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Houghton Town 221- 8 Vs Offley & Stopsley CC 220-8 ; 15th June

OSCC Lost by 2 Wkts

A truly outstanding team performance by a developing Offley Line-up pushed an undefeated and very strong Houghton Town team right to the wire. And if you take away the miss-fortune of Qumar’s untimely injury, and the 59 extras, victory would most certainly have been Offley’s, but hey, that’s a hard luck story for another time.

Skipper Bexfield won this toss for the second day in a row, and had no hesitation in batting first. In the bowling department Offley looked strong, with 5 front line bowlers, and two other experienced options. The same could not be said however of the batting line-up, with only 3 top order batsmen available. It’s a good job Offley don’t have any health and safety style jobs-worth’s, because quite frankly they would have rightly stopped Brodie going out to open the batting, he was so hung-over, a trip to spec-savers would hardly helped him see the ball.

That said, the opening partnership of Brodie and Bexfield prospered despite being faced with an opening barrage of pace, where extras top scored. However, after a few others Bexfield started to enjoy himself, as the extra pace of the bowlers, and very iffy fielding, allowed the skipper to pick-up boundaries and singles both sides of the wicket. Brodie got himself in on the act by launching a huge six down the ground, and by pushing quick singles to the extremely interested fielders. After 16 over’s of play, Houghton Town had used 6 different bowlers, a testament to the platform the opening partnership were setting.

After reaching his 50, Brodie holed out to a deep-ish mid-off, with the scoreboard reading 107. Some might say it was rather reckless to get out after reaching 50 given Offley’s batting line-up, but on this occasion it has to be looked at as 52 runs gained and not 48 lost. Qumar joined Bexfield at the crease and the pair moved the score on nicely, with Bexfield punishing anything on leg stump time and time again. Qumar reached 16 with little trouble before disaster struck, as the batsmen turned to run an over-throw, and after making his ground, Qumar hit the ground like he had been shot, and had to retire hurt with a groin injury. Jon Ceresale, the clubs in-form batsmen, then departed for a third ball duck, and the value of that opening partnership was really beginning to ring true. 

Bexfield carried on his way, as he lifted his personal total towards 100, and the team towards 200, as Darren Lunney provided good support from the other end. After reaching his 100 with a glorious shot, Bexfield was bowled by the quickie with the last ball of his spell, and given the most ridiculous send-off. Until this moment in the game, umpire Ken Willis had managed to remain impartial as umpire from the club house end. A note for all batsmen, when batting with Ken Willis as umpire you must engage in muttering banter, otherwise you will be adjudged leg before, as Lunney was sent on his way for 18.

At this point the wheels fell of big time, as Offley went from 200-4 to 219-8 in the space of 4 over’s. As Keeley and the Sale Brothers both collected ducks, and Latino was run-out for 1, leaving Freeman to collect another Not Out. Offley’s final total being 220-8, a very competitive total given the grim predictions before the start of play. The sour note for Offley being that Qumar’s injury meant he was unable to bowl, Offley were very lucky that Mark Ward was at the ground, and kindly offered to field in Qumar’s place. 

The openers for Houghton Town took a liking to the bowling of Rizwan and Keeley, and after 4 over’s the score was heading towards 50, as Naveed played shots all around the wicket. Cerasale was introduced into the attack from the club house end to replace the wayward Rizwan, and the effect was instant as his first over cost a mere 1 run. Cerasale attempted a slower ball in his next over, but unfortunately it disappeared over square leg for six. Keeley was plugging away at the other end, but couldn’t stop the batsmen taking a boundary and a clutch of singles from each over. 

Keeley made a double break through in his last over, as he removed Narindar and then Bob in a flourish finish with respectable figures of 8-0-40-2, getting OSCC back in the game. Cerasale was re-introduced from the football ground end, and in his first over back captured the vital wicket of Naveed, as the batsmen played on for 55. The wicket at the other end seemed to energize Freeman as his next over was a wicket maiden, with Brodie taking a regulation catch at extra cover.

With the match now in the balance and Houghton Town on 146-4, Freeman started to hit his straps, taking another important wicket. Brodie replaced Ceresale and celebrated the wicket of Owais with a flourish.

Lunney came on to bowl his slow spin and immediately took the wicket of Kashit, this looked to be a decisive wicket as he was proving to be a cool head in the developing battle. Every crisis requires a hero to confront it. In this case it was the Houghton umpire who took on the mantle of scoring the runs for his side, with a series of outrageous calls for wide. This started to cause some resentment amongst the OSCC players who held their tongues until this umpire called a wide of a ball that actually hit the batsmens legs. Unfortunatly this controversy took the edge of OSCC performance and Houghton Town went on to score the final runs with only 7 balls to spare.

A fine battling display from both sides in a gruelling contest was marred by this ugly scene and somewhat spoiled the whole day.