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Offley & Stopsley CC 173-5 Vs Letchworth 172 all out ; 3rd May

OSCC Won by 5 Wkts

Offley made it two wins out of two at the start of the North Herts campaign with an impressive victory against a tough Letchworth side. The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges but Offley’s bowlers clawed their way back into the match before the batsmen stepped up to seal the win.

Steve Bexfield lost the toss and Offley were asked to field first. Bexfield’s team took the field looking a little depleted due to Qumar running out of petrol on his way to the ground. Additionally, professional gambler Chris Latino had overslept after staying up all night devising cunning betting strategies while Matt Freeman’s sweet dreams of being locked in a sweetshop for the night had also caused him to sleep through his alarm. Although Qumar arrived after one over, Latino and Freeman, splendidly dubbed Laurel and Hardy by one of the Letchworth players (God bless him because that one has some mileage in it), did not take the pitch until the end of the 10th over.

By that stage Offley’s fielders were feeling a little shell-shocked. Although Mark Tattersall made an early breakthrough when Wright miscued an extravagant drive to mid on, Elliot and Bridge were both quickly into their stride, smashing the ball with impressive authority and subjecting the fielders to severely bruised fingers. There were also one or two bruised shins, notably from Freeman who’s first act on the pitch was to fall over backwards as Elliot mistimed a drive to him and attempt to catch it with his shin. Sadly Freeman’s revolutionary catching technique resulted in the ball hitting the turf. Moments later Freeman – overcome by gravity or remorse – was rolling around in the foetal position, optimistically looking for sympathy and understanding and apparently auditioning for a role in the remake of Saving Private Ryan. The bowler did not look particularly impressed and for once Freeman had the wisdom not to try and argue that he had stopped a 4.

Just when things were beginning to look very ominous for the hosts, veteran paceman Jon Cerasale trapped Bridge on the back foot to seize the vital wicket and dismiss the batsman for 35. Pandemonium broke out moments later when Richie Barker contrived to pitch a ball outside leg stump and spin it back past Albon’s defensive prod to hit the batsman’s off stump. It was the ball of a lifetime, all the more impressive for not apparently having hit a stone on a length to send it spinning off course.

Despite the double breakthrough, Letchworth would have been happy with their situation at drinks. The dangerous Elliot was well set on 59 but soon departed when he edged Cerasale and Chris Austin took an exceptional one-handed catch behind the stumps to swing the momentum in Offley’s favour.

Cerasale bowled Gillam and Curry to complete an impressive four-wicket haul, finishing with figures of 8-4-13-4. Barker looked to have done enough to gain a second wicket when he persuaded Hirst to slice a drive to point. The ball looped gently into the air before dropping to the ground like a beach ball caught in the breeze. Unfortunately Bexfield took this opportunity to marry little hands with questionable technique and spilled the chance. It looked costly as Barker’s last over went for 15 but Qumar and Freeman both picked up a couple of wickets with impressive bowling displays at the death and the visitors were bowled out for 172 with two balls remaining in the innings.

Steve Hoar and Barker launched the Offley reply. Barker was soon into his stride, producing a flurry of boundaries and a casual six over midwicket before attempting to repeat the shot and being bowled for 24. Bexfield overcame the pain of fractured ribs / punctured lungs to walk out at number three to join Hoar. With Hoar struggling to pierce the field and Bexfield taking time to platy himself in, it was no surprise when Hoar departed for a laboured 14 from 18 overs.

Cerasale, Offley’s hero with the ball, marched to the crease to try and reprise his heroics with the bat. Tragically there were tears for Piers after Jenkins served up a really rank juicy Boatwrightesque long hop and the batsman managed to miscue it to mid on. Cerasale went for 3. The game was in the balance when Mo Chaudry got a leading edge after making a violent 11 and Tattersall joined Bexfield with the game firmly on the line.

Tattersall – bearing even more of a resemblance to the Pillsbury Doughboy than usual – was soon racking up the boundaries as he tucked into Hirst’s five overs with relish. The runs began to flow freely and even Bexfield got in on the act when he mistimed a forward defensive shot and hit it for 6 over square leg. Tattersall took advantage of some attacking fields to pepper the boundary, launching one exceptional shot through extra cover. The game was in the bag when Bexfield improbably attempted to end it with a single swing of the bat and ended up holing out at deep midwicket for 44. Tattersall finished the job moments later, hitting another boundary to finish on 49 not out, as Offley eased home by five wickets.

All things considered this was another excellent performance by Offley, securing a victory which leaves them top of the North Herts League with 10 points out of 10. It promised to be a tearful day at one stage (and not just for The Gambler, Chris Latino, the man who clearly doesn’t know when to hold ‘em, or when to fold ‘em for the matter) but the team stuck to their task – which is more than the ball did to Freeman and Bexfield’s hands – and came out on top with a fine all-round effort.