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A Close Run Thing

 OSCC, 180 all out, nearly fucked it up to Great Gaddesden, 171 all out

Umpire Bonnie Tyler Calls Cummins For Another Wide

Make no mistake about it, this was almost the biggest fuck up in Offley history, a fuck up that really would have set the tin lid on a season of woe and ineptitude. 

Having (for once) posted a decent total despite eight batsmen chipping catches of varying simplicity to fielders, Offley's bowlers reduced Gaddesden to 87-9 before things nearly went to shit in epic style as the last pair put on 84 to take their side to the brink of victory before Jamie Cummins produced a devilish piece of cunning, chicanery and borderline cheating by serving up a straight ball to settle the outcome.

After Offley lost the toss and were invited to bat, Cummins had begun the day opening the batting and being dismissed almost immediately for a duck, gently steering a catch to gully.

On a day where Offley's batsmen threw the bat to reasonable effect (15 4s and four 6s) before self-destructing, Richie Barker set the tone in his final appearance of the season by putting almost every ball he faced in the air before lobbing a catch to midwicket for 18.

Marc Ward hit three huge sixes before spooning a catch to mid off for 36.

Roger Piepenstock made a cultured 19 (in all honesty everything the man does drips culture and refinement - rumour has it he has a butler bring him sheets of silver-leaf toilet paper in his castle mansion ivory tower; there is no truth in the rumour that the butler actually does the wiping) before he also fell to a soft dismissal.

Bardley Lyons aimed an ambitious mow over midwicket and was caught at slip while Steve Denton's promotion up the order ended with a gentle catch to mid on.

Stand-in captain Dan Goord and Darren Lunney rescued Offley from the rocky waters of 89-6 with an 81-run stand that also featured stirling work from Extras.

Offley looked poised to sail past 200 when Goord miscued one to square leg and Mark Tattersall's attempt to get off the mark with a six tried and died in the hands of the fielder at long on.

Beds League Bad Boy Shafiq Ahmed was the only man not to be caught - he was stumped instead - before Lunney left Peter Gilkes high and dry as he was caught and bowled, a fantastic low catch by the bowler who had previously distinguished himself by dropping a sitter at midwicket.

Two things to note there - firstly it was Lunney's highest score of the season (30); useful timing in the last league game of the season. 

Secondly, it marked the first time in 17 innings this year that Gilkes finished not out.

Gaddesden made a positive start as Gilkes' early offerings were flayed to the boundary while Beds League Bad Boy Shafiq's attempt to make the breakthrough was thwarted by Barker stumbling over a stray blade of glass and bungling a fairly straight-forward catch.

However, Gaddesden pulled an Offley as they slumped from 43-0 to 87-9.

Gilkes struck a double blow with two wickets in two balls, both courtesy of batsmen aiming ambitious hits over the leg side.

He added a third wicket via a cunningly disguised legside half volley that the batsman obligingly kicked on to his stumps as he claimed season's best figures of 3-33. Gilkes also achieved his first maiden overs of the campaign. 

Once again, useful timing.

Beds League Bad Boy Shafiq struck twice at the other end before Denton - in the unusual role of middle overs enforcer - ran through the middle order to take 3-18 and with Tattersall also claiming a wicket the game looked up in the first over after drinks with the score on 87-9.

And then things went wrong.

Ward who had looked such a natural in his first appearance behind the stumps a fortnight ago now gave a fine impersonation of a blind-drunk and fully blind Boatwright as he muffed two (possibly three catches) to go with an earlier missed stumping.

Offley's fielders grew more statue-like by the ball as they were given the runaround by a diabetic 60-something.

Nonetheless the game was still firmly in control when Captain Goord decided he fancied a bowl.

Eight deliveries (there was a wide and a no ball) and three boundaries later, a chastened Goord removed himself from the attack, his face flushed with embarrasment and pinker than those sod awful pink shorts he insists on wearing that make him look like an air steward on his day off.

Dan Goord: In The Pink

A fatalistic air began to descend on the Offley fielders as the runs flowed easily.

Offley needed a hero and turned to Cummins, who was supposedly being saved for the next day's big relegation showdown.

Initially the only resemblance Cummins bore to the hero Offley were holding out for was the umpire copying Bonnie Tyler's arms-outstretched pose in the video of her hit Holding Out For A Hero.

This happened six times, including three times in a row at the start of what would be the game's final over.

A distraught Cummins took a moment to compose himself as he put his head in his hands - and missed. 

Cummins looked to have sealed victory when he found the edge and the ball looped gently to Lyons at point, descending into his hands with all the velocity of a punctured beach ball.

Would this be Lyons' first catch for Offley?

Er, no.

Down it went.

Cummins returned to his mark and sent down that rarest of commodities - a straight ball.

It kept a little low and beat the defensive prod of Hutchinson for 37, leaving Cheeseman unbeaten on 44 at the other end as the excellent stand was finally broken.

Cummins, undeterred by the fact he had bowled a 60-something diabetic who had been forced to discard his helmet due to sweat in his eyes, celebrated with the enthusiasm and passion of a Luton fan who has just seen his team score another consolation goal.

Jamie finished with the princely figures of 2.5-0-29-1.

As someone once said, it was indeed a close run thing.

Thus Offley secured their second win of the season, a victory that should stand them in good stead for 2024 and regional cricket in whatever pit of fucking despair we find ourselves in.


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