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The Offley bandwagon kept rolling as they secured a narrow victory against bogey team Great Gaddesden. After abandoning his quest for the source of the Nile, Colin Keeley belatedly arrived to claim four wickets and help restrict Gaddesden to 153 before Richie Barkers 50 eased Offleys nerves during a fraught run chase.
The hosts won the toss and elected to bat first on a scorching day. They progressed serenely to 55-0 at the drinks break with opportunities few and far between. Rizwan bowled a fine opening spell with typically little reward and Steve Bexfield spurned the only opportunity of note when he grassed a chance at square leg. Things changed rapidly after the break as Keeley induced a skied drive and Mark Tattersall clung on at mid off to make the breakthrough. Despite serving up an interesting smorgasbord of wides, long hops and the odd pie in a unusually poor spell, Keeley made significant inroads into the Gaddesden batting order, claiming the first four victims. Martin Bigmore took a fine catch behind the stumps diving away to his left before Keeley produced a snorter of a delivery with his final ball to reduce Gaddesden to 88-4.
Dave Bridgland entered the attack and soon began to turn the screw. Nathan Brodie shrugged off the effect of a nasty blow to the head in the outfield to grab a fine low catch before Bigmore whipped off the bails to leave Gaddesden in the mire on 106-6. A brief rally was halted in stunning style as Upton pulled Bridgland through midwicket only to see the ball end up in the left hand of a leaping Barker who managed to get off the ground for the first time since 2003. Gaddesden dragged the score up to 148 in the 39th over before Barker claimed two wickets in successive balls and Tattersall picked up last man Flitton to give Offley a precious bonus point and leave them needing 154 for victory.
Although there was no repeat of the previous weeks 11-6 debacle, Offley struggled out of the blocks, losing Bigmore and Mo Chaudry for three apiece with the scoreboard reading 9-2 and the game very much in the balance. Bexfield opted to dig in, presenting a straight pad to everything that came his way while Barker opted for a more frenetic approach. Barker survived a confident shout for LBW to the dreaded second ball (his recent Achilles heel) and rode his luck as Gaddesdens fielders failed to hold on to a couple of eminently catchable opportunities.
Both batsmen were subjected to some fairly choice observations, with Bexfield suffering the indignity of being referred to as one-dimensional and disgraceful suggestions that he preferred to play the ball with his pad rather his bat. The pair shared a stand of 83 before Bexfield gloved a lifter from Ambrose and fell for 25 from 82 balls. Three balls later Barker top edged another delivery that popped up off the surface to leave Offley rocking on 92-4. Tattersall and Bridgland came together and added 21 before Tattersall fell for a typically pugnacious 15. Brodie made his highest score of the North Herts campaign a gutsy six before he was bowled and Gareth Mathewson gave Cheeseman his fourth victim to leave Offley clinging on at 126-7.
For the second week running Keeley strode out to join Bridgland with the game on the line. The duo settled in and shared a partnership that featured contrasting styles of batsmanship. At one end the cool, calm Bridgland, Offleys Rock of Gibraltar, displayed great poise as the target was gradually whittled down. At the other end Keeley mixed mature defence with the flailing exuberance of a demented hurler, batting with the blood of Celtic heroes pumping through his veins. The pair both landed telling blows before the innings ended in a flurry of extras to give Offley another victory and keep their title hopes alive ahead of the impending clash with rivals Crawley Green.