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Offley & Stopsley II's, 144-7 Vs Simmons ; 17th May by seven wickets

OSCC II's lost by 7Wkts

Offley’s second string suffered their third defeat in a row despite drafting in late reinforcements from the ranks of the first team. The weather was decidedly bleak and ultimately the result didn’t provide a great deal in the way of sunshine.

Skipper Colin Keeley took charge of side that was youthful in some parts and arthritic in others and boldly elected to bat first after winning the toss. Keeley and Jon Cerasale opened the batting and both were soon in some discomfort, Keeley being surprised by a vicious bouncer and Cerasale surviving chances to slip and mid off.

In the even it was Keeley who was the first to go. The skipper had promised to lead the way, pledging an over-my-dead-body approach and stressing the need for batting responsibly. Regrettably these noble sentiments were forgotten as Keeley swung hard at a ball that stopped in the pitch. He sent the ball swirling away to cover where two fielders collided in their keenness to take the catch. Despite the collision, the West Indian Edwards clung on to the catch and Keeley departed for 5.

Marc Ward replaced Keeley and announced himself with an imperious square drive, slashing the ball on the up over point. Moments later he attempted something vaguely similar to a ball that pitched just outside off stump and cut back to clip the top of off and send Ward on his way.

Gary Ward joined Cerasale and proved he had taken his captain’s orders to heart as he adopted a dogged defensive approach. Batting in a style that Chris Austin would have approved, Law proved to be the rock on which the Simmons attack foundered. At the other end Cerasale went for his shots, taking on the boundaries and hammering three sixes as he went to his first 50 of the season. However, just when it seemed he was set for a big score, Cerasale feathered a catch to the keeper and went for 53.

74-3 became 80-5 as Jack Willis went without scoring and Damien Sale was undone by a combination of low bounce and a fairly poor shot. Richie Barker joined Law to take the score past 100 and the stand was worth 36 before Law popped up a catch after making a determined 24 to leave Offley on 116-6.

The last four overs yielded 26 runs as Barker swung away, aided and abetted by Wayne Cutts and Colin Williams. Cutts batted with all the aplomb and assurance of a blind man lost in a fog, somehow scraping together 4 singles with the aid of the edge before he was bowled attempting his famed paddle shot. Williams smashed a marvellous shot straight down the ground for a boundary and Offley closed on 144-7 from their 40 overs, a score that seemed enough to be competitive on a two-paced pitch and a slow, lush outfield.

That theory lasted about seven overs, or the time it took opener Singh to post his 50. Singh launched into the Offley bowlers from the opening ball, swinging Marc Ward away over midwicket and then feasting on a succession of short-pitched offerings. Williams briefly stemmed the flow when he had Robinson well caught at midwicket by Willis but Singh hammered Ward out of the attack and then tucked into Keeley, launching the veteran seamer into the car park. Keeley had his revenge when he held on to a swirling return catch and although Ward dropped a sitter off Edwards, he atoned the very next ball by trapping the batsman lbw.

Offley had the chance if they could seize it but the diving Sale failed to hold on to a gloved chance from Clarke and instead of rocking at 70-4, Simmons cruised home. Gear smashed a rapid 51 as Ward came in for some more rough treatment and Cutts served up a solitary over that cost 16 runs. Offley wilted in the field with Cutts looking like a 33-year old relic and Barker conveying the air of a man who has seen better days, invariably falling to the ground like a tower block collapsing rather than diving like an eagle. Cliff Large surrendered 20 runs in his two overs and the end came with 19.5 overs to spare as the visitors stormed to victory.

Despite the result it was a useful outing for Keeley’s team. The young players had the chance to make their mark – Marc Ward should certainly have learned enough never to reprise his bid to bounce out opponents at Offley – and there were runs for Cerasale and Law as Offley ensured they were competitive if not victorious.

That day will come.