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Offley & Stopsley, 124-9 Vs Clifton  86 all out ; 9th May

OSCC Won by  by 38 runs

Offley flirted with disaster at the hands of Clifton’s Kiddie Corps before triumphing by 38 runs. Steve Bexfield led the way with the bat, scoring an unbeaten 66 and was the only Offley batsman to reach double figures. Matthew Freeman returned from a four-week suspension to claim four wickets and set Offley on the road to victory in their first ever Bedfordshire County Cricket League fixture.

Offley lost the toss and were put into bat. They did not get off to a very good start. Gary Chamberlain was beaten for pace and Marc Ward – promoted to number 3 from 11 on the grounds that he bats better higher up the order – was bowled without scoring to give him his second duck from two innings this season. Dhrupal Patel was undone by a swinging delivery and Offley were in dire straits on 20-3.

Bexfield and Damian Sale did their best to run each other out, both batsmen nearly perishing off the same ball, before Sale was bowled for 2. Jon Cerasale marched out vowing to cause problems for the youngsters by hitting the ball high and hard but instead contrived to offer the easiest caught and bowled chance of his illustrious career and departed without scoring.

Josh Hook went for 3 and when Richie Barker followed up a towering six by missing a straight ball, Offley were struggling on 51-7. Freeman briefly threatened to turn the tide as he smashed a quick 7 before trotting down the track and lobbing a simple catch to midwicket to make it 68-8.

It should have been 68-9 but Chris Latino was dropped first ball. He made the most of his reprieve to help Bexfield construct a priceless 39-run stand. Bexfield, immovable, expressionless and charismatic as an Easter Island statue, slowly ground out the runs, sprinkling the odd boundary with ones and twos to drag his team back into the contest. Bexfield brought up his half-century with a boundary, punching the air with both fists and raising his arms in the air in triumph at bludgeoning Clifton’s kindergarten crew. In light of the fact that the next highest score was 9, Bexfield was almost justified in his extravagant celebrations. Latino made 8 before he played a limp-wristed waft and was caught at the wicket. However, Bexfield found a willing ally in Wayne Cutts and the pair added 17 for the last wicket as Offley closed on 124-9.

Offley needed to strike quickly but things looked bleak as Furlong crashed the first ball of Freeman’s opening over to a startled Bexfield at cover where the fielder made a good stop. Furlong lashed the third ball to the boundary but just when it looked as though Offley might be in real trouble, Freeman clean bowled Harwood second ball, the opener failing to connect with a wild hack across the line.

At the other end it quickly became clear that while Furlong enjoyed pace on the ball he was far less comfortable against slow loopy filth. To that end it was no real surprise when he played on to Barker. Barker made it two in two when Ooms top-edged a swipe before Freeman bowled Hyde and Barker picked up a third wicket to leave the visitors rocking on 25-5.

That should have been it but Gailsall and Coleman constructed a useful partnership, seeing off the openers and then helping themselves to a couple of cheap boundaries off Cutts. Offley were starting to look in trouble when Barker brought Freeman back into the attack and he instantly struck with the aid of a brilliant catch in gully by Cerasale. Freeman proved that he was back for good with his very next ball as the renowned bully sent a beamer steaming past the head of the 12-year old batsman who barely had time to blink as it sailed through to Sale behind the stumps.

Freeman settled the issue when he bowled Coleman for 26 to give Offley their seventh wicket. There was still a brief moment of alarm as Ward produced an eclectic blend of long hops, no balls and wides which cost 25 in four overs. However, Cutts steadied the nerves when he removed Randall for 10 after a good catch from Patel. Ward picked up a wicket when his timorous inquiry for lbw was upheld by Umpire Bigmore before Cutts had the last word when he bowled Ferguson without scoring to clinch victory.

All in all not the most convincing performance from Offley but ultimately it was enough to secure a win and maximum points so the inquest can wait for another week.