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And We're Back..............

 Josh Scott, 36, lost to Cranfield, 174, by 138 runs

(OSCC, 57 all out, lost to Cranfield by 117 runs)

It was a day where Josh Scott single-handedly helped Offley avoid their lowest ever total (43).

It was a day when Umpire Wayne Cutts ran amok and single-handedly decimated his own batting order (admittedly the fella who took 6-6 might disagree slightly with that).

It was a day where six hours spent in A&E and the prospect of a summer of scans and tests seemed preferable to being part of the carnage.

It was a day which was hopefully not a sign of things to come as only 10 men could be cajoled on to the field. Considering the Christians usually managed a full compliment in the Colliseum against the Lions this was a little disappointing for the first game of the year.

Above all it was a day where the early promise of two friendly victories was swept away in comprehensive fashion as Cranfield stormed to victory, Swapnil claiming as many wickets (6) as eight Offley batsmen combined for runs between them.*

Regrettably four of the Offley batters were unable to swap nil for a score of any description.

On the plus side we got four more points than Eggington managed in their annihilation by Stony Stratford.

Offley won the toss and elected to bowl. 

Wickets tumbled early as Peter Gilkes made the initial breakthrough before Jamie Cummins held on to the first of four chances to come his way. 

Only two would go down. 

Technically only one went down as on the other occasion he produced some "Ole!" bullshit, apparently under the impression he was a fucking matador and allowed the ball to slice him in half without making contact on its way to the boundary.

An ominous third wicket stand was broken by the rarely seen spin of Ben Wiles, eschweing his customary pace on the grounds of a bad back.

Wiles claimed two quick LBW decisions, only one of which was down to the fact he appealed loudly.

Wiles picked up two more wickets and at the halfway stage the visitors were 92-6 with the game in the balance.

A quick 40-run partnership for the seventh wicket tilted the balance back in Cranfield's favour before Wiles claimed his fifth victim.

It was the sort of display that made you wonder if there is nothing that Wiles, fresh off the back of an unbeaten century at Breachwood Green last week, cannot do.

(90 minutes later he was out without scoring, illustrating that on this day, at least, getting off the mark was beyond even his capabilities.)

Josh Scott weighed in with two quick scalps, the reward for bowling a steady diet of unmitigated dross featuring half-trackers, full bungers and assorted tasty treats to leave Cranfield rocking on 140-9.

Roger Piepenstock looked to have ended the innings when he drew a leading edge from the last man but Danny O'Brien was unable to hold on to the catch as he made a simple chance look as complicated as Stephen Hawking's homework.

34 runs were added for the final wicket as Cranfield posted an imposing 174.

A lengthy interval ensued as the visitors awaited the arrival of their tea, delivered by Domino's Pizza. They had resorted to this form of sustenance after deciding Darren Lunney's two Piccalilli sandwiches would not be enough for all of them.

Considering the Cranfield batters had been gorging themselves on a number of tasty pies offered up at the Bowling Buffet, the need for pizza seemed somewhat surprising.

When play resumed Offley began well, the new opening combination of Chris Austin Darren Lunney and Martin Wiles putting on one run for the first wicket before Wiles was caught and bowled without scoring.

Piepenstock joined Austin Lunney and was soon calling for a runner after sustaining an injury of sorts while attempting to match the Tyneside tearaway stride for stride between the wickets.

Clearly burdened by his habit of carrying guineas, sovereigns, doubloons and Krugerrands on his person at all times, Piepenstock's quad muscle gave way under the strain of his gold.

Ben Wiles rushed out with the cold spray, demonstrating his concern for the wellbeing of his players and clearly going above and beyond the call of duty in the process.

Gallantly Piepenstock elected to persevere with the assistance of Martin Wiles as runner but unfortunately the two batters were matching each other dot for dot as they blocked Offley into an early corner, Cranfield tightening the screw with every missed swish and hack and every shot that made contact invariably trickling towards a fielder.

Piepenstock eventually fell for 3 (the bronze medal position in the scoring charts) to one that didn't bounce much before Gilkes deposited his first ball into the hands of square leg.

Ben Wiles walked out to join Austin Lunney and there was little doubt that this was the partnership that had to bear fruit if Offley were to pull off an improbable victory from the depths of 15 for 3.

Not long afterwards Offley were 16 for 7.

Austin Lunney had chiselled out nine priceless runs (silver medal in the run scoring charts) in a dozen overs, conjuring up memories of that long ago day at Silsoe when he and Martin Bigmore doggedly refused to blot Tom Reilly's bowling figures with a single (9-9-0-1)# when he was trapped in front of middle stump, the ball cannoning into his shin.

Not for the first time in his career Austin Lunney was convinced the ball would somehow have avoided his poles either through late swing or levitation but had no choice but to make his melancholic journey back to the pavilion after Umpire Cutts raised the finger of fate.

In the following over at his end Umpire Cutts' digit of destiny was once again pointing skywards as Captain Wiles failed to get a sufficient amount of wood on the ball to convince the umpire that it had not hit his pad first.

If the decision to send Austin Lunney on his way seemed reasonable, dispatching the captain to the pavilion seemed rather more quixotic.

Imbibed with a confidence and panache for decision making, Umpire Cutts made his next contribution to proceedings from square leg where he ruled that O'Brien had been stumped.

Shortly afterwards debutant Mark "Fitts Right In Because He Got 0 As Well" Fitt lobbed a catch to the infield to make it 16 for 7.

At this stage Offley were posied for humiliation as well as defeat.

However, Scott produced a blistering cameo to stave off an unwanted entry into the record books as he laid about him to great effect.

Offley's Pocket Battleship, a man who spends his spare time moonlighting as a crash test dummy for Matchbox toys, dealt exclusively in boundaries as he hauled Offley up into the 30s and past the previous lowest score of 43.

At the other end Cummins dug in to offer dogged support until he produced his second piece of "Ole!" matador bullshit of the day, apparently deciding there was no need to play a shot to a ball that pitched millimetres outside off stump and turned in enough to hit middle and off.

Cutts joined Scott and together the pair pushed the total past 50 before Scott's defiant knock ended with a mistimed slap to mid off.

The ultimate margin of defeat was 117 runs, a margin which in many ways represented something of a moral victory considering the dire straits into which the innings had at one stage fallen.

Yet considering we haven't even reached May it's possibly a little early to be searching for specks of gold in the sack of shite.....

* Wayne Cutts was credited with two singles despite clear signals from the umpires to the contrary and the batter subsequently admitting he had not hit the ball. However, the scorebook never lies.

# The Silsoe pitch is gone now, replaced by a housing development. Yet if you should pay a visit to the site you will find a blue plaque of historical significance commemorating how Lunney and Bigmore suucessfully blunted Reilly's probing line of a foot outside off stump by not playing a shot and ensuring none of his 54 deliveries yielded a run. And if you haven't figured it out by now, no, we didn't win that one either.


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