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Offley & Stopsley, 187-6 Vs Aspley Guise, 179-9 ; 30th May

OSCC Won by 8 runs

Offley made it four wins out of four in the Beds League as they finally overcame determined resistance from a talented young Aspley Guise team to clinch an eight-run win. Once again victory proved good reward for a solid all-round team effort, as the Offley players stuck to their task and avoided blaming their woes on their teammates – well, at least until the final over of the match when Matt Freeman and Damian Sale performed a passable imitation of a Laurel and Hardy routine.

Richie Barker finally won the toss at the fifth attempt and decided to bat first. Darren Lunney was soon back in the hutch, bowled for 2, but Steve Bexfield and Mo Chaudry both looked in good touch. Chaudry got away with a chance to mid off and looked ready to make the bowlers pay before inexplicably guiding a long hop gently into the hands of square leg.

Gary Chamberlain continued his good form as he helped Bexfield add 67 for the third wicket. Chamberlain hit six boundaries in a typically forthright innings while Bexfield kept the scoreboard ticking over. Bexfield looked ready to kick on when he was given out lbw, a decision that the batsman did not feel correlated precisely with the laws of the game but nonetheless one which he took with his customary grace in such circumstances.

Dhrupal Patel flicked his way to a quick 20 before Offley slumped to 135-5, as Patel and Chamberlain fell within three balls of each other. At that stage Offley’s faint hopes of reaching 200 were shattered and despite some lusty air shots from Paul Hum, Offley looked ready to post a total of no more than 170.

Barker boosted Offley’s hopes with a rapid 35 not out, sharing an entertaining stand of 33 in the final four overs for the seventh wicket with Freeman. Offley closed on 187-6, a score that was just about around par and certainly sufficient to give the bowlers something to work with.

The visitors’ reply got off to an awful start when Marc Ward produced a fine piece of fielding at third man and returned the ball quickly for Sale, leaping like a tin of salmon, to pluck the ball out of the air and whip off the bails to run out Savage without scoring.

Darrell Cooper might have struck with his first ball but Sale spilled a difficult chance behind the stumps. Cooper rebounded to hit Johnson with a rising delivery as he rolled back time. Johnson rebounded by smashing the next ball over long off for 6 before Cooper had the final word and bowled him in comprehensive fashion.

Freeman beat the bat with routine monotony and might have had three or four wickets in his opening spell. He settled for that of Perrin, nicely pouched by Chaudry at gully. Cooper weighed in by having Prickett caught behind and at 30-4 it seemed as though Aspley Guise were going to surrender meekly.

However, Harrison and Quick rebuilt the innings with a stand of 91. Harrison rode his luck, occasionally slicing the ball just beyond the reach of the fielders, but at other times blasting it to the boundary. Freeman spilt a routine chance that would have settled Offley’s nerves (and no it wasn’t a f***ing parry and no you didn’t save four), Lunney came in for some fierce tap and Barker became the first man to be lofted over the new safety net as Harrison deposited him on to the patio. Sale muffed a hard chance off Patel and things were threatening to go badly wrong when Harrison missed a sweep and was bowled by Patel.

Moments later Patel struck again as Carr danced past a straight one and Sale whipped the bails off. In the following over Barker had Quick expertly caught down the leg side by Sale and Aspley Guise looked doomed at 121-7.

However, the tail wagged and Jenkins played some fine strokes, finding the boundary with enough frequency to keep the visitors in the hunt. He also found Chamberlain at deep midwicket but the fielder spiked it into the turf like a volleyball player on match point.

The equation came down to 20 from the final over with Freeman steaming into bowl. Sale turned a dot ball into two byes, initially muffing the take and then hurling the ball at the stumps; it missed and was fielded at long off. This did little to impress Freeman and the pair exchanged some interesting observations. Freeman’s next delivery didn’t impress anyone as it sailed into the field for 6 and the visitors suddenly needed just 12 from 3 balls. Freeman kept his nerve, conceding just four runs from the next two balls and then claiming an extra point by bowling Jenkins for 35 with the final delivery as Offley held on.