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Ickleford 210-6 Vs Offley & Stopsley CC 146 all out - 13th July

OSCC Lost by 64 runs

Offley & Stopsley’s hopes of cementing their hold on second place in the North Herts League were destroyed by a breathless, brainless half hour with the bat, as the batting order disintegrated in bewildering fashion, with eight wickets going down for 30 runs. The beachhead of 58-0 was swamped by a tidal wave of inept shot selection and general misfortune as the innings fell apart in stunning fashion.

Steve Bexfield lost the toss and Offley were asked to field, tidings that were not especially well-received by one or two members of the team following their exertions of the night before. Rizwan and Carl Clare opened the bowling and the hosts got off to a steady start with Rizwan suffering his customary ill luck and Clare failing to locate his line and length. A splendidly inept piece of fielding from Matty Freeman didn’t help the cause – or Bexfield’s blood pressure – but Freeman redeemed himself by making the breakthrough with a superb delivery that pitched and cut away to clip the top of off stump.

Richie Barker and Dave Bridgland wheeled away to no great effect and Offley were staring down the barrel when Clare was recalled into the attack. Steaming in with pace and aggression, he wasted little time in convincing Pursey of the benefits of backing away towards square leg and offering a tame catch to Bridgland in the gully. He almost had a second wicket when Robinson sent the ball into orbit but Bexfield failed to cling on to a difficult chance. Mind you, credit where credit’s due because he called loudly and clearly and no one ended up in hospital.

Clare was not to be denied, ripping out Robinson’s leg stump as he aimed an ambitious smear and persuading Jenner to lob a full toss to midwicket where Jeff Francis toppled forward to take a good low catch.

However, Offley’s hopes of restricting Ickleford to 200 were dashed by Dermont, batting in a white T-shirt, and getting more edges off Rizwan than a cracked piss pot. Three times in a single over Dermont Chinese-cut Rizwan past leg stump and forced Freeman into action on the boundary. Barker, bowling like a man with a monstrous hangover, failed to extract any life from the pitch and the hosts clawed their way up 210-5, a score that did not look beyond Offley on a fast-scoring ground.

Bexfield and Nathan Brodie opened the batting and after Brodie had survived a grotesque smear off the opening ball of the innings, Offley made steady inroads into the total. The stand was worth 58 when Bexfield chopped on a delivery that may have been slightly too close to cut. Offley were two down moments later when Brodie, having batted with a certain amount of poise and control, decided that it would be a good idea to stop batting and offer catching practice and duly steered a catch to slip.

Bridgland and Scott Addy came together with Offley facing the choice between counter-attacking and rebuilding. Addy opted to attack, playing in the only way he knows how, an approach that yielded 6 runs before he was lbw to Izzard. Darren Lunney, handicapped by a sore hand, came and went in the blink of an eye, as he was trapped on the crease and was bowled after the ball flicked his pad.

Barker shambled to the wicket and he and Bridgland quickly did their best to run each other out. Barker was soon sent on his way, playing on to a beamer and losing his leg stump as he waited in vain for a call that never came from the umpire.

Offley faced a crisis as they looked to dig in. Fortunately, in Bridgland and Chris Austin, they had just the pair to dig trenches and launch a salvage operation. Instead they decided to go over the top, Bridgland attempted to clear mid off and perished in the attempt. At that moment, for reasons best known to himself, Austin, the Blocker’s Blocker, decided to get ambitious and sweep a ball of full length that pitched middled and would have hit middle.

Seven down and rocking, Offley needed a miracle and got a run out instead. Rizwan, having played two fine shots to announce his presence in the middle, decided that his flick off his legs was worthy of runs and hared down the wicket. Unfortunately he hit the ball straight to the fielder and despite a frantic attempt to regain his ground was run out.

Francis was bowled for a duck only to be granted a reprieve by a no ball call. Total ignominy was staved off as Francis and Clare dug in with a fine stand for the ninth-wicket which suggested what might have been. However, hopes of a miracle died when Clare fell lbw for 23 and Francis was bowled for 12 as Offley were dismissed for 136, a fairly pathetic effort considering the blameless conditions and the start, albeit a total that seemed beyond their wildest dreams when the lemmings were in full flow.

Ultimately a disastrous afternoon in the Ickleford sun, an exercise in combined ineptitude where there was plenty of blame and not enough runs to go around. The positives were limited to Clare’s performances with bat and ball, although Freeman and Rizwan both bowled well. However, it is a day that will live ling in ignominy due to a batting collapse of such drastic proportions.

Offley’s dreams of claiming the runners-up spot might not have been buried completely, but there’s no doubt that this was the day that the Sunshine Bus ploughed into the wall.