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Offley & Stopsley CC 219-6 Vs Rickmansworth III's 157-6 ; 4th July

Match Drawn

According to the manufacturer’s website, a Millichamp & Hall Solution bat costs between 220 and 260, depending on the grade of wood. Remember that little nugget when you reach the account of the Rickmansworth reply.

Offley’s stay at the top of the Saracens League lasted precisely one week as they were held to a draw by Rickmansworth. Dave Bridgland lost the toss and Offley were asked to bat first in the middle of a field somewhere, on a day when shelter from the elements and changing facilities were provided by a few trees, tea was served up on a trestle table and Offley’s fielders and bowlers generally had a shocker.

Steve Bexfield and Richie Barker opened the innings and enjoyed mixed fortunes. Barker went for his shots from the start while Bexfield enjoyed a charmed life, playing and missing, surviving edges and lbw shouts and generally failing to come to terms with the bowling. Bexfield was eventually put out of his misery after making a streak 8 when the slippery Rizkahn ripped an inswinger through the gate. Rizkhan picked up a second wicket when he held on to a return catch to dismiss Mo Chaudry for 12. Barker slowed down after his fast start and departed after chipping a simple return catch to the bowler via a leading edge. The batsman shuffled off with the air of a man who has just seen 101 Dalmatians systematically exterminated before his eyes.

Nathan Brodie and Darren Lunney added 57 to take the score to 131 before Brodie miscued a fairly ambitious shot and was caught for 42. Symon Wardley sparkled briefly before giving way to Dave Bridgland. While Lunney picked up the singles at one end and occasionally mixed boundaries with glimpses of watching a left-handed Boycott, Bridgland blasted away from the off, taking the attack to the bowlers and smashing 37 from 30 balls with a monstrous six over extra cover. He was eventually bowled aiming one shot too many but his late injection of pace to the scoring rate allowed Offley to declare on 219-6 after 49 overs.

Rickmansworth openers Blackwell and Milligan seemed slightly nonplussed by the decision to open the bowling with the old ball and stoically resisted the chance to play any shots. The two openers seemed to regard each offering as a fizzing, spitting time bomb, destined to explode as soon as it came into conduct with the bat. Blackwell claimed that if he could play spin he would not be an opening batsman and proceeded to dead-bat the opening offerings from the spin of Barker and Wayne Cutts and the similarly paced slow-medium trundling of Colin Keeley.

Bridgland introduced Brodie into the attack with immediate results. Blackwell crashed three boundaries in the first over but fell to the final ball when Brodie found the shoulder of the bat and Chaudry held on to an excellent catch running back.

Cusack came in and provided some impetus to the innings as he took the attack to the bowlers, hitting Bridgland for a series of boundaries and also cashing in against Brodie, Keeley and Marc Ward.

Lunney shelled the first chance of the day when he failed to hold on to a gloved chance from Milligan off Bridgland. After four overs at the start of the innings, Keeley returned for an epic nine-over spell. He made the breakthrough when Milligan spooned a simple chance to Brodie at mid on and then should have had Raine – the number four batsman armed with the 220 piece of willow – caught second ball. However, the ball looped up into the sun and Chaudry, blinded by the light, was forced to shy away for self-preservation. Consequently the ball dropped harmlessly to the floor. Cusack departed for a fine 58, obligingly smashing a really rotten ball from Brodie to Chaudry at point but the hosts still had seven wickets in hand and barely needed five runs per over.

However, Raine decided that obdurate defiance and stroke-less stroke-play was the order of the day and set out to block for the draw, regardless of the fact that Rickmansworth needed all the points they could get in their bid to stave off the threat of relegation. Consequently Raine dug in, playing and missing at a succession of deliveries from Keeley. It was almost too much for the aging warhorse as he gallantly charged up hill with the air of an elderly carthorse plunging through quicksand. He picked up the wicket of Soames, caught behind by Lunney but Rickmansworth continued to hold their ground.

Chaudry served up one of the worst overs of his Offley career – which is up against some fairly stiff completion – as he produced a rotten moon ball, five wides and a long hop before spearing a yorker through Molloy’s defences to make it 125-5.

Keeley gave way to Barker in an attempt to persuade Raine to play a shot and the ploy nearly worked when the batsman obligingly chipped one to Bexfield but the fielder was unable to hang on. Chaudry dropped a difficult return catch from Lewy before Barker finally picked up the obdurate Raine for a magnificent 2 from 59 balls.

That reduced Rickmansworth to 139-6 but that was as good as it got for Offley. Cutts spurned the chance to catch Alnutt, just failing to hold on to a softly chipped ball as he jumped one-handed to make the catch, and Lunney was unable to hold on to a fizzing chance off the outside edge as the home batsmen survived, Lewy landing some late blows to pick up a couple of batting points.

Not the greatest day of the season for Offley and although Bridgland’s team picked up 16 points this definitely felt like one that got away. The result knocked Offley from their perch at the top of the table and also sent Rickmansworth crashing to the foot of the table and with nine games left to go it remains to be seen how well Offley’s over-stretched resources can cope with contending for trophies on two fronts.