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Offley & Stopsley CC 151-5 Vs Datchworth II's 161-5; 1st Aug

 Match Drawn after rain stopped play

Offley’s title hopes threatened to disappear like spit in the rain after a disastrous trip to Datchworth left them with just a solitary point to show for their efforts.

The rain that had stalked Offley’s batsmen throughout their innings delivered a brutal downpour with just 12 runs required from 21 overs and five wickets in hand. The rain allowed Datchworth to emerge with 10 points from a game which they had shown no real inclination to win, a lack of intent amply illustrated by a funereal over rate of 13.5 overs per hour. Despite having one bowler who seemed to think he was some kind of tearaway quick and was complaining long and loud about the conditions causing him to damage his hamstring, it was difficult to see why the home side got through their overs at a rate that would have embarrassed a traditional West Indian pace quartet.

Then again perhaps that’s how they do things at Datchworth – slowly. Certainly opening batsman Hyams set the trend for taking it easy as he produced a scintillating unbeaten 53 from 53 overs, facing anywhere in the region of 168 to 1,347 deliveries in amassing his runs.

On a day they wanted nothing more than to lose the coin flip Offley had the misfortune to win the toss and gambled on bowling first, echoing the words of the great Alec Stewart that, “You can’t play a game on a forecast.” Offley got off to a flying start as the Nash brothers were dismissed in the opening four overs. Stand-in keeper Chris Latino held on to edges from Matthew Freeman and Marc Ward respectively to reduce the hosts to 7-2 and give Offley hope of a quick win.

However, Hyams dropped anchor and proceeded to construct barricades and trenches in the form of his defensive prod. He should have been on his way for 12 but Latino failed to hold on to an edge off Richie Barker. At the other end Pybus overcame a slightly iffy start to play some attacking shots and with Offley’s bowlers spraying the ball about with customary generosity runs began to flow. Sterling work from extras and a dogged innings from Pybus, presumably accompanied by the odd scoring shot from Hyams who probably mistimed a couple of defensive shots and got runs for it, took Datchworth past 50. Pybus survived hard chances to Jon Cerasale and Freeman while Hyams was granted a life by Latino off Cerasale. A fifth chance went down when Ward made good ground to a skied hook shot but despite diving was unable to hold on.

Pybus brought up his half century and celebrated by hitting Barker for a big six. However, he perished next ball as he smashed one to cover and was brilliantly caught by Charles Page who did very well to cling on to the fiercely struck ball. Hyams survived a stumping chance off Barker which did little for the bowler’s sense of humour before the batsman cunningly ran out Kemp after calling him through for a nonexistent single.

Cerasale picked up a wicket when the younger Pybus attempted to smash him over the tennis courts but only succeeded in hitting it skywards and failing to clear the square as Nathan Brodie held on to the catch at the third attempt. Hyams brought up his half-century to resounding silence from his own teammates on the boundary and a collective burst of apathy from the Offley players. The hosts completed their 53 overs on 161-5.

Offley were left to chase 162 in 47 overs, although if the rain intervened before the completion of the 26th over, the match would end in abandonment with both sides set to earn 10 points.

Brodie and Steve Bexfield opened the innings and after a slightly scratchy start both batsmen began to find their touch. Brodie scampered singles and turned ones into twos while the ageing Bexfield preferred to rely on finding the boundary for his runs. They added 67 for the opening wicket before everything briefly fell apart. Brodie played a typically nondescript shot and was bowled by tubby pace man Gibbs for 38. Mo Chaudry, possibly handicapped by a dodgy hamstring or just a really rotten piece of judgement, ran himself out for a single before the rotund Gibbs nipped one past Bexfield’s bat to leave Offley in trouble on 70-3.

Andrew Vanhoof and Barker both went for their shots as they attempted to accelerate the scoring rate. Vanhoof was particularly severe on anything on his pads, thumping Gibbs for four boundaries before the badly shaved Ewok had his revenge as he bowled Vanhoof. Barker carried on the charge and briefly threatened to win the game on his own before miscuing a drive to give Gibbs a fourth wicket. However, Cerasale and Symon Wardley both swung away as the rain clouds closed in, taking Offley to 139-5 at the end of the 26th over, as Cerasale smashed 14 off the over. With the game now officially in the books Offley needed to win to claim the points. 11 runs came off the next over – a salvo from Wardley that finally gave Offley a point – but a dramatic shower forced the players off with the score on 150.

The covers were summoned and duly arrived with the rapidity of a Hyams innings. The rain relented after 20 minutes but despite the batsmen’s enthusiasm to return to the crease and a certain amount of willingness from some of the home team including the captain (tearaway pacemen with dodgy hamstrings not included), the groundsman had the final say, rending his garments at the desecration of his beloved wicket and ruling the pitch unfit for play when he might have been better served looking for a brush to get rid of some of the excess water. However, Napoleon was adamant that the game was over, leaving Offley with nothing to show for their efforts bar a single point.

The weather’s intervention combined with results elsewhere saw Offley’s 18 point lead at the top of the table evaporate in an instant and be replaced by an 11-point deficit as they slumped to third. The basic equation for Offley now is simple. Five wins from their remaining five games – two of which are against the teams directly above them in the table – will be enough to secure the title. So the question is can Offley, beset by officialdom and cursed by the weather but now boosted by the return of Dave Bridgland and a selection policy that seems designed to bolster the ranks, win five in a row.

Well can you?