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Offley & Stopsley CC 172-6 Vs Henlow II's 173-8 ; 10 June 2012

Lost by 2 Wkts

The Day the Captains Brain was Drained by too much of the ol' US of A . . . .

Offley & Stopsley produced one of the most incompetent performances in their 15-year history as they crashed to a three-wicket defeat at home to Henlow. The defeat helped cement Offley’s place at the foot of the table, a situation that would be distinctly bleaker if the two teams immediately above them had not been docked 29 and 30 points respectively.

In losing to a team who had nine men for most of the day, Offley’s players were indebted somewhat to the marvellous efforts of their skipper, Matthew Freeman. Displaying a true touch for disaster and the arithmetic skills of a sub-intellectual two-year old that has been dropped on his head from a great height, Freeman ensured Offley slumped to defeat in a game that seemed virtually impossible to lose.

In fairness to Freeman, an honourable mention must also be made of Darren Lunney who produced a wonderfully hopeless all-round performance. Kudos also to Colin Williams for his fourth duck in five innings this season, his third first-baller of the campaign.

Freeman won the toss and elected to bat. After the early loss of Damian Sale. Josh Hook and Richie Barker added 85 for the second wicket. The two batsmen dealt capably with the Henlow bowlers – including an opening bowler who looked like a slightly fatter, albeit slightly more talented version of Wayne Cutts – and looked to have established a position of strength for a late-innings onslaught.

Hook made a well-crafted 33 that featured some impressive strokes before he was bowled by a ball that kept low. The bowler, one S Fookes, was quite pleased with this – although he was a little less thrilled with proceedings later on when the tables were turned. Fookes struck again moments later, dismissing Lunney for a duck with an excellent delivery.

Barker provided some impetus as he moved past his half-century, punishing anything short and looking to hit over the top whenever possible. He struck eight fours and four sixes in his 73 before being bowled in an optimistic attempt to clear the halfway line of the football pitch.

Williams came and went in the blink of an eye, hoisting Fat Wayne softly to square leg. The ball floated to earth – or more accurately, floated into the fielder’s hands – like a snowflake falling on a summer day. Williams returned to the pavilion after failing to trouble the scorers for the sixth time in seven innings.

Kane Smith played an impressive cameo as he score 18 before Glen Swain and skipper Freeman boosted the total in the final overs as Offley closed on 172-6, a score that looked to be a more than challenging total.

Following the tea interval, a relaxed Offley side took the field, confident of securing their first league win of the year. Freeman made his first mistake by electing to open the bowling with young Smith and insisting he should bowl without any protection on the boundary, ostensibly arguing that it was important for the youngster to learn his trade. For those of you with short memories, this is the same Freeman who refused to bowl for Darrell Cooper without being afforded protection at deep square leg. And midwicket. And deep point. And long off.

Consequently Henlow got off to a flier as the openers launched an opening salvo that bordered on child abuse. Smith’s four-over spell cost 39 runs and although Freeman picked up a wicket at the other end, the visitors were suddenly well placed to chase down a total that had looked considerably beyond them at tea.

Freeman had some reason to feel a little hard done by as Lunney dropped a regulation chance at cover off Fookes before the batsman had got off the mark. Without wishing to ruin the story for people, this drop was roughly on a par with a certain muffed chance at Baldock.

Freeman made a double change, withdrawing himself from the attack in favour of Lunney and brining on Barker in place of Smith. Barker struck in his first over, deceiving Hitchcock with a cunningly disguised full toss that the batsman sent into orbit before Chris Austin took the catch at cover.

After a short spell from Lunney, Austin took over and after surrendering one rather large six, dismissed the opposition skipper, Crawley, with a superb delivery that bounced twice and clipped leg stump.

Barker struck again, as a well flighted full toss proved too good for Fernando and he could only pick out Smith at square leg. A short, wide long hop was too much for Earl as he fell to an excellent catch from Freeman, the skipper making good ground to his right and then making a fine catch after stubbing his toe and tripping over some rabbit droppings.

At that point – with the middle order decimated and Henlow running out of batsmen – Offley should have been on their way. However, the amply proportioned Borman (amply proportioned in the same way that Jordan is amply proportioned) who had failed to field for most of the afternoon (this was either something to do with a broken down car or an impromptu modelling job) joined Fookes in a crucial six-wicket stand.

Fookes played an impressive innings, using his feet to good effect and mixing excellent shots with sarcastic comments and doing plenty to support his own view he was too good for the level he found himself playing at. Fookes reached 76 before he was bowled by a straight ball from Barker that beat his tentative prod and stormed off bemoaning the “fucking plasticine pitch,” an observation that suggests Henlow has been a regular little desert in recent weeks or that the batsman was a bit of a tool.

At that point the momentum had swung slightly in Offley’s favour. However, Borman, running singles with reckless abandon considering he’d forgotten his sports bra, and Isted kept Henlow in the hunt before Lunney bowled Isted to leave the visitors seven (effectively eight) wickets down.

Only three overs remained when Freeman discovered he’d made a slight booboo with his calculations. The skipper’s plan to bowl out Lunney at one end were thwarted by the discovery that he’d already bowled his full allocation of nine overs. This rather substantial balls-up meant Austin was brought back to bowl the 38th and 40th overs while Hook was handed the unenviable task of bowling the 39th over. At this stage Borman did nothing for anyone’s sense of humour by helpfully chirping out that a captain should always take a pen and paper with him on to the field so he can keep track of how many overs his bowlers have had.

With 19 needed off three overs, Austin restricted Henlow to five before Hook yielded just seven. This left Borman and Fat Wayne needing seven runs to win from the final six balls. The buxom Borman sprinted through for a single off the first ball of the over, his dash for the crease conjuring up images of the opening title scenes from Baywatch.

Moments later it was all over as Austin tried for too much flight and guile and paid the ultimate price as Fat Wayne swung the ball over long on for the first six of his career with a sweetly hit straight drive to give the visitors the win.

A stunned Offley side were left to contemplate yet another defeat while Freeman found himself pondering whether or not it would be possible to take an abacus on to the field with him in future games to ensure there would be no repeat of his mathematical blip. For someone who is so adept at working out his share of the tip and working out his exact bowling average, it came as something of a surprise that the OSCC Sunday skipper should be caught out in the numbers department. It capped a miserable day for the captain after he earlier incurred a 10 fine for failing to submit a facilities report for the previous week’s game with Dunstable. Magnanimously he announced that he would be paying the fine himself.

What next for Offley? In the short term all they can do is try and rebound ahead of next week’s game with Sandy. In the long term they can draw some solace from their captain’s confident assertion that they’ll win Division Five next year...