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Offley & Stopsley CC 129-6 Vs Crawley Green Nomads 126 all out - 22nd June
Offley recorded their first win over their long-standing rivals since 2005 as they edged to victory against Nomads in the penultimate over at a windswept Crawley Green on the day they discovered the splendid middle name of their leading all-rounder. Jon Piers Cerasale starred with bat and ball and Offley’s bowlers delivered an impressive performance as they defied a steep slope and gale force winds to set up the win.
While Offley’s second string (a Dad’s Army of a team, the Home Guard if you will, featuring Steve Bexfield as Captain Mainwaring, Matty Freeman as Pike – stupid boy – and Chris “Don’t Panic!” Austin as Corporal Jones) meandered to a comfortable victory over the children and pensioners of Codicote, Offley’s elite players fought for club honour and prestige against their old enemy in a no-holds barred encounter that was played in a decent spirit throughout. It was all a far cry from the days when Nomads “legend” Bob Carder tried to inflict GBH on Offley “legend” Simon Warrington with a cricket bat. Ah, those were the days, were they not....
Richie Barker won the toss and elected to bowl first on a pitch that appeared to have a tinge of green to it, judging by the fact that it was only distinguishable from the outfield by the freshly painted white lines. Judging by the opening ball of the match – one that flew through at head height to wicketkeeper Scott Addy – the lines had been randomly applied to a section of turf vaguely adjacent to the middle of the pitch.
Mark Tattersall made the early breakthrough when, after bowling two exemplary opening overs, he coaxed Reed into spooning a slow, wide pie to Mo Chaudry at point. Tattersall, bowling downhill with the wind at his back as he trundled into bowl like a runaway deckchair, continued to trouble the batsmen and he claimed the second wicket when he ended Claridge’s 43-ball vigil for 7. Aspan survived a loud shout for caught behind and Qumar shelled a sharp chance at slip off Hull before Jon Piers Cerasale generated pace and bounce as Aspan obligingly top-edged a hook to square leg where Rizwan took a fine catch running in.
Tattersall gave way to Carl Clare and the West Indian paceman was quickly into his stride as he hit the deck hard and caused problems for all the batsmen who had the happy task of trying to pick him up coming out of a dark background. It was a surface tailor-made for Clare and he wasted little time in extracting significant bounce and pace from the pitch, encouraging a succession of batsmen to consider a strategic withdrawal in the direction of square leg. After riding his luck for a while Hull perished as he attempted an optimistic drive against Clare that resulted in his stumps being splattered and when Jethwa edged Jon Piers Cerasale to Addy behind the stumps, Nomads were tottering in the wind at 44-5 as drinks were taken.
Munt and Cochrane briefly stemmed the Offley tide but Jon Piers Cerasale struck with the final ball of his spell to remove Munt and finish with outstanding figures of 3-18. It was a fine effort from Jon Piers Cerasale who bowled eight overs unchanged up the hill, into the wind to set his team firmly on course for victory. Clare removed Lavender first ball and when Barker trapped Cochrane lbw for 18 Nomads were 74-8 and looked gone for all money.
However, Jones and Laidler repaired the damage with a fine stand of 50 that put some of the recently departed batsmen to shame and put Nomads’ early struggles into some sort of context. The pair rode their luck but played enough good shots to share eight boundaries between them before Barker beat Jones in the flight and Rizwan castled Laidler to end the innings and leave Offley needing 127 to win from 41 overs.
Dave Bridgland and Nathan Brodie opened the innings with memories of their 91-run stand against Baldock still fresh in the memory. They managed 16 this time before Brodie was caught on the crease and bowled by Hull as the ball darted back through the gate. Addy adopted an aggressive approach in his role as pinch-hitter and launched a glorious drive over mid on to get off the mark first ball with a boundary. Two balls later he attempted to repeat the shot and was comprehensively bowled. By the time Chaudry smashed one down deep mid on’s throat, Offley were 28-3 and struggling to stay afloat.
Jon Piers Cerasale strode out to join Bridgland, Rock of Gibraltar, and the pair slowly but steadily turned the tide in Offley’s favour with the highest stand of the match, a 57-run partnership that was equally low on boundaries and panic. The pair began to chip away at the target with the minimum of fuss and although Bridgland survived a strong shout for leg before, Umpire Brodie remained impassive. 42 were needed for victory when Bridgland’s 73-ball innings was ended by a fine delivery from Aspan and the batsman returned to the pavilion having been dismissed for less than a century for the first time in 2008.
Tattersall joined Jon Piers Cerasale and was quickly into his stride as he struck his first boundary of the season. However, this purple patch could not continue for long and shortly afterwards he sliced a horrid shot to cover and was dismissed for 8, his highest score of the campaign to date. Tattersall slowly shuffled off to discover that his current average of 4.66 is less than that of celebrated cricket impressionist Wayne Cutts (5.00).
Lunney and Jon Piers Cerasale inched Offley closer towards their target. Actually Jon Piers Cerasale did most of the inching, a bit like a great pier stretching out to sea, as Lunney struggled to lay bat on ball and concentrated his efforts in running hard to the danger end. The limitations of this policy were revealed when he was trapped plumb in front and sent on his way by Umpire Chaudry after registering an 18-ball duck to leave Offley on 109-6, thus brining the curtain down on one of Lunney’s most hapless trips to the crease since he toured Nottingham.
Barker joined Jon Piers Cerasale and despite playing and missing at most of the deliveries he faced early in his innings, finally began to get bat on ball as the target came down in agonisingly small increments. Jon Piers Cerasale brought Offley within one run of tying the scores before Barker cut the winning boundary through a packed offside field to seal the victory off the first ball of the 40th over.
Jon Piers Cerasale was deservedly voted Man of the Match for his 3-17 and unbeaten 37 from 94 balls, an innings where he reined in his natural attacking instincts in favour of a more cautious approach for the good of the team cause. The win was reward for a fine team performance where the bowlers performed sterling work against the wind and the batsmen did just enough to scramble over the line in the closing stages.
And once the winning runs had been struck there was really only one thing left to do – which was to go for beers with Piers.