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Offley & Stopsley, 281-4 Vs Knebworth Park 205-9; 19th June
Offley failed to win for the third game in a row in the Saracen’s League despite dominating proceedings from start to finish on a bleak day where the temperatures plummeted, staving off frostbite represented a minor triumph and the preferred method of fielding involved keeping hands in pockets until the last possible moment.
Jon Cerasale scored an unbeaten century and Dave Bridgland bagged four wickets but the home team were unable to overcome the absence of frontline bowlers Wayne Cutts and Matthew Freeman in addition to a serious calf injury that prevented Richie Barker from bowling.
The visitors won the toss and opted to bowl first. Bridgland and Mo Chaudry made a solid start before both departed in quick succession as they looked to take the aerial route and only succeeded in picking out fielders. Darren Lunney didn’t last long before he ran himself out attempting an optimistic second run to leave Offley on 79-3.
However, Nathan Brodie was looking in prime form and looked more reluctant than usual to throw his wicket away with a soft shot. Brodie and Cerasale took the score to 120 before Brodie was adjudged lbw to a ball that appeared to strike the middle of the bat. Unfortunately for Brodie in this case it transpired that blood was thicker than the edge of Brodie’s bat as the umpire gave the bowler (who was also apparently his brother) the benefit of the doubt.
Barker joined Cerasale and the crowd watched with interest to see if Barker could snap his streak of single-innings scores at three. After a slightly hesitant start he stormed into double figures before offering a simple chance to long off that was fortuitously spilled.
At the other end Cerasale eased into top gear and was finding the boundary at will, regularly helping himself to at least one boundary per over and often taking two as the bowlers began to toil. Cerasale stormed past 50 and Barker also began to find his touch as he hammered three sixes. However, just when he was closing in on his own half-century Barker crumpled in a heap after tearing his calf muscle attempting a quick(ish) single and hobbled off after scoring an unbeaten 48.
All that remained to be seen was whether Mark Tattersall would throw up at the wicket after a particularly heavy night out celebrating plucky England’s goalless draw with Algeria. Fortunately he kept the contents of his stomach under control. There was no doubt as to whether Cerasale – playing purely as a batsman on account of infirmity and old age – would reach three figures and he duly reached the landmark with his fourth six, a mighty blow over midwicket. Cerasale finished unbeaten on 110 after striking four sixes and 14 fours. It represented Cerasale’s first century for Offley & Stopsley and was also the first time that a man named Piers had scored a hundred for the club. Offley closed on 281-4, setting the visitors (who had failed to secure a single bonus point from their bowling endeavours) a daunting task.
Knebworth did not get off to a particularly good start. Darren Lunney – whose previous wicket in 2010 had come at a cost of 143 runs – struck in his opening over. Moments later Bridgland removed his opposite number when visiting skipper Woods capped a miserable day by charging down the track and missing a straight one to make it 1-2.
Inman opted to dig in but Folwell went for his shots, tucking into Bridgland with gleeful relish as he targeted the leg-side boundary, launching the Offley skipper for four sixes as he surged to a 25-ball half-century. However, Bridgland had his revenge when he undid Folwell with a slow, floaty pie that the batsman attempted to hit into next Tuesday and was clean bowled.
Bridgland struck again with his very next ball as Hutchinson hurtled down the wicket like a lemming searching for a cliff to throw himself off and was smartly stumped by Dhrupal Patel. In the next over Evans went without scoring when he chipped a simple return catch to Bridgland and at 85-5 the visitors looked dead and buried.
Marc Ward claimed the sixth wicket when Stevens sliced a drive to Tattersall at point. Ward looked to have claimed his second wicket when he clean-bowled Reynolds. However, Umpire Bigmore ruled it a no ball (Doh!) and this was to prove the turning point in the match as Offley’s bid for victory stalled.
Inman and Reynolds took the score to 133, eating up time and overs as the mercury dropped, before Inman contrived to sweep a ball from Tattersall onto his stumps. Jones was lucky to last long enough to make 0 before Johnson provided some impetus to the innings. The number 10 showed a particular enthusiasm for smearing Colin Keeley through midwicket and helped himself to five boundaries with an array of rustic blows before he top-edged a pull. It was a poignant moment, as Brodie settled under the catch and calmly held on to give Keeley his last wicket before he takes a break from the game to undergo extensive surgical repairs. The Keeley we have known so well will be an artificially reconstructed cricketer from now on – we have seen the last of the original as created by Mother Nature. It is indeed a sad day. (Cue sad music on Irish bagpipes, either Danny Boy or Amazing Grace.)
Johnson’s departure left Knebworth nine wickets down. Keeley charged into the crease, the ageing warhorse trying valiantly to break one last square, Red Rum trying to jump one last fence or simply an old donkey enjoying a final ride along a sunlit beach. It was to no avail. At the other end Tattersall beat the bat but could not find the edge or the stumps and the visitors clung on to secure a rather undeserved draw as Offley failed to win for the second match in succession where one of their batsmen scored a century.