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Offley & Stopsley 98-6 Vs Luton Town & Indians 94 all out ; 28th June

OSCC Won by 4 Wkts

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A rare and glorious day for English cricket, as Offley edged home in triumph thanks to an English bowler out-spinning an Indian one. Richie Barker took 6-44 to carve apart Monty Panesar and Steve Hoar’s old club, before Offley’s batsmen did just enough to thwart the prodigious turn that Sobti was able to extract from a cracking, crumbling surface. In contrast to their dismal efforts in the field the previous day where they dropped just about everything that came their way, including losing Jon Cerasale to a dislocated finger as he flubbed a sitter, Offley’s fielders caught everything that, including a pair of excellent catches from Wayne Cutts.

Offley won the toss and after taking soundings among the troops, Steve Bexfield elected to bowl first, a decision that did not look overly shrewd following the discovery that pace ace Matthew Freeman was unable to bowl on account of the latest in a long line of injuries that have baffled medical science. After four overs of the contest the visitors had raced to 23-0 and a total of 300 did not seem out of the question, as Offley’s fielders, including the statuesque Freeman, showed little enthusiasm for a long stint in the sun and seemed ready to donate runs to the cause with four overthrows.

However, Barker made the early breakthrough when he induced a false shot from Chauhan and Chris Latino dived forward to take an excellent catch at mid on. The scoreboard continued to tick over before Mo Chaudry held a fine catch at mid-off to Colin Keeley sending Patel back for 21. It marked the end of Patel’s charmed existence, an innings where he appeared to have been granted the benefit of too much doubt on a couple of occasions. Nathan Brodie took a well-judged catch to dismiss Sabharwal before Keeley claimed his second wicket by trapping Sehgal in front. The visitors were five down when Sobti was bamboozled by a ball from his fellow spinner Barker before the Offley Cricket Ground was rocked by a dramatic development.

Richie Barker turned one ! ! ! !

It’s never happened before and it may never do so again but for one glorious moment the ball spat like a disgruntled cobra. The ball pitched on middle and leg and turned enough to beat Bonham’s defensive prod, gently brushing the off stump like a lover stealing an illicit moonlight kiss. The innings disintegrated as Darren Lunney claimed two wickets and Barker completed the demolition job to finish with 6-44 as Cutts capped an outstanding display in the field by snaring two catches.

Offley were left to chase 95 in 67 overs and had to bat for 45 minutes before tea. Brodie and Bexfield made a positive start and shared an opening stand of 26 before Brodie danced down the wicket to Sobti and chipped a return catch to the bowler. Offley reached tea on 31-2 with a distraught Bexfield back in the hutch after missing a gruesome legside flick and having his stumps rearranged by Sobti.

The wheels threatened to come off after tea as Chaudry’s tortured innings was cut short on 8 by Sobti and Siyogia ripped one past Marc Ward’s defensive push to leave Offley rocking on 42-4. The situation called for calm heads and entrenchment and Chris Austin was only too happy to oblige, digging deep for the cause and apparently ready to bat until judgement day. He caressed one glorious shot through the covers for four before edging a catch at the wicket.

Keeley strode to the wicket and was soon laying about him to good effect, smashing the ball to the boundary and indulging in some colourful exchanges with a couple of members of the fielding side, notably one individual who he invited to eat his bat. Cooler heads eventually prevailed and with a sense of normality restored to proceedings, Keeley duly perforated the ozone layer and was caught somewhere near silly mid off, leaving Offley on 71-6 as Lunney and Barker joined forces.

Run by run the target was reduced with Barker scratching around like a man who has no great grasp of how to bat and Lunney routinely middling the ball but hitting it straight to the fielders. Leg byes were scampered along with quick singles as the game edged ever closer to its dénouement. Barker might have been caught twice and Lunney was dropped off a dolly at mid on and a harder chance in the gulley, the fielder’s chances compromised by having to extract his hands from his pockets as the ball flew towards him. The finish line was in sight when Barker was hit on the pad, prompting a huge shout from the fielders. However, Umpire Chaudry turned down the appeal and when Barker casually lofted the next ball over midwicket for four the game was effectively over. Lunney hit the winning runs as Offley staggered home in the 49th over, finally lifting their run rate to two runs per over with Lunney’s winning shot. Barker finished unbeaten on 20 from 74 balls.

It was not the most impressive performance that Offley have ever produced but it preserved the unbeaten record in the Saracens League for another week at least and enabled Bexfield’s team to stay in touch with the promotion chasers on a day when Indian guile and flight was no match for English spin.