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Offley & Stopsley CC 170 all out Vs Potters Bar IV's 183-8 ; 20th June

OSCC Lost by 13 runs

Offley’s six-game unbeaten streak came to an abrupt end at Potters Bar as a strong batting line-up disintegrated in pursuit of an eminently gettable 184. The top order were swept away as Dave Bridgland’s team slumped to 16-5 before a heroic rearguard action almost pulled off an unlikely win.

Potters Bar won the toss and elected to bat first on a bouncy wicket. Nathan Brodie and Matthew Freeman opened the bowling and both produced some fine deliveries but were unable to make the breakthrough. The shaven-headed Brodie was particularly unlucky not to pick up a wicket as he beat the bat on several occasions while Freeman also served up a pie-free opening spell.

Offley’s frustrations mounted as chances began to narrowly evade fielders and half-chances were put down. The streamlined Brodie dropped a hard chance at extra cover as he dived full length and Jon Cerasale also put down a diving one-handed chance in the gully. Stand-in keeper Darren Lunney failed to hold on to a thin edge standing up.

The Potters Bar openers rode their luck to put on 103 for the opening wicket before Taylor guided Marc Ward to Richie Barker in the gully. Moments later Burrows was on his way when Lunney held on to an edge from Ward to make it 106-2. Bridgland made it 106-3 when Symon Wardley held on to an expertly judged catch at long on.

However, any thoughts that Offley might blow through the middle order were discounted by a brisk 47-run stand between Fennel and Beck. Both players went for their shots and enjoyed a little luck, whether it was slicing the ball into space or earning a reprieve from a Barker drop at midwicket. Cerasale broke the partnership when Fennel sent a ball steepling into orbit and Freeman did not have to move a muscle – other than to open his eyes – and clung on to the catch at square leg.

That brought the blue-shoed Sharma to the crease. At this moment Bridgland betrayed his lack of experience in midweek cricket and fatal lack of knowledge of Christmas jumpers and coloured footwear. He brought the field up to stop Sharma taking a single and although this helped to account for Beck, run out by Dhrupal Patel for 29, the flaw in the plan was revealed when the man in blue shoes launched Freeman over the vacant long off area for a mighty six. Sharma perished to another fine catch by Wardley in the deep before Freeman picked up a well-deserved wicket with the penultimate ball of his spell. Lunney held on to his third catch of the day in the final over to give Cerasale his third victim, before Lunney ran out Moore off the last ball to restrict Potters Bar to 183-9.

Bridgland, who had begun the day expressing concerns that he had too many batsmen, shuffled the order as Barker dropped down to number nine to protect an injured finger, leaving Brodie to open with Steve Bexfield. Offley got off to a disappointing start when Bexfield played all round a straight ball from Fennel and was comprehensively bowled to leave the scoreboard reading 3-1.

Chaudry and Brodie took the score to 9 before the wheels fell off in alarming fashion. Chaudry prodded a simple return catch to Fennel before Brodie, swinging away like a drunken rustic with a scythe and apparently doing his best to get himself out, finally succeeded in slicing a simple catch to point. Patel then indulged in a spot of catching practice, guiding a regulation chance to first slip to leave Offley on 9-4. Wardley was beaten for pace to make it 16-5 as Bridgland joined Lunney in a bid to repair the damage and drag Offley towards respectability.

The pair both adopted the novel approach of playing themselves in before looking to accelerate the scoring rate. Gradually they eased Offley out of the mire, sharing a stand of 68 to lift the score to 84 before Bridgland miscued a drive to mid on.

Cerasale marched out to the middle determined not to die wondering and was soon carrying the attack to the bowlers, hammering 22 off one over from Watling as Offley surged past the 100-mark and looked well set on 132-6.

However, at this moment Blue Shoes was introduced into the attack. Lunney had progressed to 47, continuing his excellent form and looking largely untroubled. Moments later he was left to reflect on his shattered stumps as Blue Shoes ripped one back off the pitch to bowl him. At the other end Random squeezed a yorker past Cerasale and Offley looked gone for all money at 132-8.

However, Barker and Freeman dug in, slowly picking up singles and accruing bonus points as they added 37 for the ninth wicket. Offley needed 15 to win from eight balls when Barker could only steer the ball to midwicket and Freeman, committed to a single that was never there, was comfortably run out. Barker took a single off the final ball of the over to secure a sixth batting point and leave himself with the task of scoring 14 off Fennel’s final over. Two balls later it was all over as Barker went down swinging, top-edging a return catch to the bowler who claimed it to finish with 5-11.

All in all not the greatest day at the office but it could have been a lot worse. By virtue of losing the toss and being asked to field rather than choosing to do so, Offley secured 15 points rather than seven. Bridgland’s team will be left to reflect that fortune deserted them during their stint in the field – on another day they would have been chasing no more than 120 – but there can be few excuses for such a limp performance from the top order.

The fact remains that with the exception of Lunney and Chaudry too many of the batsmen are failing to score runs this season. Brodie and Bexfield have both only played one innings of note while Barker and Bridgland have yet to reach 30 in the Saracens League.

To that end Offley can be well pleased with the fact that they sit in third place after eight games and still have an excellent chance of the title and promotion. However, the batsmen need to step up soon to support the bowlers or Bridgland may be forced to make more changes to the batting order in a bid to discover a successful formula.