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Reed CC 197-3 Vs Offley & Stopsley CC 195-6 - 22nd July

OSCC Lost by 7 Wkts

Offley’s hopes of landing the North Herts League title suffered a potential knockout blow as they went down for the count at Reed on an afternoon where hospitals across the region were on hand to deal with a stream of casualties that conjured up images of a rough day at Rorke’s Drift.

After Steve Bexfield won the toss and elected to bat Nathan Brodie and Richie Barker opened the innings. Brodie was soon on his way back to the pavilion after being beaten for pace and playing across a short ball but Barker looked ready to make the most of an early reprieve after being dropped on nought. Showing a willingness to take on the short ball, Barker moved to 11 with good effect before attempting to hook a swift, rising delivery from Johnson.

The batsman was granted a split second of grace to consider the likely consequences of missing the ball – a split second during which the word “bollocks” flashed through his mind – before the ball flashed through the grill of his helmet and opened up a three-inch cut beneath his right eye. Following a brief spell of treatment on the pitch Barker was transferred to Addenbrooks Hospital to have the gash stitched and play no further part in the game.

It seems only fair to report that a score of 11 not out represented one of Barker’s more successful trips to the crease in 2007, regardless of the fact that he had to be helped away from the wicket with blood spurting everywhere looking as if he had just walked into a right hook from Floyd Mayweather.

Bexfield strolled to the wicket with a jaunty air to be greeted by evidence of blood and gore on the wicket and was soon ducking under another bouncer. Dave Bridgland decided to carry the attack to the bowlers on a bouncy wicket and hit five boundaries in an entertaining 26 before offering a catch off Wholley to leave Offley on 59-2.

Mark Tattersall joined Bexfield at the wicket. Tattersall – whose habit of getting out in the 40s would have been welcomed here like manna from heaven – struggled to impose himself on the bowling and was beaten for pace after mustering just 2. Mo Chaudry’s disappointing run of form continued when he succumbed for 5 to leave Offley 101-4, effectively 101-6 with Barker going under the surgeon’s knife and emergency ambulance driver Colin Keeley also absent from the ground.

With little choice but to dig in, Bexfield swapped his bat for a metaphorical trenching shovel and manned the barricades alongside Darren Lunney. It was an ideal situation for Bexfield who would have loved nothing more in life than the chance to star alongside Michael Caine and Stanley Baker in Zulu where he would doubtless have relished the opportunity to pad way the relentless Zulu attacks.

Bexfield resisted for 84 balls before falling for 44. Chris Austin joined Lunney and they gave Offley hope with a spirited stand of 49. Lunney hit his second six of the week as he finished unbeaten on 41 and Austin made an unusually cavalier 10 before being run out for 10 as he gallantly sacrificed his wicket for the cause. Matthew Freeman finished unbeaten on 6 and with Reed’s bowlers donating 48 extras to the target Offley finished on 195-6, a total that looked to be at least 30 runs light.

Keeley returned as the tea interval drew to a close to discover that Freeman had done sterling work in polishing off the cakes that were on offer. It transpired that Freeman had also consumed enough sandwiches to feed a family of four for a week. Rizwan and Keeley opened the attack but the Reed openers were quick to take advantage of Offley being a man light in the field. Although Keeley quickly found his length Rizwan paid the penalty for bowling too short and was removed from the attack in favour of Freeman. It was the seminal moment in the match.

Bowling downhill with a slight breeze at his back in perfect conditions for a fast bowler, Freeman was mildly effective for all of two balls before he began to complain about the hardness of the surface and subsequently suffered an acute attack of indigestion. Had he had a drink to hand he would doubtless have misplaced it, losing his bottle if you will in the face of an onslaught from the Reed batsmen.

After four overs of serving up dross and excuses in equal measure he was taken off and soon began to work his magic in the field as he escorted a couple of balls to the boundary with all the athleticism of an arthritic pensioner. Freeman subsequently watched another ball roll past him at mid off en route for four prompting the exasperated Tattersall to enquire whether he was playing or spectating. Or perhaps he meant to imply that Freeman was a bit of a spotter. With Barker watching the action through a black, purple, blue and red eye, Freeman was evidently of the opinion that if everyone else on the team didn’t have to field then he should be excused too. After all he was suffering from indigestion.

Offley had chances but Lunney dropped an eminently catchable opportunity off Bridgland, the latest fielding error from the doughty Northerner. There’s no doubt that Lunney is tough as granite but it seems a shame that he has the hands of stone to prove it. Keeley was also unfortunate to spill a chance with the ball apparently coming out of the sun.

Tattersall eventually made the breakthrough when he had Smith caught at backward point by Rizwan but there was no stemming the Reed onslaught. While Freeman skilfully evaded the ball like a nimble matador skipping out of the way of the bull, Chaudry nobly sacrificed his body for the team as he dived to stop a fierce shot from Flick. Unfortunately Flick’s flick flicked off the rutted outfield and passed straight through his hands. At which point the ball collided with the fielder’s nose and spread it all over his face. Chaudry was duly helped from the field to the sanctuary of the pavilion which was now being used as an emergency field hospital and given the glad tidings that his nose was broken. The only consolation was that it could have been worse – it could have been indigestion.

Tattersall added Frennay to his tally of victims for the season and substitute fielder Martin held on to a smart catch to deprive Flick of his century and give Bridgland a wicket. However, there was no chance of a dramatic rally against the odds and Bexfield duly threw in the towel by bringing Lunney on to bowl. A single delivery resulted in Offley being put out of their misery as the ball was thumped towards Royston to give Reed a seven-wicket win.

All in all not a terribly good day at the office for Bexfield’s troops on a day where the rain, apparently ever-present all summer decided to take the afternoon off. Chaudry and Barker joined Steve Hoar on the injury list with no word on how long either will be out for. Early indications are that there is no prospect of Chaudry being able to smell the leather – or anything else for that matter – for some time while Barker’s efforts of keeping his eye on the ball look set to be compromised by an inability to open the eye in question.

There are also concerns over Freeman’s availability for next week’s games following reports that he was off to see the Wizard of Oz to ask for a heart, a brain and some courage. However, it was subsequently reported that he had tripped over on the kerb of the Yellow brick Road and decided to abort the journey to Oz, choosing instead to seek solace with a handful of Chomp bars.

The defeat at Reed effectively renders the North Herts League a two-horse race between Hatfield and Holwell. That dream looks over for another year for Offley’s players but most of them can content themselves with the knowledge that they still have their health, even if some are currently struggling with broken noses or seriously impaired vision. It might not be terribly impressive journalism but last time I looked in the mirror my eye appeared to be shitting blackcurrants.

Could be worse though – could be indigestion.