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Offley & Stopsley 131-9 Vs Lilley 30 all out- 20th April
OSCC Won by 101 runs
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According to the Spanish, revenge is a dish best tasted cold. There may not have been many Spaniards present at Offley on Sunday but there was no disputing the fact that it was a bitterly cold day as Colin Keeley destroyed Lilleys batting line-up as he claimed club record figures of 8-10 to help Offley avenge last years season-ending defeat at the hands of their local rivals. Lilleys 11 batsmen produced just eight scoring shots between them (or 0.72 per batsman) on a day when extras top-scored with 9.
Steve Bexfield won the toss for Offley and elected to bat first on a pitch that looked certain to aid the bowlers in the opening overs. Steve Hoar opened the batting with Chris Latino and the former Luton star played a couple of fine shots before whipping a ball off his pads and holing out in the gulley for 5 or 129 runs less than he managed in last years encounter. Latino was next to go, playing round a straight ball and being bowled for 8 after a solid effort at the top of the order from the one-time rugby union star. Offley were in trouble at 31-3 when Mo Chaudry chipped a return catch to Gareth Tompkins and the situation looked even bleaker when Nathan Brodie aimed an expansive drive at Tim Perry and was bowled middle stump to leave Offley rocking on 53-4.
Chris Austin joined Richie Barker and the pair dug in with some solid batting as they dragged the total up to 82-4 with some painstaking accumulation of singles, byes and the odd smear as they rode their luck against Perry and one-time Offley player Majid Shah. However, the game changed with the introduction into the attack of occasional Offley player, James Ashby. Ashby shrugged off the pain of his knee injury to chug in from the football pitch end in a manner reminiscent of former Lilley great Kenneth Hammond charging up Everest into a stiff gale force wind, giving his all for the Lilley cause.
Unfortunately it wasnt much of an all sort of Steve Harmison on a bad day. Six balls later the scoreboard read 100-4 as Barker helped himself to three boundaries and the first 6 of the season. Four times Ashby pitched short and four times Barker hammered him towards or over the legside boundary. Barker succumbed shortly afterwards, miscuing another pull shot off Ashby, but not before he had registered his first half-century of the season, a landmark he did not pass until July last season.
Austin made the long walk back to the pavilion a few moments later after he was caught at short leg propping forward although judging by the scowl on his face and the shake of his head on his return to the pavilion he did not agree with the verdict that he had touched the ball with his bat.
Colin Keeley and debutant Carl Clare joined forces for a raucous partnership of 4, a stand that featured some lusty attempted blows and some harum-scarum running before Keeley was bowled for a single. Clare followed him back after mistiming a drive to leave Offley in trouble on 111-8. However, Bexfield was joined by perennial duck merchant Wayne Cutts and the two shared an entertaining stand of 15 before Bexfield miscued to point to give Ashby his third wicket, a tally that did not look possible when he was being smeared to all parts of Hertfordshire during his opening over.
But the real story was Cutts as he smeared and drove his way to an unbeaten 10 the third-highest score of a fairly ropy career. Ostensibly using the force or perhaps simply shutting his eyes and swinging whilst hoping for the best Cutts played some glorious shots and gave the rare impression that he knew what he was doing. Matty Freeman picked up his first not out of the season a potentially invaluable 2 as Offley closed on 131-9. Punters were left to rue their failure to take up Ladbrokes on their odds of 1000-1 that Cutts would finish with the second-highest score.
When Lilleys openers walked out to begin their reply the game looked to be in the balance. Indeed when the scoreboard read 9-0 after two legitimate deliveries courtesy of a wayward opening barrage from Freeman, the visitors looked to be slight favourites.
However, Colin Keeley changed all that in the blink of an eye. Charging in for the last time as a 30-something, he wreaked havoc with the Lilley order, claiming the prized scalp of Ashby in his opening over when he induced a leading edge and Brodie took a comfortable catch at cover. Lilley were in deep trouble when the dangerous Gareth Tomkins sliced an ambitious drive to gulley where the sometimes cack-handed Hoar took an excellent judge running back to register the first duck of the innings; in Disney terms, Donald had arrived but Daisy, Huey, Duey and Louie plus some other ugly duckling were yet to appear.
Moments later Brad Tompkins was on his way after whipping the ball towards midwicket and watching Bexfield make a difficult catch look surprisingly easy. Tompkins fell for 3, a score that was destined to be the third-highest score of the innings. Freeman claimed his first wicket when Dave Carman sliced an optimistic shot to Barker in the gulley before Perry became the first Lilley batsman to be dismissed by something that was not instantly recognisable as a slog or smear when Keeley produced a vicious lifter and Austin toppled forward to take a fine catch to make it 21-5.
Majid survived being dropped by Chaudry to muster 2 runs before chipping a catch to Latino and then Berry went first ball, succumbing in similar fashion. It capped a fine day for Berry who dropped three catches in addition to recording a golden duck. Possibly the Offley Cricket Ground has seen more abject performances, probably it has not. At that stage the scoreboard read 21-7 and Keeley had rather impressive figures of 6-2.
Taz Qureshi helped Lilley avoid total humiliation by hitting his first two balls for four, ruining Keeleys figures in the process. However, he was soon on his way, after offering a catch to Clare at point. Craig Paddington lasted two balls before Keeley castled him to make it 30-9, thereby becoming the first bowler in the history of Offley & Stopsley Cricket Club to claim 8 wickets in an innings. Freeman wrapped up the tail by bowling the noble Mills off the inside edge after the batsman had doggedly defied Offley for some time, playing comfortably the most responsible innings by a Lilley batsman but ending up with a duck anyway.
Six Lilley players were dismissed without opening their account, the type of figures normally associated with Northern Rock. In addition McCardle was 0 not out when proceedings came to a merciful end. Extras top-scored with 9 as Offley set a club record for dismissing an opponent for just 30 runs, a performance that left a couple of Offleys players to inquire of Lilley as to, Wheres your Kenny gone?
Ultimately a day that will live long in infamy ended with Offley winning by 101 runs after Lilleys batsmen combined for just eight scoring shots and all of them were outscored by Cutts. It was a day for ducks, for Cutts and for Barker but ultimately it was a day for Colin Keeley, flicking a finger at Father Time and claiming the remarkable figures of 8-10.
Offley have one hand on the prestigious Towndrow-Mansfield Trophy but it remains to be seen whether they can seal the deal come September. Yet for the moment there are smiles in Offley and sad faces in Lilley following a contest that is destined to live in the memory forever as Keeleys Match.