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Offley & Stopsley CC Vs Northwood III - 7th July
OSCC Won by 5 Wkts
Steve Bexfields team moved into second place in the Saracens League ahead of next weeks do-or-die clash against Ickleford with a five-wicket win over Northwood.
Offleys bowlers withstood a barrage of devastating stroke-play from the Northwood batsmen to restrict the visitors to 111-8 after Bexfield had won the toss and opted to bowl first.
Fells and Mackey opened the batting for Northwood and in the context of what was to come later blazed away from the off in a manner reminiscent of Gilchrist and Hayden in full flow. Fells departed when he miscued an expansive drive off Rizwan and picked out the increasingly dependable Matthew Freeman at mid off. Mackey soon followed after playing on to Kosala to bring skipper Dickson to the middle to join Chaudry. Chaudry soon proved to have a vague idea of batsmanship and the afternoon would have gone hard with Northwood had Koala held on to a regulation chance at point.
The Northwood total began to tick over slowly but surely as Richie Barker came on and promptly recaptured his bowling form. Unfortunately he recaptured his form of sometime in the last century and proceeded to spray the ball down the legside with monotonous regularity. Fortunately Freeman produced one of the finest certainly the longest spell of his Offley career to tie up the batsmen. Steaming in from the Kings Walden Road End and fuelled by nothing more than a diet of Chomp bars, Coca-cola and bulldog spirit, Freeman proceeded to bowl with venom and accuracy and cause problems for all of the batsmen.
After Barker granted Chaudry his second reprieve of the afternoon, spilling an eminently catchable chance at square leg, Freeman made the breakthrough by castling Chaudry for 43. Nandi came and went for 5 and in the process managed to run his captain out. Dickson clearly did not look amused as he made his way back to the pavilion after flaying the Offley attack for 13 runs from 76 balls.
The Northwood batsmen slowly gave up the ghost as they adopted a conscientious objectors approach to scoring runs. Barker surrendered just four runs in a five-over stretch and Freeman sent down seven maidens as the visitors failed to score off 18 of their 51 overs. Barker picked up a couple of wickets to take his tally to the season to 40 and Freeman claimed his third scalp of the day but neither bowler was able to find a way through the staunch defence of Mike Gatting look-alike Rogers. Rogers made a composed 2 not out from 17 balls, a highly useful effort in the circumstances as the Northwood batsmen played with reckless abandon to plunder seven runs from the last five overs as they closed on 111-8.
Mo Chaudry and Nathan Brodie opened the reply for Offley and were both given early lives as Northwoods motley crew of aged fielders failed to accept the opportunities that came their way. Chaudry departed leg before after playing round a straight one and Darren Lunney joined Brodie at the crease.
Lunney proceeded to scratch around like a blind man who had never played the game before. His first 43 deliveries yielded a single and he was also dropped three times, including a pair of sitters at cover by hapless youth Tom. Lunneys early ineptitude did not matter while Brodie was taking advantage of some poor bowling but when he missed a loopy full toss from Chaudry to leave Offley on 43-2 things began to change rapidly.
Wayne Cutts strode to the crease with rare purpose. If the purpose was to look like he had even less clue than Lunney he certainly succeeded. Cutts batted with the air of a man who would struggle to hit a slow moving beach ball and it was no surprise that he was bowled without scoring. Slightly more surprising was his claim that his dismissal was due to boredom. Jeff Francis marked his first appearance of the season by missing his third ball to leave Offley rocking on 45-4.
Bexfield marched out to the middle, apparently intent on ending the game as quickly as possible. He unfurled a couple of pleasing boundary strokes before Rogers offered up a slow, albeit straight, full toss that Bexfield generously played round / over the top / under. Needless to say he didnt hit the bloody thing and Offleys skipper was sent on his way to leave the home changing room in a state of shock and panic and the captain on his way to Specsavers for an emergency eye test.
Freeman joined Lunney in the middle with 59 still needed for victory and Northwood sensing a dramatic victory. However, they were denied as Lunney swapped his white stick for five star willow and Freeman produced a mature innings that mixed watchful defence with the odd bludgeoning smear. The tide began to turn as Lunney uncorked a six and the hare and tortoise combination even found the energy to run a couple of threes, Freeman hurtling up and down the wicket like Phil Gourd on his way to the bar at last orders.
Northwoods dispirited fielders lost belief as doughty northerner Lunney and doughy southerner Freeman edged Offley ever closer to victory. The winning runs sparked scenes of relief and jubilation in the Offley ranks as they clinched another vital victory to keep Ickleford in sight ahead of next weeks crunch game at Wardown Park.
Ghosts will stalk the field at Wardown as Offley return to the scene of two epic cup final victories and one man will have another chance to lay to rest the memory of four run outs. Although considering his current form and likely position in the batting order if the individual in question lasts long enough to run one of his teammates out, let alone four, it will be a major surprise.