(Official Match Sponsors: Offley & Stopsley Insurance: You’re In Safe Hands)
Catches win matches, so they say.
If there’s any truth in that statement it might go some way to explaining why Offley & Stopsley were forced to settle for a draw against lowly Greenwood Park in the wake of a performance that saw them shell 10 chances and misjudge a number of others that looped over the heads of fielders before nestling in the lush grass.
It was not a good day for Offley’s fielders. Only stand-in wicketkeeper Chris Latino covered himself in glory as chances were missed, spilt and squandered with Darren Lunney offering a fine impersonation of a paraplegic lobster, Matty Freeman missing the type of sitter normally associated with furniture warehouses, Mo Chaudry dropping a pair of scorching chances and Richie Barker producing an impressive dive and a fairly iffy attempt to hold on to the ball. Wayne Cutts and Mohammed Qumar were also culpable as chances thudded to earth with depressing regularity on a day when Offley dropped more balls than a group of adolescent choir boys.
Offley lost the toss and were invited to bat on a pitch that was slow, low and mildly saturated. Nathan Brodie wasted little time in thumping his first ball for four but failed to add to his score before chipping a simple catch to mid on. Barker and Steve Hoar joined forces to add 48. After initially mistiming every attacking shot they attempted, Hoar broke the shackles with successive sixes to ease the pressure. Barker routinely pierced the field without reaching the boundary before driving uppishly to mid off for 25. Hoar and Chaudry shared a solid stand of 57 to give Offley the advantage. Hoar struck six boundaries to go with his two sixes and passed 50 for the second consecutive innings before being bowled attempting an expansive drive off the impressive Atkins. Chaudry followed moments later to leave Offley on 111-4 as Greenwood sensed the opportunity to haul themselves back into the contest.
Qumar and Lunney revived the innings with a stand of 28 before Lunney perished attempting an ugly smear across the line. Freeman strode to the middle, promising to unleash a barrage of attacking strokes. However, despite an early straight drive for four he soon retreated into his shell with the air of a timid tortoise. He also ran between the wickets like such a creature. Qumar played one of his best innings for the club before sacrificing his wicket for the cause after making 24. After a couple of false starts Freeman succeeded in running out Cutts without scoring before Marc Ward (1) and Latino (0) perished in the space of three balls. Steve Bexfield and Freeman negotiated the last seven balls of the innings as they shared an unbroken partnership of two. Freeman finished unbeaten on 12, boosting his average by playing an impeccable defensive shot to the last ball of the innings, a loopy slower ball that cried out “Spank Me!” like Max Moseley at a bondage party. Nash, probably the slowest opening bowler in the world, operating effectively on probably the slowest wicket on the world, finished with impressive figures of 6-61.
Greenwood Park were soon in trouble after Qumar and Barker struck early blows to leave the visitors on 12-2. However, the visitors rallied with a third-wicket stand of 36 as Barker suffered some heavy punishment as he struggled to find his line and length, serving up a variety of tasty morsels that the visiting batsmen seemed keen to sample. Brodie snuffed out the partnership with a fine piece of fielding as he threw down the stumps from cover to make it 48-3. Barker enjoyed some revenge for some rough treatment at the hands of Craddock by bowling him for 30 with a cunningly disguised straight ball and when he added the wicket of Nash thanks to a fine catch from Latino, Greenwood were 65-5 and fading fast.
Freeman shrugged off the pain of his intercostal injury to snare a child and a child of Woodstock (imagine a pony-tailed Towndrow with a beard) and when Lunney dismissed Petchey with the aid of a fine catch from Latino, the visitors were holed below the waterline at 92-8.
Unfortunately they managed to negotiate the remaining 15 overs with few alarms as Offley shelled chances by the dozen, missing sitters, dropping dollies and generally giving an excellent impression of muppets let loose in the asylum. Despite a fine spell from Cutts, tweaking and probing the ball like a tweaky proby thing, Offley were unable to make the breakthrough as they were frustrated by the dead bat of Harry Potter doppelganger Gloodemans who finished unbeaten on 1 after batting for about 73 overs. Something like that anyway. Bexfield used eight bowlers in avian bid to make the breakthrough but Offley were forced to settle for another draw as a lack of penetration with the ball, combined with an utterly wank-handed display in the field, denied them victory.
All in all a fairly depressing day for Offley who saw their best chance evaporate when Bexfield lost another toss before throwing away their remaining hopes with a wanton fielding display which suggested that most of them couldn’t catch the clap from an Old Bedford Road prostitute. It makes it four draws in a row in the Saracens League for Offley, the longest run without a victory since joining the league in 2006, and a radical overhaul is expected ahead of next week’s trip to Weston with Hoar, Cutts, Barker, Lunney and Latino all expected to pay the price for the failure to overcome one of the league’s cellar dwellers.