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Offley & Stopsley CC 141-2 Vs North Mymms III's 137-10 ; 29th Aug

OSCC Won by 8 Wkts

Offley moved within one last victory of the Saracens Division Nine title as they defeated North Mymms by eight wickets. However, Northampton Exiles kept up the pressure at the top by defeating Broxbourne to ensure that the league will be decided on the final day of the season.

Richie Barker signed off on his Saracens’ campaign with four wickets and an unbeaten 62 and Nathan Brodie plundered a rapid half-century to set Offley on their way to victory. Colin Keeley also claimed three wickets – had he turned up on time he might have bagged five.

North Mymms won the toss and elected to bat and Tiley and Simmons showed their determination as they resisted everything that Brodie and Matthew Freeman could throw at them. Marc Ward dropped a stinging chance to reprieve Tiley at square leg but other than that there were few opportunities for the seamers.

Offley took the field with 10 men, Keeley failing to struggle on to the pitch until three overs had been bowled, missing the first over because he was late, the second over because it’s a long walk from the car park to the pavilion and the third over because he was applying sprays and potions to his creaking groin.

Keeley was soon in the action, allowing the ball to trundle past him and doing well to turn a tight single into an easy two. This resulted in Brodie asking for the fielder to be switched, a move that did not sit well with the ageing warhorse. Addressing the heavens and anyone else who might be listening, Keeley inquired of Brodie as to, “Who do you think you are?” before trotting out the immortal line that, “I’ve never been so insulted in 20 years of playing cricket.” Obviously that’s Keeley’s own perspective on the situation but having played alongside him for many of those years, I can only suggest he hasn’t been listening very carefully because he’s copped some choice insults along the way....

With Keeley apparently opting out of fielding duties as some sort of conscientious objector and kicking the ball around either in a cunning bid to encourage reverse swing or because he was doing some serious sulking, Brodie gave way to Barker and Offley came close to claiming their first wicket. However, Symon Wardley, picked on the grounds that he catches everything, allowed a shot from Simmons to explode through his hands and go for 4, forcing the Chairman of Selectors to appreciate the irony of the selection. Barker evidently did not appreciate being hoisted for a towering 6 and the game was starting to slip away from Offley when Simmons smashed Barker down the ground, apparently for another maximum. However, Wardley made amends for his earlier lapse with a stunning catch to dismiss the batsman and break the opening stand of 44.

North Mymms recovered to 55-1 before slumping to 60-5. Jayamanna inexplicably opted to pad up to a straight ball from Barker and was sent on his way. Carter miscued a defensive shot and sent the ball ballooning up in the air to Wardley who took the catch to give Keeley his first wicket. Keeley did not appear to revel in his breakthrough, retreating to the end of his run and hunkering down on his haunches to contemplate the injustices of life and the slings and arrows ancient seamers must bear along the way.

Keeley seemed marginally happier moments later when he achieved the ultimate fast bowler’s wet dream, bouncing out a batsman at Offley. Bright was unable to cope with the rising delivery and could only spoon it up in the air where Chris Austin jogged in to take a comfortable catch. Barker claimed his third wicket when Carter produced one of the worst shots ever seen on a cricket pitch where he stepped across to the offside and tried to turn the ball behind square on the legside and was bowled middle stump.

Tiley and skipper Southall now dug in to try and repair the damage. The left-handed Southall proved to be very strong through the covers, which was a bit of a shame as that’s where Barker provided him with the opportunity to hit the ball. Tiley was looking well set and the game was drifting away from Offley at 89-5.

Against this unpromising backdrop Keeley chugged in to bowl, a rusty ageing freighter chopping through rough seas, and Tiley drove on the up to mid off. Offley needed a moment’s inspiration, a man to rise to the occasion. They found Freeman. Perhaps a more hirsute man would have struggled to cover the ground to the ball. However, the streamlined and follicle-challenged Freeman, unencumbered by hair and as yet un-weighed down by hair plugs, took off like a bird of prey (obviously a bald eagle) to haul in the catch and send Tiley on his way for 42.

Carter thumped a full toss from Barker for six but was then cleaned up by the very next ball to make it 96-7. Keeley and Barker gave way to Ward and Darren Lunney. Lunney ended North Mymms’ hopes of reaching 150 when Southall sliced a drive that picked out Barker at extra cover. Lawless chipped a simple return catch to Lunney before the innings ended when Wiggins skied a return catch to Ward as North Mymms folded for 137.

Barker and Steve Bexfield set out in pursuit of the target, chasing 138 from 49 overs, knowing that the batting order had a slightly fragile look to it. Barker responded to the situation in typically forthright fashion by looking to attack the bowling and helped himself to three boundaries from Rathbone’s opening two overs.

At the other end Bexfield proved unable to deal with the pressure of the situation and contrived to drag a delivery from Lawless into his stumps before he had scored. He returned to the solitude of the pavilion where the silence was broken only by the offer of batting tips from a well-oiled Wayne Cutts. Cutts had turned up to watch, rapidly poured three pints down his neck and then passed out in the sun to earn himself the nickname of Little Phil.

Mo Chaudry joined Barker and the out of touch batsman did his best to occupy the crease, scratching around for form and trying to keep the bowlers at bay. Although there were occasional glimpses of Chaudry rediscovering his touch he survived one dropped chance before departing after toe-ending an ugly smear at a delivery that would have probably been called a wide and was caught at silly mid off as Offley slipped to 49-2.

Brodie arrived at the crease and proved that he was in no mood to hang around, using his feet to hit Lawless out of the attack and then brutally tucking into the leg spin on offer from Carter. Hitting the ball with power down the ground, Brodie took the attack to the bowlers and despite giving Barker a useful start reached his half-century before his partner, brining up 50 from just 39 balls.

Evidently stung into action and feeling suitably unimpressed with Brodie’s entreaties to get his head down, Barker responded with a flurry of boundaries of his own, reaching his 50 from 107 balls and then finishing the game in style as he ended with 11 boundaries in an unbeaten 62. It was the first time in 2009 that Barker had passed 50 opening the batting.

The win leaves Offley 10 points clear of Northampton Exiles with one game to go. Offley head to Baldock while Northampton travel to North Mymms. Only victory will be enough to guarantee Dave Bridgland’s team win the title.

After 18 weeks it all comes down to one last afternoon at Baldock. For the moment Offley’s fate is in their own hands, although as some bright lad once said, circumstances control men, men do not control circumstances....