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Offley & Stopsley Vs Lilley - 23rd April

OSCC Won by 207 runs.

Offley & Stopsley stormed out of the blocks like a cheetah with dynamite up its backside as they recorded a crushing 207-run victory over local rivals Lilley to start the season with a flourish.

Steve Hoar celebrated his move from Luton Town with his third century for the club and Mo Chaudry plundered 77 as the pair added 203 for the third wicket. After the batsmen had finished feasting on some deliciously succulent offerings, portly paceman Matthew Freeman led the way with a dramatic burst of three wickets in four balls as Lilley’s top order were swept away.

New skipper Richie Barker won the toss and elected to bat first on a pitch that promised to offer more bounce than usual for the time of the year. Barker and Hoar opened the innings and after some initial discomfort against the new ball began to ease into their stride. Barker hit three boundaries in consecutive balls before he was bowled attempting something vaguely agricultural, falling to an ugly smear across the line against veteran seamer Kenny Hammond. Jon Cerasale strode to the middle and appeared to time the ball nicely without actually managing to get off the mark before playing over the top of a rare straight ball to register the first duck of the year.

Chaudry and Hoar came together and after some initial circumspection as they rebuilt the innings the pair began to find the boundaries with savage frequency. Hoar played with real fluency as he made a mockery of the controversial (albeit amusing) decision to relegate him to the ranks of Luton Town’s third team last year.

Lilley skipper Gareth Tompkins missed the chance to nip the innings in the bud but he failed to hold on to a sharp return chance and Hoar took full advantage of the reprieve. Hoar was particularly severe on anything short and exacted a heavy toll on the hapless Kendall who delivered five overs at a personal cost of 72 runs. Berry was also subjected to fearful treatment as his four overs were splattered around the ground to the tune of 57 runs.

Chaudry weighed in with some typically brutal hitting to add to the carnage and the pair combined to hit 12 of Offley’s 13 sixes. It was a cruel sight to see the plucky Kendall gallantly chugging into bowl before turning to watch as his latest offering was launched into a neighbouring postcode, conjuring up pitiful images of Polish cavalry charging German tanks during the First World War.

With the exception of the wizened Hammond it was a tough day for all the Lilley bowlers as they contributed 48 wides to the Offley cause in a total of 62 extras. They finally got a break when Chaudry holed out on the cover boundary after a square drive-cum-tennis shot, Tompkins holding on to a fierce slash, but Rizwan soon announced his intentions by getting off the mark with a six.

Hammond was recalled to the attack in a bid to stem the flow of runs and quickly demonstrated his experience and cunning by urging Hoar to retire hurt rather than risk aggravating his apparently injured ankle. It was unclear whether the bowler’s touching concern was motivated by Christian charity or whether he simply felt that his figures would be less likely to sustain serious damage if Hoar returned to the pavilion to nurse his ankle. Hoar duly hobbled off but although the visitors picked up a couple of wickets in the final overs it was far too late to turn back the Offley tide as they finished on an imposing 321-5. Faced with the daunting prospect of scoring at a rate of eight runs an over from the start Lilley’s batsmen were left with little option but to play their shots from the start.

The writing was on the wall when leading batsman Gareth Tompkins edged Qumar’s away swinger to Barker at slip and Kendall was soon on his way after Nathan Brodie bagged his first catch of the season with a needlessly spectacular dive in the covers. Eyres played on to his first ball and Freeman suddenly found himself on a hat trick.

A nervous hush descended over the ground as Hammond marched out to the crease to face the crucial ball. Freeman pawed the ground at the end of his run before charging into the crease like an old shire horse on his way to the glue factory and in his mind’s eye sent down an exocet destined for the base of middle stump.

Actually he slung the ball three yards down the leg side for five wides but there you have it.

However, he atoned with his next delivery, producing a superb inswinger to beat Hammond’s expansive drive and send the batsman back to the pavilion.

Qumar bagged another wicket to leave Lilley reeling at five down before Wayne Cutts took centre stage.

The last time Cutts bowled against Lilley he started an over that will never end before stomping off to the outfield with tears streaming down his face like a teenage girl after failing the audition for X Factor. However, this was his day for atonement and he proceeded to bowl with a rare lyricism, composing his own personal Redemption Song as he ensnared Lilley’s batsmen with his cunningly flighted leg breaks. Hoar made an unwilling bid to land the wicket-keeping job on a permanent basis as he executed a smart pair of stumpings, including one to account for Brad Tompkins for a composed 31.

Steve Baron picked up a wicket in his first over after a tidy catch from Hoar before Rizwan ended the innings in emphatic fashion by castling the final two batsmen in the space of three deliveries to rubberstamp the rout.

The result left Offley with one hand on the inaugural Mansfield-Boatwright Memorial Trophy and left Lilley plotting revenge for the second installment at the end of September. However, the return match lies some way in the future and for the moment the bragging rights belong exclusively to Offley.