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Offley Stopsley 187-7 Vs Ickleford 194-6 ; 10th May

OSCC Lost by 7 runs

Offley blew a glorious opportunity to make it three wins out of three in the North Herts League as they slipped to defeat against Ickleford. Despite facing a depleted bowling attack, Offley slumped to 89-6 before Darren Lunney and Mo Chaudry revived their hopes with a spirited 81-run stand for the seventh wicket. However, the dream of an improbable victory died when Chaudry holed out at long off and Lunney tried and died in his bid to clear the ropes.

Steve Bexfield lost the toss for the third match running and Offley found themselves undermanned in the field for the second week running, not being able to deploy a full complement until the eight over in the face of a very strong batting side. Despite that Chaudry and Nathan Brodie both did a good job with the new ball.  Chaudry bowled a very tight eight-over spell and Brodie produced an excellent slower ball to make the initial breakthrough.

Jon Cerasale dismissed Jenner for 27 to leave Ickleford at 62-2 and when Steve Hoar took a fine tumbling catch at midwicket to pick up Millwood off the bowling of Qumar, the visitors were 78-3 after 24 overs. However, the game turned with the arrival of Robinson at the crease. The Ickleford batsman was quickly into his stride, taking the game to the bowlers and putting the fielders under pressure as he formed a useful partnership with Giggle. Giggle’s role in proceedings ended when he top-edged a short-pitched delivery from Qumar into his face and was forced to retire hurt.

Robinson blasted along on his merry way, hitting Qumar and Richie Barker for straight sixes, including a marvellous shot off Qumar. Barker picked up three wickets in the closing overs – including the first ball dismissal of Causbrook thanks to an excellent catch on the boundary by Jeff Francis - but Qumar’s final two overs came in for some fearful treatment from Robinson and the final three overs of the innings yielded 37 runs as Robinson cut loose, finishing on 71 not out as Ickleford ended on 194-6.

Offley needed a solid start but were soon under pressure as Jenner and Day produced tight opening spells. Barker and Hoar put on 22 for the opening wicket before Barker fell to a ball that failed to get up. Bexfield began positively before perishing in lackadaisical fashion when he steered a full toss to square leg. Andy Vanhoof came and went in quick time before Cerasale and Hoar came together at 49-3.

The Hoar-Cerasale partnership looked like being the crucial one for Offley. Cerasale looked to be in decent touch early on and greeted the arrival of Crouch by smashing him over his head for 6. However, the bowler had his revenge when he bowled Cerasale a flipper cunningly disguised as a rank legside full toss which Cerasale helpfully guided to backward square. That left Offley on 71-4 at the drinks break.

Quarter of an hour later the game appeared up and Offley were apparently gone for all money. Brodie’s lean run with the bat continued as he sauntered down the pitch to Crouch and was beaten in the flight. The chastened batsman walked back after being stumped without scoring. Chaudry survived two confident shouts for lbw off his first two balls but the big blow fell when Hoar miscued a lofted extra cover drive to long off and departed for 43, leaving Offley firmly in the mire at 89-6.

However, Lunney, apparently determined to prove a point about his lowly status in the order, and Chaudry, equally determined to discover his touch with the bat after a poor start to the year, gradually hauled Offley back into the game. Lunney played arguably his best innings for the club and Chaudry’s gritty knock helped to quieten the Ickleford fielders. The pair mixed boundaries with some suicidal running that pressurised the fielders into mistakes and with four overs to go the equation was 27 off 24 balls.

Disaster struck when Chaudry went aerial against Causbrook and failed to get enough bat on the ball – not a bad achievement considering the weight of his war club – and lofted a catch to long off. Lunney was left with little choice but to go for broke and his fine innings ended when he failed to connect with a violent legside mow to leave Offley beyond hope on 173-8. Francis and Gary Law batted out the remaining two overs to deny the visitors the bonus point but it was little consolation as Offley were left to rue what might have been.