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Offley & Stopsley Vs Wotton-on-Stone - 28/4/07

OSCC Won by 69 runs

Offley eased to their second victory of the season with a solid all-round performance. Although no one managed a big score (none of the batsmen even reached 30 although the visitors donated 42 extras to the cause) there were useful contributions throughout the order before the bowlers proved too good on a tiring wicket.

Offley batted first after a pre-toss negotiation where the visiting captain made clear that his batsmen could not be expected to bat on such a surface while he would also be unable to unleash his regular opening bowlers for fear of the damage they might inflict on the nest of spitting cobras. Offley took full advantage of their Lord of the Manor / Serf relationship with tenants Lilley by dragooning Gareth Tompkins and James Ashby in to make up the numbers.

Tompkins opened the batting with Mo Chaudry and played a couple of pleasant shots before playing on. The visiting spinners were soon in action and Ashby fell for 6, neither forward nor back and hopelessly defeated by a straight ball.

Chaudry batted with more caution than usual as he relied mainly on defensive prods but still found time to unfurl a splendid straight six that bounced off the roof of the bar before he too became a victim of spin to leave Offley 64-3 at the midway point.

The dismissal brought Darren Lunney and Chris Latino together. Latino was quickly into his stride, determined to prove that last year’s highest score of 4 and total of 5 overall was an aberration rather than an accurate reflection of any abject lack of talent. He made the most of his luck, notably some iffy wicketkeeping and the calling of his partner to make a useful 13. Lunney also batted with some poise and was particularly severe on anything full and floaty before feathering a catch to the keeper.

Rizwan carried on where he left off against Lilley and was quickly into his boundary-hitting stride, striking the ball with real power and struck six boundaries in his 28. Matthew Freeman scored his first runs of the season and belied his customary lack of enthusiasm for facing anyone faster than an eight-year old with a sponge ball to play some attractive shots before succumbing to over-ambition. There was still time for Steve Bexfield to record his first not out of the season as he helped Offley up to an imposing 192-8 from their 40 overs, a target that always seemed as if it might be beyond the scope of the visitors’ batsmen in the face of a strong home bowling attack.

Freeman and Rizwan opened the attack but failed to make the initial breakthrough. Freeman paid the price for trying to have the dangerous Ellis caught in the backward point area and repeatedly fed the batsman’s favourite cut shot in search of the catch. The move almost worked when Richie Barker produced an early contender for catch of the season, hurling himself to his right and trying to pluck the ball out of the air with one hand. Unfortunately he could only tip the ball over the bar but he looked quite magnificent. Freeman was removed from the attack after another boundary, not helped by an iffy piece of fielding from the captain. Freeman made his feelings known to Bexfield on the subject and subsequently found himself exiled to fine leg for the rest of proceedings.

Bexfield made a double change and introduced his two Lilley imports into the attack and the match was quickly turned on its head. Ashby made the initial breakthrough to remove Williams, sending the bails cartwheeling through the air with his second delivery, before Tompkins widened the breach with two wickets in his second over as the pair claimed three scalps in 11 balls. Lunney held the first of three catches behind the stumps and Chaudry was handed a catch on a silver platter after Tompkins’ pace was too much for the startled Westwood.

The visitors were suddenly reeling against the ropes and the game was as good as over when Ashby found the edge of Ellis’s bat and Lunney held on to a sharp chance. Tompkins picked up a third wicket before retiring to the outfield and giving way to Barker as Bexfield turned to his premier slow bowler.

It took just three balls for Barker to find the edge as Lunney held on to another tricky opportunity, moving across in front of the vacant slip area and grabbing the ball at the second attempt. Unfortunately the umpire was of the opinion that Miller (presumably a close personal relative) had not in fact nicked the cover and claimed he could not see. Apparently he couldn’t hear either and the sudden chill in the air was presumably the spirit of cricket dying little by little.

Ashby put an end to Miller’s resistance in his next over as he banged one in short and the batsman could only sky his pull shot into the waiting hands of Bexfield at midwicket where the skipper’s strong sense of fair play proved stronger than his customary ability to shell whatever comes his way.

The innings was quickly brought to a conclusion as Barker picked up two wickets and Steve Baron claimed his second wicket of the season before Bexfield applied the finishing touch with a fast straight ball that was too good for the last man.

The end result was a well deserved Offley victory with most of the team getting the chance to contribute with bat or ball. The guest players took the opportunity to exorcise the ghosts of their monstrous hammering the week before and one wonders what might have happened if Ashby had not been omitted from the Lilley team after his poor showing in the nets. The only sign of dissent came from a familiar source. Freeman was still chuntering away at the end about a lack of opportunity and demanding to know how he was meant to get in shape for the first league game.

Eat fewer crisps and chocolate bars would be the obvious answer ....