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Offley & Stopsley 222-3 Vs Leverstock Green III's 219-7 ; 11th July

OSCC Won by 7 Wkts

Offley & Stopsley bounced back from their points deduction to move into second place in the Saracens League with a seven-wicket win at Leverstock Green. Nathan Brodie led the way with an unbeaten century and Richie Barker did his best to atone for a spot of selectorial incompetence with five wickets.

Offley won the toss and elected to bat first on a chilly day with rain in the air. Despite packing the team with seam bowlers Offley failed to make the new ball count. Brodie bowled a rancid three-over spell that featured a spate of boundaries and just one chance when Barker was unable to hold to a searing edge as he dived full length at slip. Brodie gave way to Colin Keeley and Offley reverted to a retro bowling attack of Keeley and Darrell Cooper.

The former pacemen may now be playing out their cricketing careers as trundlers but they both kept a tight line and length and Cooper deserved a wicket but retro wicketkeeper Dave Bridgland failed to hold on to a catch behind the stumps. The captain had bravely volunteered to take on the job of keeping wicket with Darren Lunney on some kind of working to rule kick – as befits a descendant of the Jarrow Marchers – and Chris Latino’s wrecked and wounded knees ruling him out of the running (or in his case perhaps out of the hobbling would be a better description).

Barker finally made the breakthrough shortly after the drinks break when he served up a juicy full toss that Littlejohn kindly deposited down Symon Wardley’s throat at mid off. The batsman departed for 49 to give Offley a glimmer. Two overs later Barker added to his tally when he dismissed Evans for 40, beating the batsman in the flight. This earned him congratulations from his colleagues and the choice observation from Lunney that it was the sort of day where, “everyone else toils away and you pick up five for nowt.” The bowler duly returned to his mark debating the merits of spitting in his teammate’s eye.

Parkes joined the procession soon afterwards when he guided a lazy sweep shot into the hands of Marc Ward at square leg. The hapless Parkes arrived at the wicket and scratched around for a while without ever suggesting he would last long. He was given a life when Wayne Cutts failed to hold on to a return catch that could charitably be described as “utterly straightforward” but was soon sent on his way when he played for turn from a delivery from Barker and was duly beaten by a straight ball.

Barker completed his five-wicket haul (5-67 in the end, rather than Lunney’s predicted five-for-nowt) when he lured Rance down the wicket and the batsman was sent on his way as Bridgland removed a single bail with a minimum of fuss.

Latino produced a fine stop and throw at midwicket to run out Renwick for a single and Lunney claimed a seventh wicket for Offley when Goward sliced a drive straight up and Barker held the catch at short third man. The hosts eventually finished on 219-7, a good score that looked all the more imposing with Bridgland struggling to hold a bat after sustaining a thumb injury behind the stumps.

Barker and Latino opened the reply for Offley and negotiated the first few overs successfully before Latino opted to give the fielders catching practice. He began by edging a simple chance to the keeper. Incredibly the keeper reacted slowly, slowly palming the ball into the air and preventing an easy chance for first slip. Unfortunately for the hosts the heft Rance – nicknamed Rhino – failed to react quickly enough as he slowly dived for the ball which slowly fell to the ground. The net result was ball and Rhino – looking for all the world the victim of a safari park warden’s tranquiliser dart – hitting the deck at the same time.

Latino survived a second chance when he offered a simple chance to the man at gully only for the fielder to try and dive to his right and push the ball over the bar. Moments later he was given a third escape when a sliced drive to backward point was put down despite suspicions that it might have been easier to hold than drop.

Almost inevitably with Latino surviving all manner of chances at one end, Barker duly departed at the other, falling victim to a well judged catch at mid on as the fielder ran back and pulled in the catch with both hands to dismiss Barker for 38. It ended an opening stand of 58, Offley’s highest in the Saracens League this season.

Brodie walked to the wicket and showed he was in no mood to hang about, quickly easing into his stride and finding the boundaries as he hammered three fours in an over off Robson. Latino finally departed for 16 when he steered a chance to mid on and Ward came and went in a matter of moments after swinging across the line and being trapped palpably leg before.

Lunney – the incredible not out machine – survived a strong run out appeal before he had got off the mark but after that chances were few and far between as Brodie and Lunney constructed an unbroken stand of 129 to guide Offley home. With light rain falling steadily and making it difficult for the fielders to grip the ball, the pair employed a tip and run strategy, pushing suicidal singles at will and running the fielders ragged as Leverstock Green wilted in the rain. Brodie passed 50 and then zeroed in on three figures, striking 12 boundaries in all, before completing his second century for the club. Lunney continued his own remarkable Saracens’ crusade as he notched another not out, ending unbeaten on 43 while Brodie made 102 not out.

All in all a good day, as Offley’s batsmen overcame another wicketless display from the seamers to secure a vital victory. The result lifted Offley into second place, four points behind leaders Luton Indians, with eight games to go. The small matter of a 10-point deduction (after accidentally playing an unregistered player in last weeks bore draw) may yet prove crucial in the final reckoning but for the moment things are looking up for Offley who are tucked in nicely behind the top team, 18 places ahead of bottom placed club Rickmansworth.