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Offley & Stopsley CC 186-7 Vs St Josephs CC 192-8 ; 19th Sept

St Josephs won the Steve Turner Memorial Trophy by 6 runs

Click here for pictures of the day

St Joseph’s claimed a fitting victory in the inaugural Steve Turner Memorial Match as they defeated Offley & Stopsley by six runs.

The game was decided off the final ball of the game when Darren Lunney’s bid to tie the match with a six ended in a stumping as St Joseph’s clung on for the latest in a long line of Tom Reilly-inspired victories.

Offley won the toss and elected to bowl first on a green wicket that appeared to have more life in it than customary pitches on account of the recent lawnmower theft. However, this was a day where there was no chance of pikeys stopping play and the sun shone brightly as the teams took the field.

The green-tinged pitch didn’t seem to matter to opening batsman Steve Hunt as he smashed Andrew Van Hoof out of the attack in the space of two overs, carting him for five rustic boundaries and forcing the fielders to scatter. Van Hoof was smashed to all parts of the ground, his two-over offering resembling a cricketing booty bag of tasty pies and juicy long hops.

Hunt’s chances of inflicting real damage were shattered when he was brilliantly run out. Hunt was slow to respond to Eddie Kelly’s tight call for a single to cover and was stunned to see Dave Bridgland swoop down on the ball like an ageing ninja before splintering the stumps with a direct hit.

Offley followed that up with two quick wickets as Richie Barker removed Luke Munt and promising youngster Morrison. Munt swiped across the line and sent the ball into orbit and Barker reluctantly found himself under the steepling effort but made no mistake. Morrison was unfortunate to play on and was bowled without scoring. Kelly was given a life when Lunney failed to hold on to a thin edge standing up.

That brought Reilly to the wicket and St Joseph’s lynchpin soon announced himself in authoritarian fashion, smashing his second ball through the covers for four. Wayne Cutts marked his final game of the season by serving up some friendly offerings and Marc Ward continued to send down no balls to boost the target as he resumed his fruitless quest for his first wicket in September. However, both bowlers looked to have done enough to dismiss Reilly, only for the fielders to let them down.

First of all Reilly slashed Ward hard to backward point where the sprawling Barker failed to hold on as he dived to his left. The Offley captain might have been distracted by a combination of talking to Matthew Freeman and also by Bexfield’s loud cry of “Catch it” but in truth it was not his greatest piece of fielding.

Moments later Van Hoof’s less than stellar day got slightly worse as Reilly smashed a viciously turning long hop from Cutts down his throat at backward square leg. The fielder did not need to move to catch the ball; unfortunately he did need to move to pick it up after he spilt the chance.

However, Reilly failed to kick on to his customary big score and holed out for 42 when he launched a Lunney pie towards Freeman at deep square leg. Any other fielder might have panicked due to the fact they were watching the ball. Fortunately Freeman was paying no attention whatsoever and only reacted at the last minute as 10 other fielders shouted his name. More by luck than judgement he closed his hands around the ball to pouch the catch and send the dangerous Reilly on his way.

Moments later Kelly departed, aiming an ambitious swipe at Bridgland, and St Joseph’s began to implode. Bridgland bowled George for a duck and Martin McCulley was expertly caught by Symon Wardley to give Lunney his second wicket.

Adam Ward claimed the scalp of Jones when the hefty batsman lost his grip on the bat and got the thinnest of edges through to stand-in keeper Colin Keeley while launching his bat over midwicket.

That left St Joseph’s rocking on 145-8 and really should have been all she wrote as far as the innings was concerned. However, Pat Turner and Harry Chudasama rode their luck to share an unbeaten stand of 47. A stand that seemed certain to be ended at any moment continued to grow against all odds and proved crucial in deciding the outcome of the trophy.

Turner somehow survived chopping the ball on to his stumps off Wardley and Chudasama was reprieved as Keeley flew through the air with the greatest of ease before spilling a regulation catch. Some slipshod fielding from Barker who was limping around the outfield like a 63-year old did not help matters and St Joseph’s closed on 192.

Barker and Steve Bexfield opened the batting and Barker signalled his intentions by smashing McCulley’s opening ball to the boundary. McCulley struggled mightily to locate his line and length in the opening two overs, engaging in a running war of words with Umpire Freeman and also berating himself for his wayward line.

The pair exchanged some witty banter, Umpire Freeman briefly threatening to walk off and McCulley charitably insisting that he would not stand in his way if he chose to do so. However, Chudasama quickly found his length and Bexfield and Barker were forced to work hard for their runs.

