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Offley & Stopsley, 197-8 Vs Old Owens, 142 all out; 15th May

OSCC Won by 55 runs

This game was far closer than the final margin of victory suggests because for a long time it seemed as though Offley were destined to finish on the short end of the result. The visitors were going well on 81-1 when Adam Ward turned the game with a spirited four-over burst. Dave Bridgland may have taken the individual honours with bat and ball and Colin Keeley may have produced another age-defying display but regardless of what happened before and after Ward’s intervention, it was the youngster’s spell that proved decisive.

Offley were asked to bat and Bridgland and Chris Austin went in first. After a couple of overs when it appeared that ball would dominate on a green and bouncy deck, Bridgland decided to trust his luck and take on the bowlers. Austin placed his faith in his tried and tested formula of blocking. The partnership worked to good effect as the pair blunted the initial burst by the impressive Old Owens bowlers. Bridgland began to find the gaps and Austin provided a stirring impersonation of a disabled spectator at a football match as he found himself close to the action without ever threatening to score. Austin finally departed via an outside edge after scoring 4 from 45 balls, a leg glance that raced to the boundary and ensured his wagon wheel consisted of a single spoke.

Nathan Brodie came in at three and looked to hit his way back to form. A fortuitous phantom edge got him off the mark (the batsman later revealed he got nowhere near it and that it should have been four byes) before he launched a sweet six over long off. Brodie was back! Moments later he was back in the hutch as he chipped a soft return catch and was caught and bowled for 10 to make it 69-2.

Bridgland and Richie Barker joined forces and shared a stand of 69 in 53 minutes that put Offley firmly in the ascendancy. Bridgland reached his half-century while Barker opted to attack the bowlers, reeling off seven boundaries and a glorious straight six en route to a quick-fire 43. However, just when Offley looked set for a big score the pair departed in quick succession. Bridgland dragged one on for an excellent 70 before Barker followed when he was beaten by a beauty from McCluskey. Offley slumped from 138-2 to 166-7 as McCluskey completed his five-wicket haul by inducing Keeley to hole out at mid off and then bowling Marc Ward for a scratchy 4. Andrew Van Hoof failed to trouble the scorers – despite his insistence that he made a single – before he was bowled and at one stage Offley looked as though they might struggle to bat the 53 overs.

But Darren Lunney held the tail together (apart from an unfortunate moment when he ran out Josh Hook) and finished unbeaten on 27. Matthew Freeman provided useful assistance as he helped his pal add 22 for the ninth wicket and Offley closed on 197-8.

Offley made an early breakthrough when Brodie took an excellent return catch to dismiss Lee. The ball did not look like it would carry through to Brodie at the end of his follow through but he went down low to suck it up inches off the turf.

After that Lane and Rimaaz wrested the initiative away in favour of the visitors. Freeman bowled a nothing spell and Van Hoof mixed some boomeranging deliveries with serial no ball problems, at one point serving up a 10-ball over. Old Owens were making rapid strides towards their target, Keeley was wading through treacle and managing to bite the bullet and bleat like hell at the same time when Bridgland gambled and threw Adam Ward into the attack. Ward almost made the breakthrough when Rimaaz mowed across the line but Bridgland could not hold on at midwicket. However, in his next over Rimaaz drove uppishly to Brodie at extra cover and Offley were back in it with the score on 81-2.

Keeley now came to the fore, digging deep inside and searching for the hero inside himself. It may have been a rather broken-down hero with a wrecked ankle and a swollen elbow but Keeley somehow produced a performance that would have made Heather Small proud. With the last ball prior to the drinks interval Keeley trapped Lane lbw to make it 95-3. Freshly revitalised by proper Robinson’s orange squash – the brand that beats all others, including some of the minor brands on sale in Ireland as Keeley will testify to after conducting his own range of taste tests – the veteran trundler ran amok. McKinstry was beaten all ends up by a lack of pace as he swung wildly across the line and Keeley was on fire as he bowled Collier behind his pads to make it 104-5.

Moments later it was 104-6 when Bridgland lured Hunter down the pitch (with the aid of a choice comment about playing a shot from Keeley) and after 24 balls of solid batting the batsman chipped a simple catch to Freeman at mid on. The fielder made a meal of it before catching it at the third attempt. Gordon was brilliantly stumped by Austin without scoring before Atta slogged wildly at Bridgland and Freeman took an excellent catch running back at mid on as Old Owens lost their sixth wicket for 15 runs to slump to 110-8.

However, Hattrell and McCluskey batted to good effect and the runs began to flow again. Keeley blew himself out and was replaced by Barker while Freeman took over from Bridgland. Barker killed off hopes of a shock comeback when he induced an edge from a wild swipe by McCluskey. Barker was highly satisfied to turn a ball that resulted in the chance of a catch although rather less satisfied to find himself under the ball. Fortunately he held on.

Finally Freeman came to the party – he had heard there was jelly and ice cream – when he had Morris lbw with 4.4 overs to go to give Offley a second victory in succession and maintain the team’s impressive start to the season.