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Offley & Stopsley 173-8 Vs Breachwood Green 152 all out - 27th July

OSCC Won by 21 runs

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A club-record eighth-wicket partnership of 86 between Carl Clare and Chris Latino hauled Offley back from the brink and set up a 21-run victory over Breachwood Green. Clare and Latino rescued Offley from the depths of 87-7 after a series of wantonly inept shots from the top order. A fine all-round bowling effort sealed the victory with Qumar delivering an outstanding spell on his return from injury and Colin Keeley claiming three wickets, including the impressive feat of bouncing out a batsman for the first time, courtesy of a juicy long hop that probably hit a crack and a fine catch from Rizwan.

Nathan Brodie won the toss and earned the gratitude of his teammates by electing to bat first on a furiously sunny, hot and humid day. Richie Barker set the tone for the top order by obligingly steering one to slip in the second over. However, Chris Austin and Dave Bridgland steadied the ship with a solid stand before Bridgland attempted to hit over the top and skied one to cover having scored 19. Austin dug in, showing some nice clips off his legs and running the ball down to third man with increasing conviction as the scoreboard ticked over, reaching double figures – his usual excuse to suffer a nosebleed – and looking to go on to bigger things. Unfortunately skipper Brodie perished after a progressively dismal 10-ball duck when he steered a wide long hop into the hands of a grateful gulley fieldsman.

Austin’s vigil was ended after he edged one behind and was sent on his way for 25, an impressive innings that suggested he has the ability to score runs on a more consistent basis than he has demonstrated hitherto this season. That marked the moment for the wheels to come off as Offley’s middle order imploded in fine style. Mark Tattersall started the rot by miscuing something that might have been a slog sweep (but probably wasn’t) into the hands of cover. Jon Cerasale – plagued by a stomach upset that had rendered him a doubtful starter before the game – perished to a shot that would have made anyone puke by careering down the wicket and being stumped for a single. Colin Keeley hit a mighty muscular four that would have been a six on any other ground (some say he lacked the muscle, power, youth and virility to clear the rope, but Richie's wrong) before edging a catch to the keeper and all of a sudden Offley found themselves firmly in the mire on 87-7 as Clare strode out to join Latino who was still searching for his first run having seen Cerasale and Keeley dismissed while he looked on from the non-striker’s end.

There were no great hopes that Offley’s Caribbean Cavalier and Latino – fresh off his fifth duck of the season – would be able to extend the total much past 100. However, the pair dug in and displayed a sense of purpose and standard of shot selection that firmly embarrassed most of those who had gone before. Latino took his time to advance to 3 before picking up runs with increasing confidence while Clare was quickly into his stride, scoring all round the wicket, as Breachwood Green were forced on to the back foot. Latino hit consecutive boundaries (something of a novelty considering that the majority of his innings in 2008 have failed to produce 8 runs, let alone producing that total from two balls) while Clare carried the attack to the bowlers as if it was 1984 all over again and the West Indies were thrashing England’s hapless barrage of trundlers to all parts of the country. The pair had almost doubled the score when Clare was run out off the penultimate ball of the innings attempting an optimistic second run in a bid to retain the strike and secure his maiden half-century for the club as he perished for an imperious 48. Latino – evidently blowing out of his arsehole and apparently a certain candidate for a stroke – survived unbeaten on 32 as Offley left Breachwood to score 174 for victory.

Breachwood’s pursuit of their target was delayed for a considerable time after tea owing to an accident with the changing room key. Barker experienced his customary problems in trying to turn something and saw the key snap off in his hand, a mishap that prompted a half hour break in proceedings. Keeley took a longer break than anyone else as he was looked in the lavatory as he sought to calm his nerves with a pre-bowling dump. The calamity was eventually averted after he was extricated from his cell and only missed the first two overs of the reply.

When the sides finally took the field for the second innings Breachwood Green got off to a slow start with Hall and Kuujit apparently under the impression that they were laying the foundations for an innings of substance on the first morning of a test match. Hall looked resolute with his forward defensive shot rarely threatening to get off the square while Kuujit’s attempts to cut everything, regardless of length and line, were not overly effective. Qumar and Tattersall both produced fine opening spells to restrict the scoring and eventually the pressure told when Hall attempted to run a bye to the keeper. Austin failed to deal with a rising ball from Qumar but recovered quickly to whip off his glove and throw the stumps down.

Breachwood soon found themselves in the mire with three wickets down. Barker struck twice, removing Kuujit with the aid of a fine catch by the diving Clare at short midwicket and then dismissing Asher without scoring thanks to a sensational stumping from Austin. Haroon and Yasser slowly began to wrestle the initiative back for the hosts, gradually getting on top of Barker and taking advantage of a horrible opening over from Rizwan that featured wides galore and cost 14 runs.

By the time the teams stopped for drinks the hosts were firmly back in the game and looking good as they pinched a succession of singles to a lumbering Brodie in the covers. However, Rizwan kept his nerve and picked up the key wicket of Yasser who flicked the ball to backward square where Clare took another fine catch. Moments later it was five down when Haroon charged down the pitch to Barker, missed the slower non-turning one, and was stumped by about three yards.

Keeley weighed into the attack, picking up two wickets in two balls to leave Breachwood tottering on seven down. The second of the two wickets was a thing of beauty, as the 40-year old trundler chugged up the hill like a pensioner carrying a piano on his back and served up a bouncer. The batsman couldn’t believe his luck and prepared to pull the ball into the next county. However, he realised he had been deceived as Keeley had unleashed a heavy ball that reared steeply off the wicket and sped towards the batsman’s throat. He could only help it towards square leg where Rizwan took a fine catch to give the Keeley bouncer the wicket it deserved.

Keeley failed to land the hat trick he hoped for but the game was effectively decided off the following delivery as Breachwood’s last hope, the dangerous Merchant, attempted to drive Rizwan down the ground. The ball reared high in the air towards cover where Barker, making a great show of limping back to his position on the deep cover boundary, found himself under the thing as it descended towards the earth. With most of the fielders confidently expecting a drop it was something of a pleasant surprise when Barker calmly hauled in the catch to leave Breachwood eight down.

That should have been it but a determined ninth-wicket stand between Law and Jeffrey kept Breachwood alive before Keeley claimed his third wicket and Clare wrapped the game up in emphatic style with a searing yorker.

The victory snapped a two-game losing streak as Offley bounced back to winning ways in the North Herts League on the day they got out of jail thanks to the efforts of Clare and Latino and a solid all-round fielding and bowling display.