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Offleys hopes of landing the North Herts League title were dealt a potentially mortal blow as they crashed to a brutal defeat on a scorching day at Hatfield. Offley succumbed by the small matter of 106 runs after their attack was plundered for over 300 runs for the first time in recent memory.
Hatfield won the toss and had no hesitation in batting first to condemn Offley to an afternoon of toil in relentless sunshine on an arid outfield liberally pockmarked by rabbit holes and a general lack of green grass. Offley got off to an unpromising start as they took the field with eight men owing to the late arrival of Qumar, Umar and Keeley not a comedy trio but a battery of medium pacers, although as things transpired there was something sourly amusing about the whole day.
Hatfields openers rode their luck in the early exchanges, routinely flashing the ball through the slips and past the keeper as they displayed more edges than a cracked pisspot. The breakthrough finally arrived when Qumar removed Golders middle stump in emphatic fashion with the score on 43. In the event it proved to be a rather ill-advised wicket as it brought Gale to the wicket and he signaled his intentions from the off by launching into an expansive cover drive from his first ball. The ensuing 90 minutes provided plenty of hard toil for the fielders and rough treatment for the bowlers as the ball crossed the boundary with depressing regularity.
An emotional Gary Davison was heard to lament the fact that, Im chasing f*king shadows out here, while Nathan Brodie and Richie Barker were both given the opportunity to clamber over flora and fauna and retrieve the ball from the neighbouring caravan park.
Gale eased to his second century of the weekend the previous days effort being made in the third division of the Saracens League, before falling to Barker for the second time this season. The wicket gave the non-spinning spinner his 50th victim of the season but proved to be a misjudgment of sorts as it brought Hazledene to the wicket. The hard-hitting batsman took advantage of an early reprieve by Davison on the boundary to race to an unbeaten 59 from 31 balls as he dealt almost exclusively in boundaries. Mo Chaudry made a brilliant leaping stop on the boundary to foil a certain six but Hatfield closed on 303-3, leaving Offley to score at 7.5 runs per over from the start as they chased an improbable victory.
Dave Bridgland fell early and despite a solid stand between Chaudry and Martin Bigmore Offley were soon hopelessly adrift of the required run rate. Any flickering hopes were extinguished as 59-1 became 60-4 as Chaudry, Barker and Mark Tattersall fell in rapid succession.
Tattersall had been held in reserve at the number five spot to take advantage of a demoralized opposition. Presumably in much the same way that the Udloko regiment was held back for the final Zulu assault at Rorkes Drift (I looked it up). The sight of the big-hitting Tattersall forlornly wandering back to the pavilion having been dismissed for a second-ball duck without offering a shot in the face of a run rate approaching 10 runs an over offered eloquent testimony to the disaster.
Bigmore and Steve Bexfield dug in for a while before a hopeless piece of miscommunication left them both hurtling for the same end - fire engines charging towards the wrong fire - Bexfield nobly elected to sacrifice himself (on current form it represented cricketing euthanasia if not outright suicide) before marching off in search of hammer, nails and a large wooden cross.
Davison, recently regarded as the safest hands in the club until his recent bout of dropsy, marched to the crease determined to take advantage of the short boundaries and hit his maiden six. Davison was quickly into his stride, unfurling a cracking pull shot that would have been a six if he had been playing in the back garden with a tennis ball and hooking another delivery almost halfway to the boundary before it rolled for four.
Bigmores long vigil came to an end when he was well caught at mid on for 69 before Brodie survived a first ball dismissal courtesy of a no ball. Davison attempted a straight six that bounced just wide of mid off before running away for four before bringing up his maiden half century for the club with a powerful blow that trickled off the square. Having reached his landmark Davison opened his shoulders up in a determined bid to record that elusive six but after a flurry of singles had to admit defeat as the overs ran out with the powder-puff power-hitter unbeaten on 59 as Offley finished up on 197-6. 106 runs adrift or just miles from nowhere as Cat Stevens might have put it.