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ChorleyWood III's 186 all out Vs Offley & Stopsley CC 187-9

OSCC Won by 1 Wkt

Some days you win, some days you lose, some days it rains… and some days you win it all on the last roll of the dice by depositing the bowler back over his head for six.

Offley kept up the pressure on Ickleford at the top of the Saracens League by scraping home with their last pair at the wicket to edge out Chorleywood in the most dramatic game of the campaign.

Offley went into the game with just 10 men owing to a variety of reasons ranging from holidays, weddings, alcoholic exuberance and the curious decision to watch others play cricket and pay through the nose for the privilege. Despite being a man light in the field Steve Bexfield kept with his tried and tested formula of bowling first after winning the toss. It looked like a grave error of judgement as Colin Keeley and Rizwan both struggled to find their line and the hosts rattled up 60 inside the first eight overs with Tweedie mowing the ball in a wide arc between third man and cover and fielders taking it in turns to search for the missing ball in thick foliage.

Jon Cerasale stemmed the flow when he castled Dare for 20 and then jagged one back through Tweedie’s defences after he had hammered his way to 53 and was threatening to smash Offley out of contention. A fine piece of fielding from Mo Chaudry looked to have accounted for Corbridge but he was contentiously granted a reprieve by the umpire who had taken up a poor position to make a ruling on the direct hit. However, Corbridge soon departed when he edged James Ashby through to the keeper and stand-in Chris Latino held a fine catch to end the batsman’s second innings.

Despite the wickets Chorleywood began to build an imposing target as Botterill and England starlet Toms dug in. Botterill hit Cerasale for a pair of sixes and looked well set when he played back to Richie Barker and was sent on his way by Umpire Bigmore.

Mo Chaudry took over from Ashby and quickly began to scatter his unique blend of dolly mixture around as if he were a child molester running wild in a playground. Chaudry’s opening gambit included a double bouncer, a moon ball, a wide, a pie that Matthew Freeman turned into a boundary by opening his legs wider than an Old Bedford Road whore and a searing delivery that pitched outside off and ripped through Rice’s tentative prod to send the off stump cartwheeling.

The second drinks break of the day revived Offley and Chaudry bounced out Humble with the aid of a rotten bouncer, an awful shot and a good catch by Steve Bexfield. Sinderberry was promptly sent on his way as Chaudry broke the bail and followed it up by blowing Harrison away en route to figures of 4-22. At the other end Barker accounted for Henderson as the batsman’s wild smear propelled the ball straight up into the air and into Latino’s gloves to leave the hosts nine down.

However, Toms showed no signs of getting out and with the assistance of the hulking elder Sinderberry (a man who would not have looked out of place on a chain gang and could probably crunch rocks in his teeth) began to accumulate priceless runs. The partnership was assuming significant proportions when Toms slashed Ashby high to Barker in the gulley where the fielder took a remarkably agile catch as he plucked the ball out of the air with his left hand to end the innings on 187 and dismiss the impressive Toms for 35.

Offley’s reply got off to a steady start with Chaudry and Bexfield showing few alarms before Bexfield aimed a lazy drive at Sinderberry and Toms took a fine diving catch at point. Moments later Rizwan capped a fairly rotten day by being bowled for a duck to leave Offley rocking on 37-2, effectively 37-3.

The situation worsened for Offley on account of a small child doing his bit in the away toilets, depositing a floater that declined to flush owing to a lack of water and casting a dark, almost satanic smell that settled in the visitors’ changing room like pestilence on the air.

With batting out in the middle preferable to returning to the toxic changing room, Barker and Chaudry repaired the damage with a patient stand that grew in value and momentum until the hosts were looking thoroughly dejected. Chaudry batted with calm authority, happy to block and wait for the bad ball while Barker began to play with freedom on a wicket offering bounce and the opportunity to play through the line.

However, Toms sparked a dramatic collapse when he fortuitously found the edge of Chaudry’s broad bat and Dare took a fine one-handed catch standing up to the leg spinner to break the stand at 83 and leave Offley on 120-3. Two balls later it was 120-4 as Freeman was sent on his way via an inside edge that landed in the keeper’s gloves after nutmegging the batsman.

Cerasale marched out to the wicket and instantly looked to take the attack to the bowlers, crashing Sinderberry through cover for four before following it up with a frankly abysmal shot that might have sent the ball out of the county had he made contact but sadly resulted in nothing more than the middle stump being knocked back. Ashby played in a similarly cavalier vein to Cerasale, accumulating a single before edging a wild slash to the keeper to leave Offley on 139-6 and the hosts on top.

Keeley strode out to the middle with a nonchalant air considering it was his first innings of the season. Sinderberry spilled a return catch when he had made just 2 and Keeley made the bowler pay with three boundaries, including a bona fide pull shot and something that was almost an on drive, before attempting a repeat performance and losing his middle pole after failing to connect with an agricultural smear. Keeley slowly walked off, pausing only to belt an empty orange juice bottle on the boundary edge, after contributing an invaluable 18 to the cause and dominating a stand of 28 to lift the total to 167.

Jeff Francis helped Barker take the score up to 174 before shuffling back to Sinderberry and being trapped in front for a single despite being of the opinion that the ball would have passed over the stumps. Umpire Bigmore did not share that view and sent the batsman on his way with a wave of the finger.

Offley needed 14 to win as Latino, his side’s last and only hope, walked out to join Barker. Inspired by his chum Freeman’s prediction that he would be stumped without scoring, Latino picked up a single from his first ball and Barker brought the required total down to eight as he hit a boundary and a single to retain the strike. Two wides and another single left Offley needing five to win and Latino facing the last ball of the over from a fired-up Corbridge. Corbridge charged in out of the setting sun but Latino played the best forward defensive shot of his life to thwart the bowler, the tide turning decisively in Offley’s favour as the batsman survived with stoic defence.

All that remained was the application of the coup de grace. Barker pulled Sinderberry towards the boundary but a diving stop on the line restricted Offley to two runs. After an optimistic heave towards the legside boundary connected with thin air, Barker went for glory and got enough on a pitched up delivery to drive it over the bowler’s head for six and end the game in style, prompting scenes of celebration on the boundary edge and in the middle.

The victory kept Offley within five points of Ickleford and also opened up a sizeable cushion over third-placed Potters Bar with five games of the season to go as 10 men trumped 11 for the second week running, edging home by the narrowest of margins in a thrilling climax.