The pair put on 43 for the first wicket before Cutts McCulley struck.

In time-honoured tradition Bexfield propped forward on the front foot and seemed safe enough as the ball struck him somewhere around the knee roll. McCulley let forth a great bellow of an appeal – although perhaps it was simply indigestion on account of too much evil living or a case of stubbing his toe during his follow through – and to the astonishment of Bexfield Umpire Cutts responded by raising his finger and sending the batsman on his way. Bexfield held his ground for some time, doubtless hoping that he was simply the victim of some cunning practical joke, but it was to no avail and Umpire Cutts sent him on his way by informing him that he had been struck in front of middle stump.

Glaciers have moved with greater speed than Bexfield as he slowly and sadly returned to the pavilion.

Walking wicket Wardley strode to the crease and the smart money suggested he would soon be walking back again, the only issue of interest being as to whether or not he would tie the club record of eight ducks in a single season. He came perilously close to being caught and bowled first ball – a slightly more nimble individual than McCulley (Vanessa Feltz or Fern Britton for example) would have snared a simple return catch – but Wardley survived.

Instead of departing for a duck he launched an astonishing assault on McCulley. The stocky seamer was smashed into the trees off three consecutive deliveries, two of which resulted in lengthy delays as the fielders scurried around the undergrowth searching for the ball. Wardley also took the attack to Reilly and continued in flowing form as Offley seemed destined for victory.

Barker and Wardley added 67 for the second wicket before Wardley top edged a sweep off the spin of Chilvers and picked out Reilly in the deep. The fielder never looked like dropping it and Wardley was sent on his way for a career-best 43 from just 41 balls.

Bridgland and Barker kept the scoreboard ticking over as they shared a stand of 43. Barker completed his half-century but with the run rate beginning to push up to seven an over he perished as he swung across the line against Reilly in the gloaming and was bowled for 57 to leave Offley on 153-3.

Keeley looked in fine touch as he got off the mark with a glorious cover drive, smashing Reilly into the car park but just as the momentum looked to be back with Offley they lost three wickets without scoring to collapse to 162-6.

Keeley was the first to go, swinging Chudasama towards long on where the ball seemed destined to go for 4. Instead Reilly somehow adjusted to the fading light and the low trajectory to haul in the catch. A distraught Keeley returned to the pavilion professing his shock and despair at being dismissed in such a manner.

The situation quickly worsened before Keeley had time to remove his pads and finish chuntering about his misfortune. Two wickets in three balls looked to have ended Offley’s ambitions. Bridgland swung for glory and was bowled before Reilly capped Van Hoof’s glorious day by despatching him for a second-ball duck as the ball scuttled through to beat his tentative defensive prod.

Lunney and Freeman held Offley’s hopes in their hands and the two bosom pals resolved to give their all for the cause, pledging undying devotion to their club and each other and vowing to win the day or die in the attempt like a dysfunctional cricketing Tristan and Iseult – certainly no one could deny that they make a pretty tragic pair.

Scampering singles at every opportunity and turning ones into twos wherever they could, the chums shared a dashing partnership of 19 runs. They brought the required target down to 13 from the final six deliveries before Lunney took a single off the first ball to make it 12 from five.

Freeman perished. The tubby jelly bean enthusiast swung lustily for the ropes but succeeded only in edging the ball through to the keeper to give Chudasama his second wicket. Freeman, the not out king, was forced to make the long walk back to the pavilion where he sought solace in his family-sized jar of rhubarb and custard sweets.

Still Offley refused to go quietly into the night. Harum-scarum running from Lunney and Marc Ward left Offley needing 6 from the final delivery to tie the match and earn a share of the spoils.

Chudasama floated the ball up and Lunney danced down the wicket aiming to smite the ball to kingdom come and tie the game. He unfurled a glorious drive, one that would have sent the ball soaring over the ropes.

Unfortunately he failed to connect with anything but fresh air, danced past the ball in the process and was subsequently stumped by about eight feet as Offley fell at the last.

After the game Reilly was presented with the Turner Cup, a trophy that in truth neither side would have ever chosen to play for given the opportunity, but appropriately enough it ended up in the hands of St Joseph’s. The players shared a toast to the man who inspired the trophy before heading to the bar to reflect on previous battles won and lost.

Ultimately the result mattered little in the greater scheme of things and even Bexfield was able to reflect phlegmatically on his dismissal at the hands of Cutts McCulley as the teams contested a fine game in memory of a fine man.