathewson along the way. Matthew Freeman and Chris Latino both tried and died for the cause, going down swinging for a single apiece, before Bexfield called a halt to proceedings with the score on 224 from 47 overs.
With the threat of rain looming large Bexfield opted to open the bowling with Mathewson and Richie Barker. The move brought instant dividend as Barker trapped opener Iqbal plumb in front for 2 before Freeman held a good catch off Mathewson to remove Samuels for a duck. Boxmoor were in disarray when Hammond flicked Mathewson to the diving Hoar at leg gulley to bring the formidable Warburton to the crease.
Warburton offered a chance to the keeper off his second ball but Lunney scorned the chance and the batsman began to make his hefty presence felt by unfurling a succession of boundaries, thumping Barker for two fours in an over and then lofting a towering six off Mathewson on to the roof of a parked car. Freeman made a magnificent innings to nip Warburtons innings in the bud as he ran to his left and hurled himself through the air like a melon fired from a toy catapult only for the ball to graze his fingertips.
Barker staunched the flow of runs when he induced a top edge from Wright and Wayne Cutts snapped his hands tightly around the spinning ball like a crocodile pouncing on a wounded wildebeest by the waters edge. Lockley promptly chipped a tame return catch to Barker and Offley looked on course for victory when Mathewson beat Warburtons defensive prod to send the batsman on his way for 30.
However, with the rain falling with increasing venom, the wickets dried up as Slade and Crawshaw dropped anchor. Good work from Hoar should have resulted in the run out of Slade but Mathewson was unable to handle a soggy ball that now bore close resemblance to a sponge. After 38 overs of spin, Bexfield finally turned to his seamers and introduced Rizwan and Freeman into the attack. Freeman made the breakthrough in his first over as he bowled Crawshaw off the inside edge before Rizwan struck a crucial blow to remove Slade for a dogged 33. Down, backing away to square leg at the first opportunity (frequently beginning to edge his way towards the sanctuary of square leg before the bowler had even turned to start his run-up) made one of the more predictable ducks in cricketing history as Freeman ripped through his defences to leave Offley five overs to claim the last wicket.
However, with Scott lurching determinedly on to the front foot at every opportunity and Booth surviving with a mixture of luck and judgement the final pair negotiated the remaining overs with relative comfort. When Scott survived the final delivery it meant that Offley had picked up 19 points for their endeavours and the hosts were left with a solitary point for their afternoons work.
Despite the disappointment of failing to pick up the final wicket, it was a case of nine points gained rather than 11 lost for Bexfields troops as they moved up into third place and cut the gap between themselves and the top two to 14 points. There were strong individual efforts from Hoar and Brodie with the bat as well as his most impressive bowling performance since the opening day of the season from Freeman who bowled with genuine pace and venom in tricky conditions to carry Offley to the brink of victory before they were denied at the last