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Offley & Stopsley, 117 all out Vs Hatfield, 118-5, 24th May

OSCC Lost by 5 wickets

Some days you win, some days you lose. Some days it rains. And some days you turn in such a sod-awful batting performance that you wonder why on earth you bothered turning up in the first place. Needless to say Offley’s batsmen produced an effort that belonged firmly in the latter category as they slumped to a wretched defeat against Hatfield.

Despite fielding a weakened side, Offley won the toss and elected to bat. Within seven overs it was looking like a fairly serious misjudgement as they slumped to 18-3. Colin Keeley perished in the second overs as he negated his chances of surviving a ball that kept low by aiming a monstrous hack at it and being bowled for a single. Dhrupal Patel perished after misjudging another swipe and Richie Barker was undone by a ball that moved late and kept low to boot to leave Offley in serious trouble. The acting captain walked off muttering dark comments about the need to put hand grenades under the pitch.

Darren Lunney never got going before he was beaten by a ball that just about hit a quarter of the way up the stump and Mo Chaudry perished in soft fashion as he spooned a simple catch to backward square. Chris Austin failed to get off the mark, falling to a shot that could charitably be described as inept, to leave Offley rocking at 70-6.

At this point Jon Cerasale and Qumar shared the only partnership of note – one worth 28. Cerasale went for his shots and struck eight 4s and a six as he completed a defiant 50. However, Offley’s hopes hinged on him batting through the 40 overs and when he lobbed a soft cut shot to point, Offley were 98-7 with eight overs remaining.

Carl Clair failed to get off the mark, hammering a shot off the back foot straight to cover before Qumar provided some late resistance with a straight six. However, the innings ended in brainless fashion as Chris Latino ran himself out for 2 attempting an improbable single and Matthew Freeman succeeded in getting himself stumped by about three feet after gormlessly charging down the wicket. Consequently Offley succumbed for 117 with 16 balls remaining.

If they were to have any serious hope of defending their meagre total Offley needed to hit the ground running. Perhaps because he was keen to atone for his suicidal stumping, perhaps because he wished to make up for his disappointing display at Enfield, perhaps simply because he was under firm instructions not to eat too much at tea, Freeman responded by producing an exceptional six-over opening burst.

Ploughing into the crease like a combine harvester in overdrive, Freeman ripped into the Hatfield batsmen. After Austin spilled an eminently catchable chance in Freeman’s first over, the bowler nipped one back off the seam to bowl Grove through the gate. Freeman struck twice more, beating Gohil and Grewal for pace, to leave Hatfield in some strife at 34-3. Barker made it 45-4 when he removed Naik and Offley had a real cjhance of winning the game if they could claim just one more wicket to allow them a dart at a vulnerable looking tail.

Instead the Hatfield pair of Ashley-Smith and Whitehead proved too much for Offley as they shared a stand of 64 without ever really looking in any trouble. Barker rotated his bowlers as well as he could, using seven in all, before Clair gave Offley a late glimmer of hope when he speared a rapid delivery through Whitehead’s defences to make it 109-5 but the visitors sauntered home to win by five wickets with the best part of 15 overs to spare.

All in all it was not an especially good day at the office for Offley. The heady days of optimism that dawned in the wake of victories over Houghton Town and Letchworth have long since departed and a battle to consolidate their status in mid table now appears more likely than any run at the title.