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Offley & Stopsley CC 153-10 Vs Hatfield 197-8  - 20th July

OSCC Lost by 44 runs

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A new-look Offley side produced one of the worst performances of the season as they slumped to a heavy defeat against a young Hatfield side, a defeat which could seriously damage any hopes of claiming runners-up spot in the North Herts League.

Offley fielded two debutants in Lancastrian Ray Coolson and Australian Paul Hum, selected Rizwan as a specialist batsman on account of a shoulder injury that prevented him from bowling and recalled Jon Cerasale after injury.

Nathan Brodie lost the toss and Offley found themselves in the field, rapidly forced on to the back foot as the Hatfield openers carved the ball over and through the infield with some precision. Colin Keeley took the new ball and proceeded to bowl like a man who had scored a half-century the day before and had celebrated by drinking long into the night with Stella Artois. In truth Keeley did not have the best of luck, bowling to his field, the frustration of having at least 3 drops and a number of other chances narrowly eluding fielders. He hardly helped himself by muffing a sharp caught and bowled chance, spiking the ball into the turf with the aplomb of a volleyball player winning a crucial point. Offley made the breakthrough when Mo Chaudry held on to a swirling catch off Golder but the wicket failed to halt the flow of runs as Keeley and Cerasale both suffered from some lucky strokeplay allowing the visitors to get off to a flying start.

Shah and Krisnan added 62 for the second wicket before Krisnan was beaten by a stunning ball from Richie Barker that pitched three feet outside off stump before cutting back to hit middle and off – admittedly via a healthy bottom edge rather than any sharp spin. Barker and Chaudry checked the scoring rate but Shah and Whitehead lifted the total to 141 before the opener holed out for 68, Carl Clare running round to his right before diving to take a fine catch at mid on.

Clare was introduced into the attack and claimed two quick wickets before Dave Bridgland accounted for Whitehead by luring him down the pitch before Chris Austin whipped off the bails. That dismissal prevented a major onslaught in the last few overs but Hatfield still nearly reached the 200 mark. Clare claimed his third wicket of the innings thanks to a marvellous catch from Coolson who ran to his right before diving fall length to haul in a searing drive from Jakes.

Offley were left to score at a nearly five runs an over from the start, never an easy task at the best of times at Offley, and Barker and Bridgland were under few illusions as they marched out to begin the reply. The pair added 33 in quick time before Bridgland was undone by a fine ball from Wynne that nipped back in and hit the top of off stump as the batsman played no stroke. Moments later it was 33-2 as Rizwan was trapped on the crease and bowled without troubling the scorers.

Brodie joined Barker and the pair gave Offley hope as they shared six boundaries off Wynne’s final two overs and took the score to 69. However, Brodie, reprieved at cover before he had got off the mark, edged a catch behind to leave Offley three down. Debutant Hum was bowled without opening his accountant and Offley were in serious trouble at 76-4.

Cerasale strode to the middle and announced his arrival by dancing down the track and threatening to hammer the spin of the elder Wynne over long off. Unfortunately he managed to do no more than dance down the wicket and miscue the ball to cover after managing a single, leaving Offley looking down the barrel at 77-5.

Chaudry joined Barker as the last of the specialist batsmen came together. They shared a stand of 59, highlighted by a stylish six over long on from Barker, but despite just about keeping Offley in with a shout the odds increasingly mounted in Hatfield’s favour. By the time Barker got a leading edge after compiling a fine 68, Offley were drinking in the last chance saloon.

Keeley, who had spent most of the previous night in a bar of some sorts, marched to the middle, determined to maintain his fine run of form and carry Offley over the line. Unfortunately he was run out after registering a single, despite maintaining he had made his ground by a good three feet. Coolson was left with no choice but to try and die for the cause and was bowled for one, targeting a hefty swipe into the trees. Austin looked neat and tidy in making 2 before running himself out by about six yards as he attempted to come back for a second run that might not really have been on. The innings ended when Clare succumbed to an optimistic smear as Offley were dismissed for 153, Chaudry finishing unbeaten on 33.

All in all it was a fairly dire performance from an Offley side shorn of several key players. Bright spots were relatively few and far between as the side lost consecutive North Herts League games for the first time this season, both games that perhaps should have been won, both games that showed an inability to mount a sustained run chase. The fact that seven of the dismissed batsmen failed to last more than 5 balls stands as testimony to a rather iffy performance.

Naughty boy nets commence on Wednesday and with the two second team players who scored double figures at the weekend both pressing their claim for promotion to the first team, places could soon be under threat with the trip to Breachwood Green looming as a do or die confrontation