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Offley & Stopsley CC 190-9 VsBentley Heath 166 all out ; 9th May

OSCC Won by by 24 runs

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Offley & Stopsley stepped up a level to Division 9 and despite wobbling on the ropes a few times they emerged victorious in a tense game against Bentley Heath. Mo Chaudry starred with bat and ball and Richie Barker claimed his second five-wicket haul of the season to help Offley claim victory.

Steve Bexfield won the toss and abandoned his customary policy of bowling first in favour of making first use of a typical Offley wicket. Bexfield and Steve Hoar opened the batting and were both reprieved behind the wicket as they faced a taxing opening spell. Bexfield eventually fell when he slashed to gulley and went to a fine catch. Hoar went for 17 as he played a lax shot outside off stump and steered it to slip and two balls later Barker was on his way after a casually pathetic waft to second slip. Offley were rocking on 42-3 as Darren Lunney joined Chaudry with the game in the balance.

After an early flurry of aggressive shots from Lunney, the pair dug in, running effectively between the wickets and picking up the singles to get the scoreboard moving. Chaudry began to open up and reached his first 50 of the season. The partnership was worth 101 when he was well caught in the deep. Lunney soon followed his partner back to the pavilion, leaving Nathan Brodie to marshal the tail. Brodie did this with some aplomb, running out Chris Austin by about seven yards after Austin sportingly refused to turn down Brodie’s optimistic call for a single to gulley. He may be a translator with a gift for languages but Austin was again exposed as a man who finds it hard to say ‘No’ to a single, no matter how suicidal.

Austin’s dismissal sparked a flurry of wickets. Colin Keeley was bowled for a single after playing a flat-footed prod at a turning ball. Chris Latino strode out to bat full of purpose and unfurled a glorious extra cover drive to his first delivery. Unfortunately he failed to make contact with the ball and was comprehensively bowled. At the other end Wayne Cutts used his new bat for the first time and skilfully avoided damaging it in any way by being bowled first ball. However, Brodie and Matthew Freeman stayed together until the end, picking up useful runs with Brodie ending on 25 not out and Freeman finishing with the 24th not out of his career from 55 innings for the club.

Bentley Heath got off to a flying start as Freeman, handicapped by a large tea and the burden of having to open the bowling (an unusual task for a strike bowler, albeit one that was compounded by his failure to bring emergency Jaffa Cake rations), sprayed the ball all over the place. His six-over spell cost 36 runs and but for some heroic fielding would have gone for a sight more. Keeley kept a lid on the scoring rate with a typically miserly spell but despite making an early breakthrough the game seemed to be drifting away from Offley. Barker struck with his first ball to remove O. Hubbard and followed it up by accounting for M. Hubbard, bowled behind his legs, dismissals that doubtless brought a shrug of despair from Old Mother Hubbard.

Fortunes continued to ebb and flow and Bentley Heath looked to have the upper hand during a fifth wicket stand between skipper Dunnett and Timizi. However, Dunnett perished to a needless slog off Barker and Timizi succumbed to an excellent catch in the deep by Bexfield off the bowling of Chaudry. Bexfield had cunningly positioned himself for the catch two thirds of the way back to the boundary instead of fielding on the rope because he was still fiddling with the field. Timizi departed for 68, leaving Offley firmly in control.

A brilliant piece of fielding from Cutts resulted in the run out of Jordein without scoring to leave the visitors nine down. Cutts courageously threw himself in front of a speeding ball at square leg before firing in a vicious throw to the bowler’s end to complete the run out. Chaudry finished the game in emphatic fashion by castling his namesake for 9 to seal a 24-run win that had not always looked the most likely outcome as Offley made it three wins in a row.