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Offley & Stopsley CC 143-4 Vs Greenwood Park 140-10 ; 8th Aug

OSCC Won by 6 Wkts

Offley bounced back from their rain-wrecked draw at Datchworth to move into second place in the table with four games to go. Jon Cerasale led the way with five wickets as Offley won by six wickets.

Dave Bridgland returned from honeymoon and won the toss before inviting Greenwood Park to bat first. Marc Ward struck in his opening over with a vicious loopy bouncer that deflected off Cools’ head and bat to Colin Keeley in the gulley. Eyre and Mahbabul repaired the damage with the left-handed Eyre offering a studious defensive approach and Mahbabul attempting to smash everything into the next county. The running between the wickets was frantic and gormless owing to a lack of calling and general incompetence. However, Offley’s bowlers were unable to build on their early breakthrough.

Matthew Freeman bowled a steady 12-over spell that featured little luck but was equally light on wicket-threatening deliveries. However, after initially complaining about his delicate side injury (apparently he had split his side laughing at Steve Bexfield’s conquest in Chicago’s the previous week) he ran in hard to keep the scoring rate in check. Ward persisted in his bid to bowl the most 10-ball overs of the season with a smattering of wides and no balls but still found genuine swing.

The partnership was finally broken when Mahbabul smashed the ball to Mo Chaudry at mid off and set off for a fairly optimistic single. Chaudry gathered the ball cleanly and threw down the stumps to leave the batsman well short of his ground and he trudged off without bothering to wait for the umpire’s decision.

Ahmed and Eyre joined forces and began to open up. Ahmed went after Colin Keeley before tucking into some juicy offerings from Richie Barker who gave a decent impression a one-legged drain as he bowled eight overs of Boatwright-esque dross before being removed from the attack about seven overs too late.

The visitors had reached the promising position of 122-2 before they collapsed in dramatic fashion. Cerasale made the breakthrough with a pair of swirling, swinging deliveries that gave the batsmen no chance. Or perhaps he simply got lucky with a pair of full tosses. Ahmed smashed the first full toss straight up and Chris Austin made good ground to his right to take the catch. He also did well to avoid colliding with Barker who was sulking like a particularly pissed off Mariah Carey. Moments later Eyre was walking back to the pavilion after pulling a full toss to midwicket where Bridgland went into orbit to pull the ball down and take the catch.

Wickets began to tumble with great alacrity as Cerasale followed up his double burst by bowling both Nash brothers to leave the visitors six down. Darren Lunney picked up two wickets, striking with a full toss to remove Kirk. The batsman hit the juicy offering to mid off where Barker, with a smile on his lips and a song in his heart, briefly took his hands out of his pockets to take the catch before casually kicking the ball back to the umpire. Lunney claimed a second scalp when he held on to a thunderous return catch before another run out left Greenwood Park nine down and Cerasale completed the rout by bowling Stevens to claim his five-wicket haul. Greenwood Park were all out for 140, losing their final eight wickets for just 18 runs.

Offley were set 141 to win from 47 overs. Steve Bexfield walked out to bat determined to get his head down and play a resolute innings. He was accompanied by Barker who by this stage appeared to be in an even grottier mood and was pouting like an aggrieved drag queen with a thong entangled in her arse and threatening to swing from the hip.

Bexfield dug in. The front foot lunge was in full evidence and he offered the deadest of dead bats to the bowlers. Clearly inspired by Rickmansworth’s strokeless number four and Datchworth’s shot-a-match opener, Bexfield was determined to stand his ground and hold his position to the last man, Bexfield was firmly in Rorke’s Drift mode.

Barker was not in Rorke’s Drift mode and exploded out of the blocks like Custer with a death wish. He hit Lee out of the attack with the minimum of fuss – the bowler’s only real respite came when he got to bowl to Bexfield – and after a few initial moments of uncertainty against Mahbabul found his stride against the spinner. He hit seven fours and a six before perishing to a top edge attempting something optimistic for 43.

Mahbabul added a second wicket when he quickly trapped Chaudry in front. Chaudry’s poor form continued as he fell for 4, giving him just 36 runs from his previous five innings and just 11 from his last three.

Nathan Brodie went for his shots from the start. Despite having offered evidence in the field that his eyesight was failing him, Brodie timed the ball nicely and upped the run rate before dancing down the wicket and being stumped in trademark fashion.

Meanwhile Bexfield dug in, using his bat as a metaphorical shovel to dig himself his own little trench. This was the last days in Hitler’s bunker come to life on a cricket pitch as Bexfield resolved to sell his life dearly – or certainly resolved not to die from a stroke. Lunney played himself in before playing some pleasant shots and looked to be on his way to another not out before he missed an in-swinger and was bowled for 24. Austin came in to apply the finishing touches, ending the game with a booming off drive for four. Meanwhile Bexfield finished unbeaten on 27 from 39 overs, a triumph of self-restraint, bloody-mindedness and at times sheer lack of ambition. However, there’s no doubt that the broadest pads in the game are back in action.

The victory moved Offley into second place ahead of next week’s game with third-placed Broxbourne and set up a potentially do or die clash with leaders Northampton Exiles in two weeks time. With four games to go, Offley know that four victories will clinch the league title.

Things are definitely starting to get interesting.