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Two shots summed up Van Hoof’s debut season with Offley. The first was a glorious punched extra cover drive that flew over the infield and bounced once before going over the ropes. The second, played to the very next ball, suggested a man trying to play French cricket with a frying pan as he shuffled forward, then back and was then bowled.
Van Hoof scored his first 50 for the club against Caddington, smashing the bowlers to all parts and generally enjoying himself with the air of one to the manor born. However, it was too often a case of all or nothing and four of his other 12 innings ended in a failure to get off the mark. At one stage he scored three runs in four innings (2, 1, 0, 0) as he struggled to match his early success and endured the sort of famine that once persuaded Bob Geldof to launch Live Aid.
Van Hoof’s enthusiasm for attempting to sweep straight balls early in his innings was invariably the cause of his downfall and he routinely fell lbw or bowled paddling across the line attempting strokes more familiar to a canoeist than a cricketer.
Initially an underused commodity, Van Hoof’s bowling developed as the season went on and he took the new ball in several league games, invariably moving the ball around and causing problems for batsmen with his swing. Van Hoof’s gentle swing produced eight wickets and a high number of vociferous appeals, all but two of which were rejected by the umpires much to the disbelief of a distraught Van Hoof who fervently believed that his deliveries were locked on a collision course with middle stump.
He generally produced some strong efforts in the field, routinely cutting off boundaries and held on to most of the chances that came his way until the fateful match with St Joseph’s. Van Hoof’s return of 2-0-20-0, a second-ball duck and a missed sitter off Thomas Reilly arguably constituted the most wretched solo effort of the entire 2009 campaign.
There’s always next year.