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Offley & Stopsley CC Vs Houghton Town - 6th May
OSCC Won by 4 Wkts
Offley returned to the scene of one of their most memorable triumphs to record another epic victory. Less than a year after their dramatic rally from 11-6 at the magnificent Icknield ground, Offley chased down an imposing target of 258 to record their first win of the North Herts campaign.
Richie Barker won the toss and elected to field first rather than taking first use of a strip that looked as if it had been randomly cut in the middle of a football pitch. As the game developed it became clear that the outfield had been specially prepared by riding motorbikes up and down it to create a rippled effect that bore closer resemblance to corrugated iron than a cricket ground. With the wind whipping across the rock hard wasteland it became all too clear that the venue had more in common with the seventh circle under the pit than Lords.
The decision to bowl almost paid immediate dividends when Rizwan found the openers edge with the second ball of the match but Chris Austin failed to hold on. Not for the first time Rizwan bowled without luck although he did gain a moral victory when he struck opener KK on the shoulder with a rearing delivery and forced him to retire hurt.
That brought Naveed to the crease and it quickly transpired to have been a bad move on Offleys part as the batsman was quickly into his stride, turning down comfortable singles but picking up boundaries with worrying ease. Medium pacer turned trundler Mark Tattersall finally made the breakthrough when he had Narinda well caught at mid off by Barker who made good ground to his left to haul in the catch, presumably motivated by the knowledge that if he didnt catch it he would have to go and fetch it.
Jon Cerasale picked up a couple of wickets at the other end as he mixed some probing deliveries with a few poor ones, notably a cunningly disguised slower ball that Naveed crashed in the general direction of Leagrave Station. Tattersall was deposited in the vicinity of Carrisbrooke Road, including one shot that would have cleared the fielder had he been standing at the top of the slide in the playground. The game seemed to be slipping away from the visitors and with comfortably over 200 on the board Houghton Town looked set for a decisive assault in the closing overs with just three wickets down (plus KK undergoing tests at the L&D for a serious shoulder injury that might have required amputation) when Barker brought himself on to lob a few grenades into the wind.
Regardless of whether they were bamboozled by Warne-esque flight and turn or simply consumed by a collective death wish (and lets face it the smart moneys on the latter), the Houghton Town batsmen rushed to their doom as they charged down the track swinging their bats like demented dervishes, apparently more concerned with trying to propel themselves into orbit than actually connecting with the ball. Barker picked up the prized scalp of Naveed and finished with 4-16 as the hosts slumped to 257-8 at the close of their innings, offering Offley a glimmer of a chance even though they faced a run rate of nearly 6.50 per over from the start.
The reply started in dispiriting fashion as Kabir ripped through the defences of Austin and Mo Chaudry for two apiece to leave Offley rocking on 10-2. However, once youve salvaged victory from the depths of 11-6, recovering from such a start is a mere bagatelle. Dave Bridgland and Rizwan rebuilt the innings and began to take the attack to the bowlers. Bridgland was in imperious form as he revisited the scene of his finest hour and looked set for a big score before a ball scuttled underneath his defensive shot to make it 70-3. Rizwan blazed away in some style and plundered boundaries all round the ground before he was run out attempting an optimistic second after making a career-best 42 and Cerasale marched out to the middle to join Nathan Brodie.
Possibly because the law of averages dictated that he was due to score a run at the third attempt, more probably because he did not take kindly to being given batting tips by Wayne Cutts, Cerasale played one of his finest innings for the club. He and Brodie recovered the initiative for Offley with a barrage of boundaries and the team were well on course when Brodie charged down the wicket and was stumped by about three yards for an excellent 37.
Tattersall joined Cerasale with plenty to do but by this stage Offley were up with the rate and fairly safe in the knowledge that if they batted their allotment of overs they would triumph. Cerasale began to unveil his full repertoire of shots and went to 50 in style while Tattersall continued with his transformation from bowler to batsman.
With Houghton Town reduced to setting fields by committee and attempting various novel manoeuvres (notably allowing the infamous KKs substitute fielder to bowl justice was done as KK Ringer went wicketless in six expensive overs) Cerasale continued his assault. He had made a sublime 75 when Tattersall flicked the ball away to the legside boundary and set off for two. Cerasale, ostensibly convinced that he was running to the safe end, ambled down the wicket and seemed surprised when the ball fizzed past him at some speed with the result that he was run out by about eight feet.
However, with just 11 required and 14 balls remaining, Tattersall took charge and played a couple of cracking shots to finish unbeaten on 48. The innings gave him 115 runs for the season from just two knocks although it would be remiss not to point out that in 12.5 overs this year he has conceded 123 runs.
The epic run chase was the highest total ever recorded batting second by Offley as they cantered home in the gloaming with Cerasale and Tattersall leading the way to cap a magnificent team batting performance. For the second year in succession the club triumphed in unlikely circumstances against Houghton Town and as the winning shot crossed the boundary to clinch victory, Offleys players could perhaps be briefly forgiven for wishing they played at Icknield every week. And if anyone truly wishes that they could play at Icknield every week they really are beyond all help.
Hell of a win though.