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Offley & Stopsley CC 143-8 Vs Hatch End II' 142 all out ; 5th July

OSCC Won by 2 Wkts

Official Match Sponsors: Duck Tales: The Movie: Starring Wayne “Duck” Cutts

Offley kept their promotion hopes alive with a slender victory at Hatch End. In a game played in the shadow of the burnt out ruins of the pavilion, Offley survived a wanton batting collapse to stumble over the line.

Steve Bexfield won the toss and elected to field first. The pitch showed early signs of life and it was no great surprise when Colin Keeley found the edge of Richardson’s bat and Mo Chaudry took a sharp catch in the gully. Keeley claimed his second wicket when he produced a vicious lifter and skipper Kennedy could only glove it to Scott Addy behind the stumps.

Kennedy’s dismissal brought Davies to the crease and he soon decided to chance his luck and swing for the boundary while Cutts (no relation to Offley’s master batsman) dropped anchor at the other end. Davies hit a couple of streaky boundaries off Martin McCulley and mowed Keeley over third man before launching into another wild drive. The ball seemed destined to fly away to the boundary through the vacant slip cordon when wicketkeeper Addy took matters into his own hands.

As the ball threatened to whistle away at head height, Addy soared to his right, taking off after the ball like a bird of prey swooping down on its hapless quarry. Addy soared like a bald eagle – dare one say it a slightly balding eagle at any rate – as he hurled himself full length and caught the ball in the webbing of his glove. It was a magnificent catch that gave Keeley his third victim.

Hatch End soon found themselves four down when Lawrence padded up to Richie Barker and was sent on his way without scoring. Howell and Cutts steadied the ship before Keeley came off after 16 overs and Lazarus Freeman was introduced into the attack.

This was a most joyful and heart-warming moment for all the Offley players. Less than seven days previously, Freeman had been unable to walk, seemingly destined for a life in a wheelchair or facing the dread prospect of amputation. Yet thanks to the power of prayer and the work of the Almighty, Lazarus Freeman was able to rise from his sick bed and run into bowl, a miracle worthy of the Old Testament. Of course Lazarus Freeman prefers the New Testament – and when you have his appetite, who wouldn’t want to meet a man who could feed 5,000 with some bread and fish! Just imagine what clever tricks he could do with a box of Jaffa Cakes and a packet of strawberry bonbons!

Freeman was soon into his stride, berating McCulley for failing to cut off a boundary. However, he soon had a wicket to his credit as he burst through Cutts’ defences to end a patient innings of 41 in 36 overs. Howell and Tariq began to build a threatening partnership before Howell missed a slog at Barker and was bowled. Despite struggling with his own fielding on account of “being in the middle of a spell”, Freeman accounted for Bagchi without scoring and might have had a third wicket but Wayne Cutts failed to hold on to a scorching chance at cover. Cutts leapt to his right like a young Michael Jordan but was only able to parry the speeding ball although he did save a single. Nathan Brodie calmly ran out Sherman for a duck when he girlishly lobbed the ball in from cover and Barker bowled Job for no score. Tariq added a couple of lusty blows before Barker bowled him for 35. Hatch End were dismissed for 142, leaving Offley 50 overs to chase down their target.

Offley got off to a disastrous start as Brodie edged the fourth ball of the innings to the keeper. However, Bexfield and Chaudry dug in to see off the new ball. Both players enjoyed some luck with Chaudry playing a game of chicken with the slip fielders. However, he soon began to smash the ball with real venom and struck eight boundaries in his 36 before he was trapped lbw to end an innings that suggested he was back in form. That ended the partnership at 76 and left Offley on 78-2. Moments later it was 79-4 as Bexfield attempted to work a shooter through midwicket and Cutts was clean bowled without scoring. It represented Cutts’ third consecutive duck in a row and he returned to have a minor tantrum, claiming his run of bad form was due to lack of opportunities. His current average (3.33) is now lower than his career average at the start of the campaign (3.46).

McCulley was promoted up the order in a bid to take advantage of his batting skills before he was required to depart early for a dinner engagement. Unfortunately Darren Lunney was the next to depart when he punched a full toss to square leg and shuffled off having made a fairly scratchy 3. McCulley rode his luck to make a valuable 19 before he looped a return catch to the bowler and when Chris Latino edged to the keeper, Offley were 116-7 and a long way from home. However, Barker and Keeley settled the issue with a 26-run stand, as Barker mixed steady defence with Keeley’s cavalier stroke play. The scores were level when Barker fell lbw but Keeley sealed the win with the next ball to give Offley victory.

Once again Offley made heavy weather of chasing down a relatively low target but once again they triumphed as they kept their nerve at the end of the run chase. A strong bowling effort, highlighted by the return to health and fitness of Lazarus Freeman, set up the win but the batsmen showed too much willingness to leave the job to the next man. However, the performance was still good enough to lift Offley to fifth ahead of the trip to North Mymms and a third successive promotion remains a possibility.