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St Albans IV Vs Offley & Stopsley CC - 26th May
OSCC Won by 6 Wickets
Ten-man Offley & Stopsley defied the elements to record a much-needed win against St Albans on the rolling slopes of Harpendens Rothampstead Park. Nathan Brodie set up the win with a sparkling 78 and Steve Bexfield hit an unbeaten 48 to finish the job after Richie Barker had picked up four wickets.
Bexfield won the toss on an overcast and chilly day and elected to bowl first. Offley missed the chance to strike in the first over when Mo Chaudry failed to hold on to a chance in the gully to the frustration of bowler Rizwan. Qumar made the initial breakthrough when he had Basir caught at slip by Barker, diving to his left at slip to record his 100th catch for the club. Despite the wicket Offley were forced on to the back foot as Devadason took the chance to tee off on Rizwan and hit him for a succession of boundaries before attempting a ludicrous single to Brodie in the covers and being run out by about eight yards as he struggled to regain his ground.
Offley were prevented from forcing home their advantage as play was held up by an officious council worker who took exception to where players from both teams had parked their cars. Rather than opting to fork out seven pounds each to park in the leisure centre car park the teams elected to park behind the pavilion. However, this did not suit the bug-eyed, scarlet-faced official who insisted that the cars were moved on. Wayne Cutts attempted to mediate with officialdom, using a friendly tone and winning manner in a bid to persuade the gentleman from the council to see sense and allow the game to proceed. When this failed the gentleman from the council stubbornly holding his ground Cutts sanguine diplomacy deserted him and he duly informed the gentleman from the council that he was brain dead. The game was subsequently held up for the best part of half an hour as the players were forced to find parking spaces in the streets of Harpenden, Cutts mood hardly helped by having to leave his vehicle 15 minutes walk from the ground.
When play resumed Offley claimed two quick wickets as Barker was introduced into the attack and bowled the dangerous Ahmed as he attempted something agricultural before dismissing Hancock for no score after shouldering arms However, after that Offley started to come unstuck as they committed a number of mistakes in the field. Qumar missed one on the boundary that seemed easier to stop, Bexfield failed to hold on to a difficult opportunity at square leg, Matthew Freeman adopted the defiance of a conscientious objector to fielding and even the normally reliable Brodie misfielded on several occasions on a treacherous outfield. All in all it was not a good day for young Freeman who failed to take a wicket for the third time in his past four outings despite a more consistent display with the ball.
Budd and Hounslow were able to bat together with few alarms for more than 20 overs, taking full advantage of a rusty three-over burst from Brodie, before Barker induced Budd to hoist a leading edge to midwicket where Chris Latino held a good catch. Barker bowled the hosts skipper James in the same over and Qumar picked up two late wickets as St Albans were restricted to 194-8.
Brodie and Chaudry got Offley off to a fast start as they hammered the bowling to all parts. Brodie led the way as James was plundered for 33 runs from just three overs amid a succession of boundaries and the batsmen took the score to 72 in the 12th over when rain forced the players off the pitch. The prospects of a resumption looked bleak at one stage but the rain abated and Offley were left to score 195 from 40 overs for victory. The opening stand was worth 99 when Hounslow uprooted Chaudrys off stump and promptly followed it up by bowling Rizwan for a duck.
Bexfield joined Brodie and they took the score to 130 before Brodies innings was ended by Hounslow as he attempted an optimistic drive. He finished with 13 boundaries in his 78 as he comfortably produced his best display of the season.
Barker hit a sprightly 15 before losing his leg stump with the total on 155 but Bexfield held firm and shared an unbeaten 42-run stand with Darren Lunney to see Offley to victory. Bexfield looked certain to record his second half century of the season before Lunney unfurled a couple of cracking shots and the game was decided when the batsmen scampered through for a leg bye that would have left Offley needing two to win, only for the fielder to launch a wayward throw and hand Offley four overthrows to settle the outcome.
It was hardly a convincing performance from Bexfields team but considering the absence of key players such as Steve Hoar, Jon Cerasale, Chris Austin and long-term injury victim Colin Keeley, plus Steve Barons late withdrawal on the morning of the game, it was a vital victory nonetheless.