OSCC 108 all out (Ali 33) lost to Shenley 246-4 (Barker 2-37) by a lot
A disgraceful piece of cricket from Darren Lunney overshadowed a wonderfully inept performance by Offley at Shenley.
On a day in which Offley had heroically contrived to drop, refuse or run past everything that had been hit towards them in the air, Lunney embarrassed himself and his colleagues in the final over of the Shenley innings by holding on to a stinging return catch at the fourth attempt.
Frankly there was no need for it.
Captain Dan won the toss and for reasons known only to himself elected to bowl first on a surface which, if it was not exactly a motorway, could reasonably lay claim to A Road status.
Captain Dan later admitted he had been surprised to win the toss, had actually hoped to lose it, and had not fully considered the consequences of his actions before inviting Shenley to book themselves in for breakfast and buffet.
That decision to bowl could fairly be identified as the turning point in the match as the Shenley openers - one of whom looked like Harold Shipman and one who didn't - put on 206 for the first wicket.
There were chances along the way but none really went easily to hand and those that did were thrown to the floor like a perturbed child hurling its rattle.
Richie Barker failed to take a couple of half chances off Ali and shelled a sitter off Steve Denton. That maintained Barker's record in 2021 of catching 100% of the chances off his own bowling and dropping 100% off everyone else.
Lunney dropped a return catch.
Captain Dan missed a couple of tough stumping opportunities.
Hassan spilled one at long off, an attempt that could only have been more casual if he'd been clutching a cold drink in one hand and a cigarette holder in the other.
Kaiz Ul-Haq dropped two, refused one and ran under another as he endured a somewhat chastening afternoon in the field.
Roger Piepenstock flew through the air like a dying swan with a crossbow bolt through its neck and shelled a tough chance and later helped distract Ul-Haq sufficiently to allow a ball to drop between them and bounce off the wheel of the sightscreen.
Ian Laidler, on his way back to his position after retrieving the previous ball from the long grass, dropped a sprawling effort.
Jamie Cummins had a ball hit straight down his throat but ran in and watched it sail over his head.
Needless to say the bowling figures weren't great, albeit not quite as expensive as a ticket for England v Italy.
Denton narrowly pipped Laidler to see who could surrender the biggest six when a poorly disguised slower ball was launched over midwicket.
Barker picked up a couple of wickets, including that of Shipman for 99, and Lunney also snared a couple, including the opener who wasn't Shipman for 110, as Offley did well to restrict their hosts to 246-4.
In the process Offley picked up four bonus points.
Offley needed a good start if they were to get even halfway to their target (let's face it we had fuck all chance of winning) so it was a little disappointing when Lunney attempted to whip the second ball of the innings through midwicket and was yorked.
Considering it had taken Offley's bowlers 40 overs to make the breakthrough, it was mildly upsetting to see the first brick in the wall dislodged so swiftly as Lunney, the dependable block of balsa, trudged sadly back to the pavilion.
Hassan and Ali came together and (with a little help from Extras who finished on a highly commendable 28) the pair put on 37 for the second wicket before Hassan chipped a return catch to Wood.
37-1 quickly became 44-4.
Wood bowled Piepenstock for no score, the batsman perhaps hampered by his footwear that were last in vogue around the time of the Industrial Revolution.
The same bowler then trapped Ul-Haq LBW for a single, a single Wood made very clear that he believed the batsman had not deserved after an earlier reprieve for leg before.
It was an excellent effort from Wood who was busy winning friends and influencing people with his witty banter and bonhomie but still picked up three scalps.
Captain Dan carved his way to 20 before playing a poor shot to a poor delivery and lobbing a catch to square leg as he miscued a pull.
At the other end Ali played a defiant innings, one of his best for the club.
One of the few not to have dropped a catch (one of the perks of not fielding on the boundary) he made his mark with the bat in his hands.
Solid in defense, occasionally expansive in attack, he struck some wonderful blows, none better than the majestic straight six he launched down the ground.
Unfortunately he perished as he attempted to repeat the blow and was caught just inside the rope. He comfortably top-scored with 33 and looks to have found his role as an opening batsman.
Laidler was next to go as he prodded a catch to silly mid off before Cummins played perhaps the finest innings of his career as he defied the fast bowlers and looked comfortable doing so.
Cummins richly deserved to become the latest member of the celebrated Offley Double Figures Club but fell just short as he lobbed a slower ball to midwicket and went for 8.
Denton was yorked first ball although Sanket survived the hat trick ball the end came when Shipman floated a delivery past his outside edge to clip off stump.
All in all, not a great day.
At least the opposition enjoyed themselves at the end, thanking Captain Dan's crew for making the trip despite the Covid outbreak and bringing out a big crate of Budweiser that they didn't share.
Hatch End's win at Bovingdon leaves Offley 41 points from safety while they are 17 points behind fellow no-hopers Kings Langley.
There are (technically) still 240 points up for grabs but as Offley have now lost five in an row and managed to muster just 65 from a possible 180 in the games that have not been called off due to rain or plague, the only question to be resolved may be whether the club starts next season in Division 8A or 8B.