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Offley & Stopsley CC 135 all out Vs Bedford 155 all out : 27th June

OSCC Lost by 20 runs

“I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he give three lbws or only two?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as I’m the umpire with the quickest trigger in the world and can send you back to the shed in a heartbeat, you’ve got to ask yourself one question. ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

On the day that England’s footballers crashed out of the World Cup, Offley’s cricketers saw their title hopes suffer a serious blow. Despite a fine effort by a depleted team missing the Iscariot Brothers (Brodie and Tattersall) and forced to make do without their hamstrung captain (torn calf actually) Offley slipped to a 20-run defeat.

Steve Bexfield led a weakened team into battle and duly lost the toss, forcing Offley to field first on a scorching day where the mercury hit 31. As it turned out the mercury hit considerably more than most of Offley’s batsmen managed.

The hosts made a bright start. Matt Freeman stormed into bowl, bustling with his customary blend of enthusiasm, aggression and indigestion. He nearly had an early wicket but had to settle for not conceding a boundary when Damian Sale pulled off a fine parry with his chest in the gulley. Freeman had another edge fly through the slips and Marc Ward dropped a hard return chance.

However, the bowlers stuck to their task and Freeman made the breakthrough when he bowled Carr. Ward followed it up by trapping the thrice-reprieved Nagi lbw.

After that wickets fell at regular intervals but the boundaries also kept coming. The visitors cracked 17 fours and a pair of sixes, often chancing their arm and invariably getting away with it as Freeman failed to hold on to an eminently catchable chance, Sale grassed another and Paul Hum offered further compelling evidence to suggest that when it comes to fielding he simply cannot be Australian. Despite the misadventures in the field Offley still performed well. Dhrupal Patel was the start of the show, bagging 4-22 to help restrict the opposition to 155 all out.

The key issue now was whether Offley had sufficient firepower to chase down the target. The reply started brightly with Calypso Chris Austin producing a stunning uppercut and Bulldog Bexfield digging in..

Disaster struck with the score on 21 when Bexfield played forward and was hit high on the front pad. Much to his surprise he was sent on his way by the umpire who wasted little time in gunning down the Offley skipper. Bexfield surprised as everto be given out lbw and a paragon of virtue on the cricket field, did not stop for one second to reflect on the injustices of life or the fact that the ball would probably not have struck another set of stumps. He immediately turned on his heel and walked off.

The situation deteriorated further when Austin was sent on his way by the umpire . Darren Lunney was bowled behind his legs and Patel was stumped in grotesque fashion, shambling down the wicket and missing a straight one.

Youngster Cameron Niven battled hard before being bowled and all of a sudden it was down to Freeman and Jolting Jon Cerasale to rescue Offley from the depths of 51-5.

Freeman survived a concerted, high-pitched appeal from the ever more highly excited young wicketkeeper Heinrich before he had scored. T

After that early scare the pair batted superbly, Cerasale maintaining his excellent run of form and Freeman picking up the singles and lending dogged support. They had added 37 priceless runs when Cerasale mistimed a trademark off drive and fell for 38.

Sale and Freeman now took up the fight. Alas, the bold Sale was undone by a delivery that deflected on to his pad from the middle of his bat. The umpire was in no doubt and quickly raised his finger to indicate that Sale was out. The condemned man uttered his defiant last words and wondered off to his solice.

Paul Hum’s recent fine form ended abruptly as his stumps were detonated before he had scored but Ward and Freeman rallied to the last stand. Ward went for his shots and Freeman uncoiled a couple of mighty blasts. The visitors had no answer and for a while the attack were unable to stem the flow of runs as Ward and Freeman made sure that they did not allow the ball to hit their pads.

Each run was greeted by an ever more desperate gasp of panic from the young excited wicketkeeper behind the stumps and the seeds of doubt were taking root when Ward failed to clear cover as the run rate soared.

Last man Wayne Cutts walked to the middle. He was soon on the end of some unwanted and tedious banter from behind the stumps but like the true Englishman he is (or at least wishes he was, eh Wayne?), Cutts quelled the youngsters hysterics by maintaining a dignified and stolic stance in the face of such histrionics.

Left to score 20 from the last over, the valiant Freeman went down swinging, edging a catch through to the keeper and unfortunately depositing it in his gloves. For Offley there was nothing left to do but contemplate heroic defeat, reflect on Cecil Rhodes’ wise words that as Englishmen they had won first prize in the lottery of life and muse on the fact that while Fabio Capello’s mob were homeward bound, they still had a chance to put things right in a few weeks time.

As legendary thespian Russell Osman noted at halftime during Escape to Victory, “We can win this.”