Offley & Stopsley, 184 all out, lost to Sandridge, 185-7, by three wickets
Buffoon - a ridiculous but amusing person; a clown
Following a string of defeats to better teams, Offley opted to mix things up a little at Sandridge by losing to a team they were clearly better than - barring one man with one shot.
Along the way there were dropped catches, bullies being bullied, silly shots, interesting clothing choices and myriad examples of buffoonery, the majority of which were displayed by Offley's principle buffon - at least in the eyes (and ears) of Sandridge.
Josh Scott, still in search of his first away win as captain in his second season in the Saracens League, won the toss and opted to bat. A firm deck, sunny day and short boundary on one side made it a good day to be a batsman and the Brothers Ward marched out together to open the innings.
On a good day Adam Ward is a peerless driver of a cricket ball, a left-hander who drives like a ginger Lara.
Unfortunately on this day he drove like Andrew Flintoff and was cleaned up within seconds of taking guard.
One slim, speedy athletic left-hander was replaced by another as Scott Boatwright made his way to the middle. After being dismissed without scoring the previous evening when the ball cannoned into his pads, Boatwright was desperate for a score. He constructed a patient 4 before he was caught, nonetheless drawing solace from his first runs of the year at the third attempt.
Roger Piepenstock was the next to try his luck. Piepenstock has improved greatly as a batsman with diligent work over the winter. Rumour has it that he has his servants bowl to him at all hours in a bid to improve his skills while he has also submitted a request for planning permission to turn the ballroom and banquet hall at Piepenstock Manor into an indoor cricket net.
His keen hand-eye coordination that he developed as a young man playing polo and croquet is helping him push his average close to double figures and he backed up a season's best 26 against Shillington with a solid 15 before perishing.
Captain Scott joined Marc Ward and Offley threatened to take control. Scott is in the form of his career with the bat while Ward was keen to prove that he is the best batsman in his family. The duo ran well between the wickets as they took advantage of the sort of lumbering fielding usually displayed by Offley players.
Ward brought up the twelfth half-century of his Offley career with a pleasant on drive.
The last time he brought up a 12 was on the golf course.
Boundaries were starting to come thick and fast. Scott helped himself to three in an over but then went looking for a fourth and spooned a catch to point.
Ward fell almost immediately and the task of rebuilding the innings fell to Mark Tattersall and Nathaniel Brodie, the latter making his return to the ranks after a lengthy absence.
The two batsmen looked to put pressure on the fielders with some finely-judged quick singles. On one occasion - a push to short cover - Tattersall used his experience and anticipation of Brodie's suicidal tendencies to narrowly make his ground, even affording himself time to make an observation about the call during his mad dash for safety.
As someone said, when it comes to quick singles Brodie should always be treated as an illegal immigrant and sent back....
Tattersall looked primed for a big score as he struck a number of boundaries and 220 was on the cards before he scooped a full toss obligingly to short fine leg.
Next man up was Darren Lunney. The ever-combative Lunney had turned up dressed for a fight, sporting a pair of glorious silky blue boxing trunks that Joe Frazier or Muhammad Ali might have worn for the Thriller in Manila.
Unfortunately on the Geordie bantamweight they looked more the sort of athleisure wear that Jimmy Saville might have worn.
Brodie went for 16, injuring his back in the process of taking a mighty heave (and missing) a straight ball.
Lunney was stumped via the keeper's pads as hopes of 200 evaporated and it was left to the unholy trinity of Jamie Cummins, Steve Denton and Wayne Cutts to cobble together as many as they could.
Cummins played a pretty hopless shot before Cutts sacrificed himself for the cause as he was run out off the last ball of the innings attempting a single to mid on. The fielder fumbled the ball, missed the stumps with his throw but the gallant Cutts was still narrowly short of his ground when the bails were removed.
Offley closed on 184, a total that looked as if it might well be enough against a team that didn't exactly look packed with batting.
Cummins took the new ball. After vowing earlier in the day that he would take wickets with anything (a welcome development from the days when he would have struggled to take a wicket armed with a new ball and a bazooka), Cummins trundled in with that familiar technique that suggests he's trying to smash wasps with his elbows and found the outside edge of opener Rothery's bat with his third delivery.
The ball carried through to keeper Boatwright for a regulation catch, as he waited in the recognised position with cymbals outstretched.
