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Offley & Stopsley II's CC 208-7 Vs Stevenage 168-10 ; 30th Aug

OSCC Won by 40 runs

Marc Ward and Matthew Freeman shared a record seventh-wicket stand of 136 to set up Offley’s 40-run win over Stevenage. Ward and Freeman both scored personal bests and dug Offley out of the mire of 72-7 after another frenetic batting display.

Richie Barker won the toss and elected to bat first. Wayne Cutts and Darrell Cooper opened the batting and perhaps it was no great surprise that Offley lost an early wicket. The pair survived the opening over before Cutts was bowled by the first ball of the second over without scoring. This officially marks the end of the Cutts Opening Experiment in the wake of scores of 3, 1 & 0. Cooper looked in good touch, crashing three boundaries before being bowled.

Damian Sale and Gary Chamberlain proved they were in the mood to enjoy themselves as they plundered 35 runs in an enterprising third-wicket stand. Chamberlain sliced a massive six over third man and looked in great touch before playing a frankly disgraceful slog to a straight ball and was bowled for 17. At the other end Sale was unnerved by the arrival of Matthew Freeman, a man who has frequently run out both Sale brothers, and promptly surrendered his wicket by slicing to cover to make it 49-4.

Symon Wardley avoided his seventh duck of the season by scoring two runs before being bowled. That brought in Offley’s greatest Australian, Paul Hum. Looking more than ever like a koala in callipers, the Aussie was promptly hit on the pads and sent on his way for a duck by Umpire Cutts. Cutts was similarly brutal in his treatment of Chris Latino, adjudging Latino lbw for 4 as Offley hit the depths of 72-7.

Ward and Freeman joined forces and with Freeman adapting to the role of Brigadier Block with real joy and enthusiasm – all those hours of playing in the garden with his dad Bexfield and watching the old man pad back juicy long hops on a length paid off – Ward went for his shots, smashing the bowling to all parts. The pair took the total past 100 and then carried along on their merry way. Ward – apparently deciding that he might as well go down swinging as hang around waiting for freeman to run him out – looked in majestic touch and hit 11 boundaries in his 50, finishing with 14 in all. Freeman, rotund and circumspect, opted to pick up the singles, hoarding each run like a miser collecting pennies. Only the prospect of ending stranded short of his 50 prompted Freeman to go for his shots, reaching his landmark with a flurry of boundaries and brining a big, dopy smile to that big dopy face as he realised that not only had he removed the monkey from his back, he had also lightened the wallet of his bosom pal Darren Lunney on account of Lunney’s bet with Nathan Brodie. Offley surged past 200 and Barker felt confident enough to declare with four balls of the innings unused.

Stevenage were left to score 209 for victory and as Offley’s players tucked into a sumptuous tea provided by Freeman it seemed that a victory was firmly on the cards. Although the captain, weighed down by doughnuts and flapjacks was starting to feel a little queasy by the time Offley took the field, it was nothing to the bilious look on Wardley’s face as he grappled with the combination of doughnuts, sausage rolls, scotch eggs, rolls and the need to open the bowling. Wardley resisted the urge to vomit in the middle of his run up but it was Charles Page who made the breakthrough, prompting Fisher to miscue a pull to mid on where Freeman took the catch. However, Offley’s hopes of an easy win were dashed as Maguire smashed Page for four boundaries in five balls. Cooper stemmed the tide when Welch chipped a slower ball back to the bowler and Whitworth promptly holed out to Freeman to give Cooper his second wicket.

However, the runs continued to flow as Maguire and Whitworth chanced their arms and Cutts and Chamberlain engaged in a fierce battle to see who could drop the most catches.

Cutts started the ball rolling in fine style as he allowed a mistimed pull from Whitworth to somehow float through his hands at square leg, displaying a lack of coordination that would have got him expelled from a special school. Chamberlain quickly proved that he was not fit to ride the sunshine bus as he dropped an absolute sitter from Maguire. Cutts was back in the action when he allowed the ball to loop over his head, running round in pursuit of it like a tit in a trance before it hit the deck. He then dropped a harder opportunity at square leg. Not to be outdone, Chamberlain drew level at 2-2 when he spilled an offering in the covers.

At this point Offley were staring down the barrel but fortunately Maguire had no answer to a waist high legside full toss from Barker and generously smashed it down Cooper’s throat at fine leg. The door was ajar and Ward kicked it off its hinges, picking up Welch with a catch that even Chamberlain couldn’t drop and then having Barton caught by Wardley without scoring. Barker bowled Fortune for a duck to leave the visitors seven down before a miraculous event occurred.

Barker bowled to Slater and the batsman sliced a wild smear miles into the air on the legside. The only man on the field who had a chance of catching it was Cutts and – in the light of his earlier efforts – the smart money suggested that his prospects were somewhere between none and slim (unlike his belly). However, undaunted by previous mishaps, Cutts set off in pursuit of the ball, arm raised in hopeful pursuit like a drunk hailing a cab after a heavy night on the lash. Somehow the ball nestled perfectly in his outstretched palm to allow Cutts to lay claim to the catch of the season. Actually that should probably real his catch for the season.

Hum picked up the ninth wicket when the Aussie trundler persuaded Slater to drive uppishly to Barker in the covers. The game ended with Cutts picking up the final wicket, as Cooper clung on to his third catch of the day to seal the win.

All in all it was a highly satisfactory if slightly rare day for Offley. A victory for the 2nd XI, Barker’s first win of the season as captain (1-5), catches held, runs scored, 200 passed, Freeman at the bar (twice!), no duck for Wardley, no run outs for Freeman and no empty glasses in the bar....