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Offley & Stopsley CC 118-10 Vs Parkfield & Headstone 116-10  ; 25th July

OSCC Won by 2 runs

Offley took Parkfield & Headstone to the brink, indulging in a game of high stakes drama as they battled it out at the edge of the precipice before hurling their opponents down into the void.

Mark Tattersall claimed five wickets and Matthew Freeman struck the crucial blow in dramatic fashion as Offley scraped home by the narrowest of margins against Parkfield & Headstone to open up an 18-point gap at the top of Division Nine.

Offley lost the toss and were asked to bat first on a pitch that bore a striking resemblance to plasticine. Offley’s batsmen were soon all at sea as they battled to cope with a pitch that shared similar properties to a swamp and the prodigious swing of Mistry and the lightning draw of Dead-Eyed Austin, the fastest gun in the west.

Dead-Eyed Chris strode into town, the fastest gun around. He heard an appeal and with a high-pitched squeal he gunned Chris Latino down.

The situation deteriorated moments later as the umpire responded to a somewhat optimistic shout from the bowler in the affirmative.

Then Dead-Eyed heard another shout, he raised his finger high. He sent Richie Barker on his way as he pointed at the sky.

After the double blow of seeing both openers blown away in such brutal fashion by their own umpire, Nathan Brodie and Mark Tattersall attempted to rebuild the innings as they shared the highest partnership of the innings, a 24-run epic. They took the score to 51 before both departed in quick succession, Brodie miscuing a trademark drive and Tattersall proffering a simple catch to silly point.

Offley were in disarray soon afterwards after plunging to 70-6. After some confusion as to whether he had been given out caught behind or adjudged lbw (lbw as it turned out) Mo Chaudry was sent on his way by Umpire Ward. The sixth wicket fell when Mistry completed his five-wicket haul, bamboozling Symon Wardley with a swinging delivery and cleaning the batsman up without scoring.

Offley’s hopes were raised as those inseparable chums, Darren Lunney and Matthew Freeman, took the total to 90 with few alarms before disaster struck. Lunney turned the ball behind square and set off for a slightly optimistic run. Freeman showed no enthusiasm for the single and by the time he had communicated his lack of interest to Lunney the batsman was struggling to regain his ground, run out for 25.

After slumping to 90-7 the one thing that Offley really did not need was another mix up in the running between the wickets. Unfortunately Freeman and Austin duly produced a classic, sharing the responsibility for a complete cock up that culminated in Austin being run out by at least eight yards as he attempted a frankly ridiculous second run to fine leg.

Dead-Eyed Austin went for two, but he sank without a trace. Because the fastest finger in the west ain’t built for no foot race.

Austin returned to silence, a silence that was soon shattered by the sound of gloves bouncing off walls and the impassioned plea of a tortured soul to gain control of a troubled temper.

Freeman and Wayne Cutts took advantage of some loose offerings from Patel to take the score to 117. However, the partnership ended when Cutts was beaten by a delivery that nipped back off the seam to clip off stump. The innings came to an end when Marc Ward ignored all advice and elected to play back to a delivery from Thompson that smashed into the bottom of middle stump as Offley were dismissed for 118.

Parkfield were left to score 119 from 55 overs for victory and after a rousing speech from their skipper that invoked images of Shakespeare’s Henry V before the walls of Harfleur, the Parkfield batsmen strode out to the middle. Meanwhile Offley’s happy few were quietly confident of their prospects as Tattersall and Barker opened the bowling.

Tattersall made the initial breakthrough when he cleaned up specialist close fielder Russell with a swinging delivery. Barker struck in the following over, trapping Mandry in front as the opening batsman’s cunning plan of going back and across his stumps was revealed as being slightly flawed. Parkfield were on the ropes at 10-3 when Tattersall struck again. Waving his left arm as he ran into the wicket, possibly in anticipation of waving goodbye to the batsman, he persuaded Dix to miscue a short ball to square leg where Freeman took a straightforward catch, making it look a great deal more difficult than it actually was as he tumbled to the ground in a heap, clutching the ball to his heaving bosom.

The visitors recovered to 27-3 before Barker bowled Lloyd round his legs as he attempted to sweep out of the rough. It should have been 27-5 next ball but Freeman failed to hold on to an eminently catchable opportunity from Rivers. The drop loomed increasingly large in the context of the game as Rivers rode his luck and went for his shots while Shah plugged away at the other end. Shah spooned a couple of miscues into the gap between mid on and mid off against Barker and was also granted a reprieve when Ward failed to hold on to a difficult low chance at point.

Things were slipping away from Offley when Freeman struck, finding the edge of Shah’s bat and gaining his reward when Austin held the catch with some aplomb, scooping it up with one hand to make it 51-5.

Dead-Eyed Chris he made amends when he held on to that edge. But I tell you boys, if he’d put it down, he’d have jumped off some high ledge.

Rivers and Powell dug in and dragged Parkfield to within 30 runs of victory before Ward struck a vital blow, skidding one through Powell’s defences to make it 89-6. Chaudry’s erratic spell of pies and moon balls and demands for slip fielders ended as he gave way to Tattersall. Tattersall revived Offley’s hopes when Thompson sliced one to gully and Freeman took a smart catch to make it 100-7.

Offley were in control when Tattersall struck again, picking up the critical wicket of Rivers as the batsman went for glory and missed, bowled for a fine 46 to leave the visitors on the ropes at 106-8. Patel’s feeble resistance was brushed aside as Tattersall claimed his fifth victim and Offley were firmly on top as Parkfield lurched to 109-9, 10 shy of victory. However, Hamaida belay his apparent limitations as a batsman to scamper singles and Mistry smashed a Tattersall long hop to the fence to leave Parkfield within a single bow of victory. Hamaida picked up another single to lift his team within three runs of victory before Freeman chugged into bowl the final ball of the 46th over.

In that moment time stood still – and not just because the lumbering Freeman was taking his time into wading through treacle to reach the crease as he bowled his ninth over of the day. Mistry played forward watchfully but the ball caught the inside edge and diverted towards the stumps. A split-second later the ball collided with Mistry’s off stump, sending the bails into the air to give Offley victory.

Wild celebrations followed that left Freeman, so often cast in the role of village idiot feted as the hero of the hour, buried amid a pile of his colleagues as they celebrated the great escape. News of Luton Indians unexpected defeat added to the party mood as Offley stormed back to the top of the league with six games to go.

Whether they can stay there or not remains to be seen but for the moment Offley are top and in control of their own destiny with an 18-point cushion as the season enters the home stretch.

Same place, different face, same result.