Unfortunately Boatwright's efforts behind the stumps were, not for the first time, reminiscent of a disabled spectator at a football match. Which is to say he has an excellent view of proceedings but rarely has any (positive) impact on the game.
The catch went down, Cummins pulled a muscle in anguish and Rothery decided to abandon the off side for the rest of the day, reserving his appetite for the leg side in the same way Luke Munt spurns the salad bar at the buffet in favour of piling on the sausages, pork chops, steaks and burgers.
After a four over spell (it seemed much longer because search parties kept having to be sent into the undergrowth in search of the ball) Cummins was withdrawn from the attack with figures of 4-0-41-0.
Plagued by a bout of no balls and the loss of line and length - not to mention learning an important life lesson that it's one thing to bully little children on scooters but quite another to come up against a bully with a bat - Cummins was smashed to all parts as Rothery served notice that dropping him on 0 might not have been a good idea.
One of the no balls appeared to be launched straight down Denton's throat at long leg. The fielder waited for the ball with his hands outstetched. For reasons known only to himself he failed to move a muscle or make any contact with the ball as it bounced once and rolled over the boundary. This subsequently led to a double fine on the grounds of a refusal and misfield.
A question for the philosophers is that if a batsman cannot be caught off a no ball, is it a refusal not to attempt that 'catch'?
At the other end Lunney was being busy bawling his name whenever the ball was hit towards him, apparently under the misapprehension he was a centre half going in where it hurts to win a header.
These dulcet tones, combined with his decision to wear his hat on backwards while bowling, ensured he made an impression on the Sandridge players.
Given Darren's long-standing belief that suntan lotion is a myth, he needs to be careful to avoid this fate.
A double change saw Denton and Tattersall enter the attack. Denton used his years of experience and cunning to bowl at the less destructive batsmen while Tattersall sent down 33 consecutive deliveries at Rothery.
The net result was that Denton made the breakthrough (aided by a nicely judged catch from Piepenstock) and Tattersall was regularly and routinely carted into the adjacent field as Rothery launched a series of progressively more impressive moon shots that initially cleared the fielder, then the rope and then the hedge. A couple were simply deposited into the trees.
At drinks Sandridge had advanced to 99-1 and were clear favourites although the suspicion remained that if Rothery (who by this stage had reached about 80) could be removed, there was still hope.
The drinks break often brings a wicket.
Unfortunately in this case it brought two drops, including another vital reprieve for Rothery. Scott bungled a regulation catch on the midwicket boundary to the despair of himself, bowler Tattersall and everyone else connected with Offley.
Moments later Chunky Monkey missed another opportunity behind the stumps as he got his body behind the ball but alas his gloves were nowhere near it.
Offley battled on. Cummins, handicapped by a quad injury, perfromed heroics in the gully. Brodie hurled himself about the corregated iron outfield as he demonstrated that his commitment to the cause is as strong as ever, even if his hairline is starting to take on an Alan Shearer resemblance.
Denton pushed his body to the limit, straining nerve and sinew to terrify his opponent with pace and bounce and force him into kicking his own stumps.
Scott picked up a wicket with a delivery that kept a little low to make it 127-3 (at this point Rothery had 93) and Lunney also struck with his penultimate delivery as Sandridge were reduced to 159-4.
The total was 171-4 when Rothery fell in the deep for 121, Brodie taking a well-judged catch at deep square leg. The batsman walked off to deserved applause while Boatwright pondered 121 regrets.
Scott - who would admit that he did not exactly bowl brilliantly - threatened a dramatic turnaround as he claimed two more victims to leave Sandridge wobbling on 178-7.
Alas the bowling resources cupboard was as bare as Piepenstock's head - which was apporpriate as he was forced into the unaccustomed role of death bowler. At a time when line and length were at a premium, Piepenstock served up three wides and a head high full toss.
Sandridge duly scrambled over the line to seal a three-wicket win.
In the aftermath Offley were left to reflect on missed opportunities, Lunney was good-naturedly accused of a certain degree of buffoonery for his performance in the field and was also the subject of an inquiry as to whether he was eligible for Hertfordshire Over 60s.
Offley thereby preserved their perfectly imperfect record on the year - three wins out of three in friendlies and four defeats out of four in league matches....
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