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Offley and Stopsley CC 130-10 Vs Crawley Green 164-10 ; 2nd Aug

OSCC Lost by 34 runs

A depleted Offley side produced a fine bowling and fielding display against a strong Nomads team before finally slipping to a 35-run defeat. Despite fielding five regular second team players, Offley produced a brave effort before falling to their rivals.

Offley won the toss and elected to bowl first on a slow, damp surface. Matthew Freeman and Andrew Vanhoof shared the new ball and both produced impressive opening spells. Vanhoof caused problems with his swing and made the initial breakthrough when Claridge sliced a catch to cover where Nathan Brodie dived to take a good low catch. Moments later Freeman struck as he bowled Reed off the inside edge to leave Nomads on 15-2.

Jethwa and Hull repaired the damage, seeing off the openers and then threatening to cash in against Marc Ward and Colin Williams. Williams opened up with a 10-ball over and then had his fielders hurling themselves about and ducking for cover as he served up a few tasty offerings fit to rival his beloved bacon, brie and cranberry sandwiches. However, Trojan work from the fielders – including an uncharacteristically committed display from Freeman – restricted the damage. Ward struggled for accuracy – he managed a nine-ball over – but had the satisfaction of running Hull out with a smart pick-up and throw off his own bowling.

Spurred on by Australian Paul Hum’s chirpy optimism, the sort of optimism that probably went down a storm at Gallipoli, Offley’s chances of bowling a team out in the North Herts League for the first time since May rose appreciably as Richie Barker struck twice. Brickell shovelled a catch to Brodie at cover before Jethwa, apparently bemused by the lack of turn on the ball, could only smash a catch to Symon Wardley at mid off. Wardley made good ground to his right and took the catch with typical ease.

Luke Munt took the attack to the bowlers, smashing Brodie for a huge 6 over square leg and then forcing Barker to scatter the field as he punished anything wayward. Brodie trapped Jethwa lbw with the final ball of his spell before Barker struck twice in an over to remove Reed and Lavender. Barker looked to have completed a five-wicket haul when he bit Munt in the flight (actually the batsman looked to overbalance slightly as he attempted to smash the ball into Streatley) but despite very confident appeals from keeper Damian Sale and fielders square of the wicket, Munt was given a reprieve by Umpire Claridge standing at square leg. It was a decision that caused one or two jaws to drop in amazement but such is life. A few more jaws dropped the following ball as Munt smeared Barker over midwicket for a massive 6 that took him to 50.

Dhrupal Patel ended the innings in successive deliveries as he beat Munt in the air and Sale whipped off the bails. Even Umpire Claridge couldn’t give that one not out (it wasn’t his decision) and Munt departed for a potentially decisive 52. The innings ended with the next delivery as Williams took a fine diving catch at cover to dismiss the visitors for 165.

Offley set off needing 166 to win from 41 overs. Patel and Darren Lunney opened the batting. Patel was soon into his stride, flicking balls over the legside with customary elegance and the minimum of effort. Lunney found the going tougher as he appeared to be hampered by a stiff back. However, there was no good reason for attempting a second run that would not have appealed to a manic depressive lemming. Consequently Lunney was run out for 2. It was the third time in five innings and the fifth time in all this year that Lunney has failed to make his ground, perishing on his own call on at least three occasions.

Patel and Vanhoof took the score to 56 before Reed ended Patel’s positive innings with a yorker. Brodie and Vanhoof then took the score to 76 and the momentum looked to be swinging in Offley’s favour before Vanhoof edged a catch to the keeper. The ever-enthusiastic Hum batted effectively before perishing on 87 – the devil’s number if you’re Australian – as his heritage from a part of cricket’s third world was exposed.

Offley’s hopes rested on the experienced pair of Brodie and Barker but after unfurling a sumptuous straight drive off Reed Brodie played all round and over a straight ball and was bowled to leave Offley in the mire on 93-5. Wardley went for his shots and hacked away to good effect before he was nutmegged attempting to pull. Williams smashed his first ball for 4 but was then contentiously given out caught off his second, either victim to a brilliant diving catch by Claridge or the one-hand one-bounce rule as he rolled over, depending on one’s point of view.

Offley’s hopes disappeared when Barker fell to a stunning low return catch by Jethwa and there was no way back from 113-8. Ward produced his best innings of the year for the league team and showed composure beyond his years to make an unbeaten 11. Freeman, complaining about the position of the sun and the impossibilities of dealing with batting in the early evening sunlight (ironically enough this appears to be an annual event as Bushey, August 2, 2008 was followed up by Offley, August 2, 2009) was duly cleaned up for 3. Offley’s resistance ended when Sale was bowled for a single attempting to mow Hull into the field.

Despite the defeat and a deserved win for Nomads, Offley produced one of their better displays of the season. An inexperienced team performed above expectations with the ball and in the field and despite an ultimately disappointing effort with the bat there were plenty of positives to be taken from the performance. Another season of mid-table obscurity may be firmly on the cards in the North Herts League but with the trip to Lilley looming large on the horizon and the excuses and injury notes already being prepared in anticipation of the trip to Icknield to face Houghton Town, Offley still have to go through the motions.