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Offley & Stopsley CC 139-9 Vs Datchworth 140-2 ; 20th Sept

OSCC Lost by 8 Wkts

Offley’s traditional September swoon continued as they were thumped by eight wickets at Datchworth. Three run outs, two sets of four overthrows and some generally inept cricket allowed Datchworth to saunter to an eight-wicket win.

Offley won the toss and were left with little option other than to bat after Matthew Freeman forgot to pick up Colin Keeley, ensuring that Offley would be forced to spend the first hour with just ten men. As Keeley summoned a cab, Freeman, pleading the effects of just four hours sleep in a bid to excuse his minor indiscretion, was demoted from number five to number nine in the batting order.

Offley got off to a rollicking start as the new opening partnership of Darren Lunney and Marc Ward took the attack to the bowlers. Lunney seemed determined to register a big score before he was dismissed in unfortunate fashion, miscuing a pull and seeing the ball deflect off his wrist on to the stumps.

Ward continued on his merry way, seeing off the opening bowlers, before a perishing to a limp-wristed chip shot that perfectly picked out the fielder at mid off. However, he had made a solid 18 and shown unexpected promise as an opening batsman.

Andrew Van Hoof was delighted to get off the mark after scoring just three runs in his previous four innings (2, 1, 0, 0) and looked in fine touch, stroking a couple of boundaries before being adjudged lbw as he attempted to sweep a straight ball.

Youngster Josh Hook joined Australian Paul Hum at the wicket and showed real promise. Hook quickly raced to 7 before a breakdown in communication from the man from down under resulted in Hook being run out.

Hum attempted to atone for his error by striking a couple of lusty blows across the line. However, he swung once too often and was trapped palpably lbw. Keeley arrived at the drinks break and marched out to the middle eager to get on with things, regardless of the fact that there were 19.2 overs remaining. Showing no interest in defensive shots, Keeley quickly swiped his way to double figures before attempting to flick a straight ball off middle stump and was bowled.

Richie Barker and Symon Wardley steadied the ship and were beginning to look comfortable before Wardley ran himself out with a piece of truly shambolic cricket. After Barker eased the ball to long off for an easy couple of runs, Wardley elected to jog back for the second, slowing to a walk and then to a stop a foot short of his crease. When the throw from the outfield improbably collided with the stumps, Wardley was accordingly just short of his ground and was run out for 6.

Freeman was next in but owing to a prolonged toilet break he did not have his pads on – indeed it was something of a surprise that he did not have his trousers round his ankles. With Freeman still in the act of composing himself after his pit stop, Barker angrily summoned youngster Kane Smith to join him. The young batsman did a fine job of keeping the bowlers at bay and was looking increasingly impressive before Barker ran him out with a really shit piece of running that was reminiscent of the Terminator in his prime.

Freeman and Barker briefly raised Offley’s hopes with a perky ninth wicket stand but with Datchworth showing no inclination of making a game of it and allowing Offley to get close to a competitive target of 180, Freeman duly edged a catch behind off the home captain after he had brought himself onto further stifle the flagging run rate. Barker finished on 33 and Cliff Large was unbeaten on 0 as Offley closed on 139-9 from their 40 overs.

Offley needed a quick start but there was no chance of Freeman providing it after he troughed into one of the biggest teas of the season, wolfing down cakes and other tasty treats and pronouncing himself unavailable to bowl until the tenth over at least.

It didn’t seem to matter as Wardley delivered a sensational opening over. After serving up two really rotten wides, Wardley produced a delivery that reared and lifted and found the edge. To the surprise of most of the team wicketkeeper Keeley pouched the edge with a minimum of fuss. Two balls later Datchworth were 2-2 as Wardley followed up a steepling bouncer with a shooter to smash into Wallace’s off stump.

After that... actually after that it was all a little shambolic as Offley collapsed. Hum nearly pulled off a sensational catch as he ran, dived and parried the ball one-handed but could not quite haul in the rebound. In the confusion Van Hoof threw at the stumps and came within a fraction of running the batsman out. Unfortunately Freeman’s failure to back up ensured that the ball hurtled away for four overthrows.

Datchworth continued to take quick singles. Another sharp throw at the stumps saw Keeley try and stop the ball with his foot (he missed) before Wardley, backing up, adopted a similar approach and also missed. The ball again sped away for four overthrows. Offley had a number of lbw shouts turned down – Freeman was convinced he should have been awarded his first ever lbw while Van Hoof reacted with mild histrionics to Umpire Bigmore rejecting several optimistic appeals.

All in all it was not an especially goo day at the office for Offley as they self-destructed in fine style and produced arguably one of their least impressive performances of the season. C’est la vie.