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Offley & Stopsley CC Vs Luton Town & Indians III - 5th May

OSCC Won by 8 Wkts

Division 11 Champions Offley began their Division 10 campaign with a relatively comfortable eight-wicket victory over Luton Town.

It was an interesting, albeit icy day at Offley. Colin Keeley bowled above and beyond the call of duty in a marathon 22-over spell that yielded a solitary wicket, Steve Hoar proved he could catch and Matthew Freeman revealed to an enthralled audience that he doesn’t drink Ribena.

After forgetting to put the urn on (he also failed to turn the water to wine and proved to have little success in healing the sick and the lame) Steve Bexfield lost the toss on a day that was more reminiscent of March than May and the visitors elected to bat first on a close-cropped track.

After Rizwan struck an early blow by hitting Parker’s middle stump, Fred Karno’s Circus rolled back into town as Offley followed on where they left off against Ickleford with another wretched display in the field, clearly missing Nathan Brodie who was absent celebrating his 21st. Happy birthday, Bloodaxe.

Chris Austin returned from his bid to qualify for the Winter Olympics to drop his first catch of the season behind the stumps. After an intensive winter’s training in the Alps, Chris the Kestrel (so-called not because he soars through the air but because he sometimes flaps about behind the stumps) is Britain’s biggest ski-jumping medal prospect since Eddie the Eagle but after allowing the first ball of the match to cannon into his chest he grassed his first opportunity. Keeley, in the early stages of an epic spell, was soon into the action in the field as he made a splendid hash of a steepling high but regulation chance at fine leg.

The unfortunate bowler was Freeman but he soon forfeited any sympathy by failing to execute a simple run out after he bungled Bexfield’s throw with both batsmen marooned at the opposite end. Possibly disorientated by that mistake, Freeman proceeded to bowl like a drain. Although he only bowled five overs aborted his run up to the crease on at least a dozen occasions. A charitable observer might have taken pity on a talented bowler struggling with the dreaded yips. However, seasoned Freeman observers were inclined to point out that you can only suffer the yips and lose your run up if you had one to start with.

The final straw came after a sharp exchange of views with skipper Bexfield as the bowler made it clear he did not agree with the field settings, as they apparently did not concur with his cunning plan of picking up wickets by bowling leg stump long hops. Freeman was duly exiled to fine leg for the remainder of proceedings, complaining that he hadn’t had any lunch. It didn’t matter if the batsmen had had any lunch because they appeared to have gorged themselves on Freeman’s pies.

A rare impressive piece of fielding picked up the second wicket as Rizwan chased down a leg glance and hurled it back in. Austin handled the throw expertly to send Shirley on his way for a somewhat fortunate 30. Shortly after drinks were taken amid much shaking of heads at the standard of the fielding.

After a quick glass of Ribena 10 Offley players returned to the middle. Freeman was the exception as he disappeared into the pavilion (possibly for a McCoy break) and then strolled languidly down towards the car park to help himself to a long drink of water. He eventually deigned to return to his position at mid off after making it quite clear that he didn’t like Ribena and if orange or lemon weren’t on the menu he wasn’t going to drink it. So there.

After the drinks break wickets began to fall as the visitors attempted to push the accelerator. Darren Lunney revived memories of last year’s missed sitter at Welwyn by allowing a slow lob to rattle around his rib cage (midriff, my arse) and then fall to the floor, accompanied by a howl of anguish from the persevering Keeley. However, Lunney atoned by scrambling after the loose ball and throwing down the stumps to remove Chauhan for a patient 46. Keeley finally picked up the wicket he deserved when he dismissed the dangerous Arun Patel with his 128th delivery.

It was a remarkable effort from Keeley as he kept going for most of the afternoon, chugging in from the Tennis Court End like the little engine that could, conjuring images of Derek Pringle in the autumnal stage of his career. He finally withdrew from the attack after sending down a magnificent 22 overs and finishing with figures of 22-7-53-1. Despite his heroics, Keeley’s satisfaction at his arduous spell will no doubt be tempered by the realisation that no fast bowler could have kept going for so long so he is evidently a self-proven trundler.

After Keeley retired exhausted to fine leg, Rizwan returned to the attack but it was the spin of Barker that ran through the tail. The key wicket came when Ravi smashed Barker high and hard down the ground towards Hoar at long on. It was a critical moment for the former Luton star who had missed a sitter at Ickleford and already grassed a difficult chance earlier in the game. The fielder initially seemed to misjudge the catch but he adjusted well to haul in the opportunity and prove that he does have hands. The innings subsided amid a welter of run outs (four in all) and optimistic slogs as Barker finished with 4-33 and Luton were dismissed for 168 with four balls of their allotted innings remaining.

Hoar opened the innings with Mo Chaudry and was evidently keen to prove a point against his former club. While Chaudry made the most of an extraordinary reprieve on 1 when he was dropped by a gulley fielder who appeared to be under the misguided impression he was playing volley ball, spiking a spliced defensive shot into the ground, Hoar cut loose with a series of impressive drives.

The visitors had no answer as Hoar blazed away through the offside and Chaudry was soon into his stride, mixing his familiar blend of finest agricultural mows with powerful straight hitting. The game was effectively over as they shared a century opening stand and reached their half centuries in consecutive overs. Hoar finally succumbed when he gloved a small child’s viciously spinning delivery to the keeper after an impressive 63 lifted his aggregate to for the season to 238 runs from three innings.

Wayne Cutts was promoted to number three after a heroic display in the field where he slipped and slid around like a baby-oiled sumo wrestler on ice. Cutts played some pleasing shots before succumbing in familiar fashion as he attempted to paddle sweep a straight ball and was sent on his way by Umpire Bigmore. Darren Lunney joined Chaudry to administer the last rites but despite some enthusiastic swishes and swipes from Lunney, it was Chaudry who had the last word as he put the bowlers to the sword with some fierce hitting to finish unbeaten on 78.

Offley wrapped up an eight-wicket win with plenty of time to spare to send them to the top of the table after their opening encounter despite a sometimes shambolic display in the field.

After the game Keeley headed off to investigate the possibility of being temporarily embalmed in deep heat in the hope of being able to walk normally sometime soon. Freeman was left to contemplate his demise from strike bowler to luxury item after producing a performance that conjured images of chocolate teapots and condom machines in the Vatican while skipper Bexfield was left to wonder just what he’d done to deserve it.