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Offley disposed of local rivals Lilley with a comprehensive victory, firmly putting the Division One newcomers in their place with a solid performance.
Steve Bexfield won the toss and elected to bowl first, thereby exposing Lilley to the new ball. The plan worked as Mark Tattersall and Qumar produced excellent opening spells. Tattersall made the initial breakthrough when he trapped Brad Tompkins in front before James Ashby displayed a questionable technique, wandering across his stumps like an absent-minded yokel chewing on a piece of straw, and having his leg stump knocked back by Qumar.
Tim Perry and Gareth Tompkins were unable to break the shackles until Perry took two fours off the final two balls of Tattersall’s spell. At this moment Qumar had a cunning plan. Having conceded just four runs in his opening seven overs bowling over the wicket, the hefty lefty decided to come round the wicket to Tompkins. The result of the cunning plan was the ball disappearing into the field on several occasions as Qumar’s final over yielded 18 runs and ended with the bowler kicking his hat in disgust, a la Boatwright.
Perry and Tompkins looked to kick on against Jon Cerasale and Richie Barker. However, Cerasale hit Tompkins on the back leg to send the dangerous South African on his way. Lilley’s plight deepened when Barker held on to a fierce return catch from Majid Shah to dismiss him for just a single.
Wickets began to tumble regularly as Vishal Patel claimed his first wicket for Offley by bowling Mills in comprehensive fashion before Cerasale ripped through Malik’s defences to send him back to the hutch without troubling the scorers.
Lilley’s hopes now rested firmly on the partnership of Perry and Kempston refugee Tony Allbones. However, the partnership never got going after a mix up between the batsmen allowed Dathan Sale to nip in and fire in a quick throw to his brother Damian behind the stumps. Despite being caught flat-footed by Allbones’ decision to turn the single down, Perry dived for the crease, hurling himself through the air like a ruptured swan and reaching desperately for the sanctuary of his ground, only to be about a yard short of safety when Sale whipped the bails off to leave Umpire Bigmore with one of his easier decisions of the season.
Allbones tried to atone for his part in Perry’s dismissal by launching Patel over long on for six but departed moments later when he attempted to repeat the shot. Patel also dismissed Berry before Darren Lunney wrapped up the innings by bowling Kendall as Lilley were bowled out with 11 balls remaining after reaching 122.
Bexfield and Nathan Brodie opened the batting for Offley and both players were soon into their stride. They shared an opening stand of 53 to force Lilley on to the back foot. Brodie danced down the wicket to Perry to smash a glorious six over midwicket but departed the very next ball as he attempted to repeat the shot and was stumped by some distance. However, Bexfield and Mo Chaudry continued to lead Offley towards victory before Ashby gambled and brought the fiery Tompkins into the attack.
The move paid immediate dividends as Chaudry attempted to turn one off his legs and somehow contrived to loop a catch to gully to leave Offley on 76-2 at drinks. Alarm bells started to ring when the Offley skipper was adjudged lbw as he reached forward deploying the patented Bexfield Forward Prod. Bexfield held his pose for (what seemed like) several hours after being given out, a modern day martyr transfixed upon his very own private crucifix (or trapped on the crease in this instance).
Offley were in real trouble on 88-4 when Cerasale danced down the wicket to the rapid Tompkins and diverted a ball via the top of his pad flap into the waiting hands of the wicketkeeper. He was apparently given out LBW, a verdict that tied the leg before count at 2-2.
Tattersall and Lunney inched Offley ever closer to the finishing line before “Old Darren” put in his second appearance of the weekend and was bowled behind his pads attempting a pretty feeble shot. Dathan Sale came and went in quick time before Barker joined Tattersall to share in a decisive two-run partnership that carried Offley home.
The victory means that Offley have reached the halfway point of their North Herts League campaign with four victories and two defeats (plus two abandoned matches) in their opening eight fixtures. That means that the customary goal of mid-table obscurity has been all but secured. Bexfield’s men now have two weeks to recharge their batteries and prepare for the second half of the season.