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Offley & Stopsley CC II's 159-7 Vs Preston III's 160-4 ; 9th Aug

OSCC II's Lost by 6 Wkts

A sublimely inept batting display combined with some juicy offerings from the bowlers resulted in another reversal for Offley’s second string.

Offley lost the toss and were asked to bat. A new-look opening partnership of Dhrupal Patel and Wayne Cutts shared a stand of 9 before Cutts’ tentative defensive prod was beaten by an in-swinging delivery.

Chris Austin and Patel took the score to 21 before things began to unravel in a big way as six wickets tumbled for just 15 runs. Patel went lbw, going in familiar fashion, as he tried to work a straight ball to the legside. Moments later Symon Wardley was sent on his way, also adjudged lbw by Umpire Damian Sale who claimed a pair of scalps in a single over.

Chris Latino was next to go as he was bowled round his legs. Latino didn’t really play much of a shot at the ball and appeared to suffer a temporary stroke as he allowed the ball to collide with his stumps without offering any real resistance.

At 29-4 the time was right to dig in. However, Colin Williams opted to counterattack and bravely looked to launch a barrage of boundaries. Unfortunately he smashed one straight up into the air and was caught without scoring.

Austin and Paul Hum shared a stand of seven for the sixth wicket before the Australian sensation sent one into orbit. Andrew Vanhoof’s trip to the crease lasted all of one ball before he became the third lbw victim of the day, sent on his way by Umpire Large. That left Offley in some trouble on 36-7. At this point the youthful Bruce had claimed four wickets in 11 balls with his leg spin as Offley’s batsmen reacted to the turning ball with all the skill and composure of rabbits confronted by a king cobra.

Against such an unpromising backdrop Richie Barker walked out to join Austin. The stand-in captain spent the majority of his first five overs at the crease shaking his head in disbelief at the carnage while playing himself in with due care and attention. Barker and Austin lifted the score to 50-7 at the drinks break before kicking on in pursuit of three figures.

This was the cricketing equivalent of a wet dream for Austin as he found himself with the satisfying task of simply digging in and eating up overs. Austin had walked to the crease at the end of the third over and was happy to gobble up dots like a cricketing Pacman, robustly blocking deliveries and picking up the occasional run.

At the other end Barker showed a little more freedom and struck 11 boundaries in all as he led Offley’s fight back. The pair pushed the score past 100 and eventually shared an unbeaten stand of 123, a club record for the eighth wicket. Austin ended unbeaten on 33 while Barker finished on 77 not out as Offley reached 159-7 with the assistance of 35 extras.

After the teams got stuck in to an impressive debut tea from Colin Williams, an Offley win looked to be on the cards as Vanhoof struck twice in an over to reduce the visitors to 13-2. Vanhoof trapped the older Skirrow plumb in front before bowling the younger Skirrow behind his legs. All Offley needed to do was break the partnership between Saunders and Wright and expose the middle order.

Unfortunately they rarely looked like finding a way past Saunders’ massive four-pound bat, a piece of wood that looked like it had been crafted out of a gigantic oak tree. Saunders tucked into Large who was left to regret his decision to have a go bowling from the clubhouse end. Cutts also came in for some stick as his spinning deliveries were smashed towards the football pitch. However, he came closest to breaking the stand when Williams was unable to hold on to a very difficult diving catch off Saunders.

Williams replaced Large and bowled an impressive spell while a two-over burst from Austin almost brought the wicket of Saunders – wicketkeeper Sale was unable to take the stumping chance as the ball rebounded off his pad – and almost lost the ball as Saunders launched a towering six.

The stand was worth 106 when Saunders was run out thanks to a fine piece of fielding from Latino at backward point. Latino made a mockery of his pensioner’s knees to pull off a fine diving stop and then took advantage of some slovenly running to throw the stumps down from on his knees to give Offley hope.

Duck-Hunter-in-Chief Symon Wardley revived Offley’s hopes further as he delivered a fine spell which ended with Patel taking a smart chance to dismiss Purton as the visitors wavered slightly on 138-4. Despite Wardley’s claims he is a batsman, he may in fact be the new Flintoff, a player who shows greater ability with the ball. However, pastry chef Hum could not apply the pressure at the other end and sent down a barrage of juicy, meaty legside pies that were mercilessly smashed away to the boundary, as he once again faced charges of bringing the term “Australian Cricketer” into disrepute.

The final margin of victory was six wickets as Preston eased home with eight overs to spare. In truth Offley were always up against it after their slightly iffy start to the game with the bat and several players will be left to rue their slightly dubious shot selection. However, it was generally a solid effort in the field and the team competed to the end on a generally enjoyable afternoon before Offley’s players collapsed on the grass with a few beers for a spot of team bonding and the chance, as Mr Williams put it, to “get in touch with the earth.”

Very eloquent....