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Offley & Stopsley CC 247-7 Vs Holwell 240-6 ; 5th July

OSCC Won by 7 runs

Mohammed Qumar turned the tide for Offley with three wickets in a dramatic over and Richie Barker clung on to a steepling, swirling catch to dismiss the dangerous Adam Parkins for a brilliant 100, as Offley clung on for a seven-run victory over Holwell.

Offley won the toss and elected to bat on a scorching day and Steve Hoar and Steve Bexfield opened the innings with a bright stand of 36. Bexfield was the first to go when he edged Hunte into and out of the gloves of the keeper, only to be snapped up at first slip. Hoar raced to 24 and looked poised for another big score before he dragged a pull shot on to his stumps and Offley were suddenly rocking slightly on 45-2.

Mark Tattersall joined Dhrupal Patel and the pair shared a 73-run stand. Tattersall was quickly into his stride – eight of his first 10 scoring shots produced 4 or 6 – punching boundaries on both sides of the wicket and adding a couple of sixes for good measure as the run rate mounted. Patel played some typically wristy shots before falling a victim to the curse of the drinks break when he shuffled across his stumps, aiming the ball to leg, and was bowled for 19 to make it 118-3.

Tattersall passed 50 and the Offley Punisher looked set for three figures before Rudder nipped one back off the pitch, bursting through the Punisher’s defensive prod and rearranging his stumps after an excellent 61. Holwell gradually exerted pressure with their bowlers and just 45 runs were scored between the 20th and 30th overs as the boundaries dried up. Jon Cerasale attempted to lift the pressure by smashing Garg back over his head for six but the bowler had his revenge with the very next ball when he bowled Cerasale off his pads.

Rudder bowled Nathan Brodie for 4 as the batsman played across the line before Offley’s most consistent batsman of the season, Darren Lunney, fell for just a single as Garg moved one away from him. That left Offley in some trouble on 197-7 as Vish Patel joined Richie Barker. Barker, batting with a rare freedom after a scratchy start to the season, blazed away, striking nine fours and two sixes to finish unbeaten on 69. Patel also swung away to good effective and the pair took 46 runs from the last four overs. The innings ended with a brutal assault as Barker hit consecutive straight sixes off Garg, taking 22 off the over in all as Offley finished on 247-7, leaving Garg with the impressive figures of 8-1-83-2.

Any hopes that Offley might have had of knocking over the Holwell order quickly disappeared as Parkins and Pointing settled in to lay the foundations for the run chase. Parkins allowed his partner to take the aggressor’s role in the early stages and the Holwell captain played some impressive shots square of the wicket before miscuing a drive to Brodie at cover to give Tattersall a deserved wicket. Parkins eased into his stride by depositing Barker somewhere over the halfway line on the football pitch with one towering blow and losing the ball with another. Rudder joined him and after a slow start found his touch and runs began to flow at both ends. Vish Patel was blasted out of the attack after just two overs and although Cerasale bowled a fine spell from the clubhouse end, he still conceded 47 runs as Parkins smashed him into the car park.

The game began to slip away from Offley. Brodie misjudged a chance off Rudder that narrowly looped over his head at long on. Qumar found himself under a tough catch at square leg and, after running around under it for several seconds in a manner reminiscent of Benny Hill, eventually missed it altogether and conceded the boundary. Parkins smashed one into orbit that Barker could only get a hand to as he dived for the brutal chance and the momentum was all with Holwell.

Qumar returned for his last over and looked ready to set the lid on a crushing defeat as he served up a fairly rank long hop to Rudder. The batsman belted it towards the trees but could only pick out Cerasale at deep square leg. Alleyne hit the very next ball straight to Tattersall at mid off and Offley breathed again. Parkins brought up his century but then tried to smash Qumar’s final delivery into Stopsley. With the field scattered to the four corners, the man at cover was the only one with any hope of getting under the steepling chance and as soon as the ball went up he was fairly sure that he didn’t want it. However, the fear of going down as the man who dropped the catch that lost the league was sufficient motivation for Barker to hang on to the chance and theoretically put Offley in the driving seat.

However, Hopkinson had other ideas and hit Lunney to the boundary while Brodie delivered an erratic two-over burst. Lunney took two wickets in two balls and Holwell needed 23 off the last two overs. Brodie produced a long hop, a no ball and a wide but thanks in part to a magnificent sprawling stop from Damian Sale conceded just 11 runs, leaving Lunney with 12 to play with in the final over. The bowler kept his nerve and Holwell fell seven short of the target.

It was an impressive performance from Offley who held up well under pressure in the field and ultimately find a way to stop Parkins’ magnificent onslaught at the death. The batsmen all chipped in with useful contributions on a decent batting surface (doubtless Groundskeeper Bexfield will be delighted at producing a wicket that yielded 487 runs in 80 overs) and Offley did just enough to keep up the pressure at the top of the North Herts League.