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Reed 244-8 Vs Offley & Stopsley 260-7 ; 29th June
OSCC Won by 16 runs
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On a day when 504 runs were scored in 80 overs on a belter of a batting track at Weston, the game was decided in the blink of an eye by a stunning catch from Rizwan deep on the extra cover boundary as Offley salvaged a victory they had done their best to toss away against a spirited Reed side who kept up the chase until the end.
Offley batted first, which was probably just as well considering how many of Steve Bexfield’s players were roaming the highways and byways of Hertfordshire. A number of players arrived late for the start, most notably a monumentally hungover Richie Barker who conveyed the air of a man who had spent the night before preparing for the game by knocking back large quantities of dark rum and Nathan Brodie, a man who had warmed up for the contest by vomiting blood.
Bexfield was forced to open the batting with the in-form Colin Keeley, they shared a sprightly stand of 61 on an excellent batting track. Keeley continued his surprisingly excellent recent form as he carved and drove his way to 36, mixing rustic swipes with cultured cricket shots before succumbing attempting a smear across the line that was once oh so familiar . Brodie joined Bexfield and the pair shared a stand of 98 to put Offley firmly in the ascendancy. Bexfield helped himself to nine boundaries as he unveiled his full repertoire of shots, scoring all round the wicket, and Brodie raced to 63 off 47 balls. Both players seemed set for centuries before Bexfield holed out at mid on, falling to an excellent catch, and Brodie played a nothing shot as he tried to run the ball to third man. Scott Addy went without scoring, bowled behind his pads as he misjudged a sweep, and Offley were in danger of squandering an excellent position on 194-4.
However, Dave Bridgland sustained the innings with a quick fire 35 and Barker swung away to score an unbeaten 24 from 12 balls despite needing to take on emergency liquids before he had actually faced a ball. Darren Lunney also weighed in with useful runs at the death and despite Rizwan’s golden duck Offley finished on 260-7.
Reed needed a good start and the signs were promising for the hosts as early in the first over when the ball rolled past an immobile Matthew Freeman at mid on and trundled away to the boundary. It was not an auspicious effort by Freeman, apparently hampered by a thigh strain but it set the tone for a fielding effort that would have shamed fellow computer-expert Stephen Hawking. At least Professor Hawking’s wheelchair might have stopped a few of the balls that Freeman was unable to deal with, as he struggled to move more than two yards without succumbing to a sharp stab of pain that ruled running out of the equation and made walking a struggle.
Martin McCulley opened the attack with Barker and although Barker did a nice job of bowling to his field – specifically getting the batsmen to hit the ball in the area between cover and extra where Brodie produced a series of outstanding stops – McCulley struggled to find his line and conceded a number of boundaries. Had Addy held on to a regulation chance to account for Blissett when he had scored 3 it might have been a different story. As it was the chance went down and the next two balls went to the boundary as the run chase gathered momentum.
The introduction of Keeley did little to check the flow of runs as Blissett showed an enthusiasm to tee off against him before Keeley had his revenge by finding the edge and Addy held on to a difficult chance behind the stumps. Brodie accounted for the other opener with the first of four run outs but Offley were soon on the back foot as the youthful Greaves threatened to annihilate the Offley attack. Keeley came in for some heavy punishment as he was lifted over the sightscreen for a couple of straight sixes. Keeley finally retired to the outfield after his spell of 8-1-71-1 that featured a full and forthright exchange of views with Brodie over the latter’s perceived failure to go for a catch. Both players briefly threatened to walk off in an incident that did wonders for team morale as voices rose and tempers frayed.
The game was slipping away from Offley before Bridgland claimed his first wicket of the year but Greaves kept Reed in the front by depositing the last ball of Rizwan’s determined spell into the car park. Brodie bowled Gearing with his first ball to leave Reed on 218-5 and the game was settled moments later when Greaves carved Brodie away towards the cover boundary. Rizwan initially appeared to misjudge the chance but kept his nerve and adjusted at the last moment as the ball dipped to take a superb catch inches above the ground to send Greaves on his way for a stunning 88 from 56 balls. Reed kept going but the game was safe now and Bridgland and Brodie held their nerve to lead Offley to a 16-run victory.
A close run thing, as they say, but it was enough to keep Offley in second place in the North Herts League ahead of next week’s trip to face the Celine Dion Fan Club, otherwise known as Titanic. Another epic encounter awaits.