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Offley & Stopsley, 216-4 Vs  Parkfield & Headstone, 120-8 : 17th May

Match Drawn

(Official Match Sponsors: Keeley’s Confectioners – Running Through Treacle Since 1968)

Nathan Brodie became the twelfth Offley batsman to score a century but it wasn’t enough to seal victory for his side. Following their dogged survival battle at Ickleford the week before, Offley found the tables turned on them on Saturday as they were unable to find a way past Parkfield & Headstone’s determined rearguard action.

Veroila dropped anchor to score an unbeaten seven in what seemed like an eternity (in actual fact it was only about 25 overs) and never looked like being dismissed (apart from when he nicked the cover off one but was given not out). At the other end the venerable Gerry, a fully paid-up member of the wicketkeeper’s union with a voice like a burst of machine gun fire – and about as welcome – gave as good as he got to frustrate Offley’s bowlers.

Steve Bexfield won the toss and surprisingly decided to bat first on an overcast day where the only way to keep warm was to pull on three layers and huddle up in a corner of the pavilion. Bexfield opened the batting with Nathan Brodie and the pair shared an opening stand of 100. Actually “shared” is perhaps not quite the correct word because Brodie dominated proceedings, gorging himself on some iffy bowling and hitting some glorious shots as the visitors’ began the match with nine men. At the other end Bexfield was content to accumulate the singles with the eagerness and enthusiasm of a miser hoarding his pennies. Brodie continued to blaze away – 18 came off one over from the hapless Williams – and the stand was worth 100 before Bexfield, perhaps struggling with the light and the steady march of time, played round a straight one and was bowled for 23.

Mo Chaudry joined Brodie and the pair pushed the score along to 143 before Chaudry was trapped in front. Chico Woods sparkled briefly before being bowled and the attention turned to Brodie. After storming to 72 he failed to score a boundary for the rest of his innings, preferring to accumulate the runs he needed with nudges and nurdles. Despite a couple of nervous moments in the 90s, Brodie kept his nerve to pick up the single he needed to reach his hundred. He contented himself with a modest celebration before indulging in a huge swipe and being bowled for exactly 100 to make it 157-4.

Brodie’s dismissal brought Chris Latino and Chris Austin together. Latino dug in, indulging in his patented play and miss swish, ostensibly attempting to see just how close he could get to edging the ball to the keeper without actually touching it. At the other end Austin pottered around in the early stages of his innings like a distempered flump, striving in vain to locate the middle of his bat. Just when it seemed the innings would stagnate, turn blue and grow hairs, Austin broke free with a flurry of boundaries as he carried the attack to the bowlers and unveiled some fine shots. At the other end Latino finally got bat on ball and with the aid of some suicidal running – Latino impersonating a deaf and blind mute in his running between the wickets and Austin never afraid to commit hari-kari in pursuit of an improbable single – the pair added 59 before Bexfield called a halt with the score on 216-4 after 48 overs.

Colin Keeley opened the bowling with Brodie because Matthew Freeman has helped himself to another large helping of tea and was unable to open the attack. As events transpired he was not only unable to bowl, he was also unable to jump off the ground. In addition to having first crack at batting and bowling, Brodie completed a hat trick of sorts when he became the first fielder to spill a catch. Not for the first time in 2008 Keeley was the unfortunate bowler. However, Keeley persevered and picked up a couple of wickets. Brodie weighed in at the other end and after 15 overs Parkfield had made clear they were not going to chase the target with the scoreboard reading 15-3.

It should have been worse but Freeman stamped his hoof prints over proceedings. First of all he misjudged a lofted drive at mid-off and despite some frantic backpedalling he was unable to lift his ample frame off the ground and collapsed in a heap much to the disgust of the bowler, Brodie. Moments later Freeman had the chance to redeem himself when Keeley induced a false stroke but the club’s specialist mid-off fielder (to say nothing of being the self-anointed second best fielder in the club) shelled another chance.

Bexfield dispensed with his seamers and turned to spin, Darren Lunney coming on at the top end and Richie Barker getting the chance to bowl uphill into the wind as a reward for upsetting his captain in some mysterious way. Lunney produced some corking deliveries but, ironically, struck with two of his less threatening offerings. Brodie (finally) held on to a chance at cover and Woods made a tricky chance look simple at backward point. Offley should have had a sixth wicket when Williams attempted a wild hack off Barker and lobbed the ball over the bowler’s head for a simple chance to either mid-on or mid-off. Unfortunately Latino and Freeman both left it for the other and the ball felt gently to earth, prompting a fairly choice observation from the bowler. Latino subsequently shelled a much harder chance and Barker had reached the end of his tether by the time Chaudry held on to a catch immediately after the drinks break. Chaudry claimed a second catch moments later to give Wayne Cutts his first wicket of the season to leave the visitors seven down with 22 overs remaining.

At that point Veroila – a man who had never seen a long hop he couldn’t block – and Gerry came together, determined to block out the overs. Barker found the edge of Veroila’s bat but Austin was unable to hold on, arguably the defining moment in the game. However, the keeper made amends when he held on to an edge from the same batsman off the bowling of Freeman. Unfortunately the batsman was given not out by an umpire in a hoodie, a decision that was greeted with dismay by skipper Bexfield. The skipper attempted to plead his case in a winning, pleasant manner but got nowhere for his efforts and was left to resume his vigil at short leg with the almighty grots.

At the other end the indefatigable Gerry was giving it plenty, frequently engaging in some highbrow debate with Brodie and Chaudry. Bexfield worked his way through eight bowlers with no success as the visitors held on before Gerry was bowled off the last ball attempting a violent smear against Freeman. It was Freeman’s first league wicket of the season and the batsman congratulated him on his achievement by sportingly flicking two fingers up at him, apparently indicating that with a bit more luck he could have had two wickets...

All in all not the greatest day in Offley history although Brodie might disagree after his splendid innings. The only plus point was avoiding pneumonia although the 18-point haul wasn’t a bad performance (Parkfield received no batting points for their efforts, including a run rate of 2.30 runs per over) even though Offley have now gone a record two games in a row without winning a game in the Saracens League.

Heads must roll...