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Offley & Stopsley 175-3 Vs Monken Hadley 171-6 ; 27 June

OSCC Won by 7 Wkts

Steve Hoar stroked an unbeaten 104 as Offley sauntered to a seven-wicket win over Monken Hadley, a victory that sent them to the top of the Saracens League for the first time in 2009.

The visitors won the toss and elected to bat first on a sweltering hot day, news that did not go down particularly well with one or two of the more hungover Offley troops. Mo Chaudry and Matt Freeman opened the bowling and neither covered themselves in glory as they served up a mixture of pies and long hops that provided little threat to the batsmen. Spencer chanced his arm, slashing and flashing his way to 26 before Nathan Brodie made the breakthrough when Spencer sliced an ambitious drive to Steve Bexfield at point where the fielder clutched the ball in his midriff.

Marc Ward stormed into action at the other end as he added two quick wickets. He bowled Gwinnett with the aid of an inside edge when the batsman tried to cut a ball that was far too close to off stump and then followed it up by taking a smart return catch to send Barwick on his way. Wayne Cutts got in on the act when he dismissed Hughes with the aid of a fine diving catch at short midwicket from Richie Barker, the fielder making light of his hangover to scrape the ball up one handed inches above the turf.

With Cutts wheeling away at one end and Barker experiencing a variety of sensations at the other (primarily nausea mixed with a heavy dose of frustration), Offley’s spinners turned the screw as the visitors tried to recover from 65-4. Cutts bowled a tremendous 11-over spell that cost just 20 runs and didn’t contain a single boundary while Barker sent down 19 overs in the tropical heat.

Swanton dug in at one end, apparently swapping his bat for a shovel, as he dug trenches after adopting an over my dead body approach. At the other hand Parab mixed staunch defensive prods with exaggerated leave-alone shots.

The pair repaired the damage as they shared an 86-run stand. However, the runs came at a snail’s pace, Parab requiring 81 balls to make 22. He finally departed after splicing a Dave Bridgland full toss to Mo Chaudry in the covers. Swanton continued to pick up the singles, finally ending on 76 not out from 163 balls. Spokes briefly threatened to land a few lusty blows but perished off the final ball of the innings after a run-a-ball 17, when he swung and missed at Barker and stand-in keeper Darren Lunney capped another fine display behind the stumps with a smart stumping. The wicket was Barker’s lone reward, finally arriving with the 114th delivery of his spell.

Monken Hadley were restricted to 171-6 from 53 overs, a fine effort by an Offley side that put their problem with dropped chances at Potters Bar to hold on to everything that came their way, and generally held up well in the heat.

Offley were left to chase 172 to win in 47 overs and hopes were high as Hoar and Bexfield opened the innings. They moved to 23 with few alarms before Bexfield’s fallow Saracens trot continued as he missed a relatively straight ball from Condon and paid the price for not using his pad as extra protection as his off stump was knocked back.

Chaudry joined Hoar and Offley were granted a reprieve when Hoar guided a simple chance to cover but the fielder was unable to hold on to the regulation chance. Hoar made the most of the let-off, indulging in the opportunity to bat with the sun on his back, easing into his stride and stroking boundaries all round the wicket. He raced to his 50 in 65 balls and dominated a stand of 90 with Chaudry. Chaudry struck some powerful, if occasionally agricultural blows and made 29 before he was bowled attempting a legside heave.

Brodie batted with typical frenetic endeavour, repeatedly slicing the ball narrowly out of reach of the fielders without ever threatening to make his stay at the crease a permanent one, and it was no real surprise when he departed for 13 after skying another swipe.

Lunney maintained his bid to win the Saracens League batting title with another unbeaten cameo that took his league average to 54.75 but the batting honours went to Hoar as he passed three figures before seeing Offley to victory with seven wickets in hand and more than ten overs to spare.

The victory – combined with results elsewhere – allowed Offley to leap from third to first, opening up a seven-point cushion over Bayford and Hertford at the halfway point of the season. Bridgland’s team go to Rickmansworth next week with their destiny in their own hands as they contemplate the second half of the season with everything to play for and the chance of glory – to say nothing of another expensive shiny Saracens League nylon pennant.