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Offley & Stopsley 252-5 Vs Sawbridgeworth III's 197-7 ; 3rd Sept
Offley & Stopsley CC fell agonisingly short at the final hurdle to be tipped at the post by Stevenage II's for the Division 8 title, losing out on the title by two points.
Needing at least maximum bonus points (19) to win the league in the case of a drawn match OSCC could only manage 7 wickets in the chase for the title to earn 17 bonus points, leaving Stevenage as winners by 1 point in the final run in.
The crucial point in the match was the toss, OSCC would surely have won if batting 2nd, however the toss was lost, Sawbridgeworth decided to defend the game and it was uphill from there-on. Knowing they would need as many overs as possible to force the result, the Offley batsmen set off at a blistering pace from the start after stand-in skipper Steve Bexfield (Saturday Captain Nathan Brodie was unable to play as he had a long standing appointment to hide behind a sofa at a surprise party later that evening) set a target of at least 240 off 40 overs.
Steve Hoare hit a quite brilliant 113 not out to keep the momentum in our favour with the rest of the batsmen sacrificing their wickets in a hasty and not wasted effort to get to the target. After 41 overs Bexfield declared the innings on 252-5, leaving the bowlers 59 overs to get at least 9 wickets.
Keeley and Freeman started the hunt with the old ball and got no reward against some resolute batting from the Sawbridgewoth openers, indeed this pair put on 126 for the 1st wicket. With the game and the title drifting away after 30 overs, Skipper Bexfield decided to take the new ball and bring back his openers for one last fling. Colin Keeley stepped up to break the partnership, bowling Heath for 66, is partner soon followed after edging to Keeper Chris Austin off the same bowler in his next over.
Bexfield kept a spinner on throughout the match with friendly fields in an effort to keep Sawbridgeworth in with a shout of victory and keep the match alive, this proved useful as Keeley took a sharp catch at square leg soon after off Tattersall's bowling and the game was on again. Bridgland came into the game at this point with a couple of quick wickets. And then Lunney made a fine run out from nowhere and Sawbridgeworth were 170-6 with 17 overs still to go.
The introduction of premier strike bowler Freeman for his 3rd spell of the match promised so much when he clean bowled Pickett for a 1 in his second over back. Alas, this proved to be the final highlight in the match for OSCC. With Stevenage players at the ground keen to see the result, OSCC were unable to break the 8th wicket partnership as both batsmen put down the anchor and refused to play a shot and defended for the draw.
It was a dissapointing end to a fine season in which many thought we would struggle to avoid relegation, instead promotion was gained easily and only the toss of a coin prevented the league title coming to rest at the Recreation ground. Celebrations were definatley muted later that evening, however, it must be remembered that this was the clubs 4th promotion in 6 years of Saracens cricket. Something to be proud of for sure.