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The Natural

 OSCC, 110 all out, lost to Broxbourne, 171-8, by 61 runs

Marc Ward made his debut for Offley in 2007.

For 16 years he avoided having to keep wicket.

On Saturday he took the gloved for the first time and proved a natural.

Ward allowed a mere four byes, took two catches and a stumping and looked totally at ease behind the stumps.

Guess what?

Offley lost.

With the latest defeat relegation from the Saracens League was officially confirmed.

To be fair it was always a little difficult to see us winning four in a row while Baldock picked up less than three points from their remaining games but there you go.

Hoddesdon's outstanding ineptitude will probably ensure we only drop one flight (pending potential regional reorganisation) but it still means we're going to have dropped four divisions in three years on a Saturday.

The game started well when Josh Scott won the toss and elected to bowl.

Steve Denton and Darren Lunney combined to send down 16 miserly overs as Broxbourne failed to make much impression.

Unfortunately they were also 16 wicketless overs, the closest either came to a wicket was when Lunney failed to hold on to a fiercely struck return catch.

Roger Piepenstock, who had missed the start of the contest while trying to fix his 3D printer, ended in a one-dimensional sprawling heap after misjudging a possible catch off Jamie Cummins, back-pedalling furiously while waving his arms in the air (like he just didn't care) and ultimately failing to touch the ball.

Piepenstock fails to cling on

Shafiq made the breakthrough with the score on 52 when he produced a delivery that reared and took the edge and Ward flung himself to his right to take the catch.

Cummins put his Eggington horror show behind him with a double wicket maiden as Offley surged back into the contest.

Jamie - a man who never makes a mistake when doing the book, just ask Steve Bexfield - was particularly miffed afterwards to discover this maiden had not been recorded in the scorebook.

Ah well, them's the breaks.

One delivery found the edge to give Ward a second catch. The other found the middle of the bat but also found Shaoib at cover who took a fine catch above his head.

Broxbourne regained control with a fourth-wicket stand of 52 before a Richie Barker long hop ended up in the hands of Lunney at cover.

Shafiq picked up a second wicket with his final delivery as Lunney took his second catch of the day before Barker struck twice in an over (Ward claiming his first stumping for the club) to reduce Broxbourne to 118-7.

Unfortunately amidst the flurry of wickets, one Symms arrived at the crease.

Apparently he had been left out of Broxbourne's 2nd XI as it was considered too strong. He subsequently took the game away from Offley with some devastating hitting, including one that rebounded off Piepenstock's knee at mid on and nearly ran the non-striker out.

Symms launched Cummins for a huge six over midwicket and smashed a rapid 41 before Cummins bowled him with his penultimate delivery.

Broxbourne finished on 171-8, a total that could reasonably be described as challenging.

Halfway through the second over it looked even more challenging as Barker, already handicapped with a damaged toe, injured his back in splendidly inocuous fashion and limped from the field like a ruptured wildebeast to take no further part in the contest.

Barker limps off

Shortly afterwards Ward successfully chased and edged a wide and Shoaib softly lobbed a simple catch to mid off.

It mattered not for Steve Bexfield was going great guns.

Bexfield was at his fluent best, turning back the years to carry the attack to the bowlers. He'd made 32 31 (including one which was a leg bye) 29 when he missed a sweep shot.

Broxbourne's fielders appealed to a man and Honest Steve Denton decided he had no choice but to raise the finger of fate and send Bexfield on his way for 32 29. 

What followed was the angriest strip tease in the world.

The bat was the first thing to be thrown, soaring into the air in a glorious arc like a bird of prey taking flight.

Then the helmet. 

Then the gloves.

Once in the sanctuary of the pavilion, both pads were ripped off (Interesting segue but have velcro straps made it too easy for pads to be ripped off? Back in the days of buckles and leather straps it would have been a much lengthier process) and thrown through the door.

Both thigh pads followed before the burlesque batsman appeared to briefly kick his pads about before stomping off to calm down.

Out in the middle Captain Scott joined Shafiq and they stemmed the tide for a while before Shafiq chipped a catch.

A determined Piepenstock entered the fray and unfurled the first straight drive of his life.

Somewhat unfortunately it deflected off the bowler's fingertips and ran the captain out at the non-striker's end.

In a moment that set the tin lid on a fairly disastrous season, Scott walked off without bothering to wait for the unpire's decision.

Badly Bradley Lyons promised to die hard and crashed the first boundary of his career, a shot that also took him to his highest ever score for the club.

He was promptly stumped without adding to his score. 

In fairness Badly Bradley is now on an upward curve and has consistently double his previous best scores, turning 1 into 2 and now 2 into 4. Next stop is the magic 8.

Piepenstock was bowled attempting something a little rash for a defiant 13 before Lunney's horrendous season with the bat continued as he was caught for 2.

Denton went down swinging with his highest score of the season (13) before one swipe too many ended in the hands of a fielder.

And thus relegation was sealed.

On the bright side Ward's three dismissals have earned him a job for life behind the stumps.

Next week it's off to Pinner on the sunshine bus where the hosts need to win to keep their title hopes in their own hands.

Should be a jolly day out...


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