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Offley & Stopsley 201-5 Vs North Mymms 99 all out - 26 April

OSCC Won by by 102 runs

(Official Match Sponsors: Lunney’s Fashion Emporium: Stylists to the Stars)

Offley celebrated the birthdays of Matthew Freeman (23 going on 12) and Colin Keeley (40 and just going on and on and on) by easing to a comfortable victory over North Mymms. The result gave Nathan Brodie his first win as captain, a win that was secured with the assistance of Jon Cerasale’s bat and a fine all-round display from Richie Barker.

Brodie won the toss on a warm, sunny day and had no hesitation in deciding to bat first on a typically slow-paced pitch, the same pitch that had produced such thrilling stroke play in the opening game of the season against Lilley. Birthday boy Keeley opened up with Chris Latino and Offley were soon into their stride as Keeley took a liking to the inconsistent offerings of the towering 6-10 Gregory. Keeley hammered three boundaries en route to 20 and looked primed for a big score. Unfortunately he squandered a good start by slapping a full toss down long off’s throat. Latino soon followed him back to the pavilion after playing too soon at a slower ball from a small child and was comprehensively bowled having been utterly deceived by the flight. Youngster Gary Chamberlain smashed a tremendous six down the ground before being bowled for 12 to leave Offley rocking slightly at 43-3.

Brodie and Barker repaired the innings with a stand of 51. Brodie was the dominant partner as he looked to carry the attack to the opposition and played some impressive shots before aiming an ugly swipe at the third ball of leg-spinner Baldwin’s opening over and having his stumps rearranged. Scott Addy came and went in quick time as he top-edged a sweep before Cerasale walked to the middle with the score on 102-5.

If the match was still in the balance when Barker and Cerasale came together, it was effectively over by the time they walked off 15 overs later having shared an unbeaten stand of 99, a club record for the sixth wicket. Barker, snorting and breathing heavily like a buckshot buffalo, continued to underpin the innings and rotate the strike with a solid effort that involved a laughable dependency on scampered singles. However, Cerasale opened up with his new bat as he impersonated Adam Ant – stand and deliver! The veteran all-rounder thumped seven boundaries and an impressive straight six before bringing his 50 up in the final over of the innings. Barker finished unbeaten on 61 and Cerasale made 56 to carry Offley to the imposing heights of 201-5.

North Mymms needed a solid start if they were to have any chance but Freeman produced his second impressive opening burst of the campaign. He conceded just three runs in his four overs and claimed the first wicket of the innings when he smashed through Simmons’ defences to hit the base of the middle stump, despite suspicions that Umpire Bexfield may have allowed his protégé to get away with a no ball. Was this a birthday wicket, Bexfield’s way of making up for the lack of a present such as a shiny bicycle or a train set? No one will ever know. Look in the book as they say. In any event Simmons sadly walked off, adjusting his spectacles and running his fingers through his silver-grey hair, the latest elderly gentleman to fall victim to Fiery Freeman.

At the other end Marc Ward got in on the act and claimed his first wicket of the season as Cerasale took a comfortable catch at gulley before Brodie utterly bamboozled Tunnell with a slower ball. Brodie took his second wicket when Chamberlain held on to a well-judged catch at midwicket. Boucher and Langley joined forces for North Mymms and dug in as they looked to survive against Brodie and take the attack to leg-spinner Wayne Cutts. Latino heroically denied Boucher of a certain boundary by throwing his testicles in the way of a fierce square cut, opting to preserve his pianist’s figures and sacrifice his nuts for the cause. Cutts produced some impressive deliveries but showed an unfortunate, lemming-like tendency to feed Boucher’s favourite sweep shot with the result that the ball kept disappearing through square leg. On one such occasion Addy damaged his pride and dignity – but fortunately not his health – by attempting to vault over the fence and came crashing down in a heap.

The writing was on the wall when Barker beat Boucher in the flight to remove the North Mymms skipper for 38. Cerasale splattered Gregory’s stumps and debutant Gary Law took an exceptional one-handed catch behind the stumps to give Barker his second wicket. The young Rathbone fell in the same over without scoring (the ninth batsmen to be dismissed for a duck by Offley’s bowlers in the opening two games). If it did not quite represent a case of stealing candy from a baby, it certainly was an example of kicking a small child’s stumps over. The game was all but up when Langley, who had made a great show of keeping the strike with a kamikaze single, was bowled by Barker slogging wildly across the line and attempting to mow the ball towards Stopsley.

All that remained to be seen was whether Barker could achieve the rare feat of a half-century and five wickets in the same match. It seemed unlikely when Rogers offered a chance to Brodie but the captain was unable to hold on as he dived to his right. It capped an unhappy couple of minutes for the skipper who had come perilously close to being decapitated in the previous over as the youngster smashed the ball past his ear at a rate of knots as he crouched for a bat-pad catch at short leg. Barker claimed his fifth wicket when Rogers prodded forward and Addy held a fine catch at silly point to bring the curtain down on proceedings.

All in all a fairly comfortable victory for Brodie in his first match in charge, even though it appeared to give him a headache at one stage. Cerasale’s performance with the bat was impressive, especially considering that he started last season with consecutive ducks, but Barker claimed centre stage after producing one of the finest all-round displays in Offley history, a magnificent display by this magnificently gifted, albeit modest, cricketer.