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Offley & Stopsley, 191-7 Vs Ampthill, 140 all out; 16th May

OSCC Won by 51 runs

Jon Cerasale starred with bat and ball to lead Offley to an ultimately comfortable victory over Ampthill. Cerasale cracked an unbeaten 62 and picked up two key wickets. He also had four catches put down off his bowling as Offley’s fielders produced a display that fluctuated between dreadful and sublime. Gary Chamberlain also weighed in with an impressive 41 as Offley made it two wins out of two in the Beds League.

Richie Barker lost the toss again (0-3 on the year) and Offley were asked to bat first on a green-tinged wicket surrounded by an uncut outfield that appeared to be in need of a severe dose of napalm. Steve Bexfield guided the first ball of the match into and out of the hands of the gully fielder but failed to make the most of his reprieve as he eventually slashed a cut to the same fielder who made an impressive one-handed grab.

Offley quickly lost their second wicket when Darren Lunney was struck a glancing blow on the outside of the pad as the ball headed down the leg side trapped plumb in front of middle stump. Mo Chaudry and Dhrupal Patel began to bat with real authority and both batsmen looked set for a big score until they departed in swift succession. Patel was bowled attempting one of his favoured wristy flicks before Chaudry was bowled behind his legs by the wily Bradley.

Chamberlain and Andrew Van Hoof repaired the damage. Chamberlain played his best innings for the club as he mixed aggression and caution and Van Hoof cruised to his highest score of the season (6) like a sailor in a speedboat. Van Hoof’s innings was cut short when he was adjudged to have glanced a catch to the keeper. Unlike the previous day when he claimed he had been denied the chance to get off the mark when the umpire called a leg bye instead of a run and stomped off pointing to the fresh red mark on his bat, Van Hoof walked off complaining that he hadn’t hit the ball. Swings and roundabouts, as they say – and Van Hoof wasn’t having much fun on either of them.

Cerasale survived a loud appeal for caught behind before he had got off the mark but the umpire ruled not out. It was the turning point of the match as Offley would have been 102-6 with the tail exposed. However, Cerasale and Chamberlain now added 61 for the sixth wicket to carry Offley towards a relatively decent total. Chamberlain began to look less assured as the runs began to dry up but he still struck some mighty blows before falling for 41 after slicing a drive to point.

Damian Sale charged down the pitch, willing as ever to sacrifice his wicket in pursuit of quick runs – some suicide bombers display less enthusiasm for dying for the cause than Sale – before Cerasale launched a late flurry that dragged Offley up to 191-7.

Barker and Matt Freeman opened the bowling but neither really looked like taking a wicket in their opening spells. They gave way to Patel and Cerasale respectively as the Ampthill batsmen began to put together a useful stand with Thiarra looking particularly dangerous. Cerasale bowled Horton to break the stand on 47 but after that things began to unravel as Offley’s fielders offered a passable impression of men with no hands.

Chamberlain dropped a dolly at midwicket that would have accounted for Thiarra. Moments later the batsman reached his half-century and things were looking ominous. Worst was to follow when Chamberlain was unable to cling on to a much more difficult chance. The very next ball saw Barker get half a thumb to a flashing chance at slip – he stopped the ball with his chest, a classical Freeman parry. Cerasale finally claimed a deserved second wicket when he trapped Thiarra lbw to make it 99-2 and followed it up by finding the edge of Clarke’s bat. The edge found Sale’s gloves but then found the floor.

Patel made way after bowling a very tidy spell and Barker ran through the middle order as the youthful Ampthill batsmen were forced to hit out in a bid to keep up with a spiralling run rate. Clarke, Degnan and Chappell all slogged catches to the deep with Chris Latino taking an excellent sliding catch that cost him plenty of skin but earned his captain a wicket. Lunney and Patel also held catches as Ampthill lurched to 105-5.

Freeman took over from Cerasale and produced a hostile spell that deserved to yield more than just one wicket. However, the hefty Freeman was poised to enjoy his big moment. After a well execute run out by Chaudry made it 120-7, Corkett sliced a drive off Lunney towards Freeman at backward point.

The ball arced away from the fielder but Freeman – desperate to secure a wicket for his best buddy or perhaps under the misapprehension that the ball was in fact a donut – set off in pursuit and hurled himself at the ball. It was like watching a young bear in a tutu attempting ballet for the first time while simultaneously trying to catch a salmon in its mouth. Nonetheless Freeman dived for the ball and snaffled it before ploughing into the ground like a stricken 747 crash-landing. The tremors were felt throughout the local area.

Van Hoof wrapped up the innings with two wickets before departing for Southampton. He held on to a sharp caught and bowled opportunity – the type of catch that might have led Colin Keeley to having a word or three about catching things off your own bowling – and then clinched victory when winning an lbw decision against Thomas.

Overall it’s fair to say Offley have been better but they scratched out the runs when it mattered and were able to do enough with the ball to clinch maximum points, although without Cerasale’s efforts with bat and ball it might well have been a different story.