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Here We Go Again.....

  OSCC, 126-8, lost to Flamstead, 129-3, by 7 wickets

Offley produced one of their best performances of the season - and still lost by seven wickets.

Let that sink in for a bit as you consider the depths we have plumbed when batting our allotted overs, only dropping two out of four catches and picking up three wickets is seen as some sort of achievement. 

A brief flurry of hope when it seemed as though the opposition might not arrive was eventually extinguised and Offley were asked to bat. 

Captain Marc Ward led by example, opening the innings and vowing to play carefully and treat the bowlers with respect.

After failing to score from the first seven balls he received, Ward decided it was time to throw the pressure back on the bowlers and unfurled a majestic off drive; unfortunately Ward connected with fresh air and the ball connected with middle stump.

Chris Austin Steve Bexfield joined Richie Barker and proceeded to show none of the form that had brought him a half-century in his previous innings. Bexfield scratched around at the crease like a man with a severe rash, cobbling together six runs from 38 deliveries and surviving a number of half chances before he was put out of his misery and lobbed a catch to midwicket.

Barker played some fluent shots including one particularly impressive square cut. 

There was no need to run as it was four from the moment it left the bat. 

Unfortunately Barker set off down the wicket and pulled his hamstring.

Even allowing for his injury there was no good reason for getting caught down the legside for 37 to leave Offley 59-3.

James Kempton and Josh Scott took the score to 87 and both players were looking good when things duly went to shit.

Confronted by a delivery that he could have hit anywhere, Kempton elected to chip a return catch to the bowler; Danny O'Brien's innings began and concluded via the blink of an eye (not to mention an inside edge) before Scott was left bamboozled by a ball that pitched outside leg and hit off.

The last time Josh was that bewildered was when his landlord Matty Taylor turned down the offer of a fourth helping of stuffed crust pizza with extra cheese and said he'd rather have an apple.

The ensuing seventh-wicket stand of 23 was rather unexpected. Local villagers Roger Piepenstock and Peter Gilkes came together and provided the sort of stubborn and heroic resistance rarely seen outside Hollywood epics.

The two are contrasting characters; while Piepenstock carries himself through life with the patrician air of one who is constantly awaiting the call to join the House of Lords, Gilkes belongs to more humble peasant stock, the sort of red-faced doughty yeoman who dreams of pints of foaming ale and plump, rosy-cheeked women.

Gilkes swung away merrily like the banjo player from Deliverance, hacking and swiping his way to 13 from 15 balls, finishing with a strike rate of 86.67, comfortably the best of any Offley player.

Piepenstock came into the game on the back of two ducks last weekend and seemed hellbent on making it three in a row as he was dropped at the wicket and played and missed at a succession of balls that somnehow missed the stumps. 

He was finally bowled for a gritty 8 from 36 deliveries, a strike rate of 22.22.

What followed was one of the most shameful innings in the history of Offley & Stoplsey Cricket Club.

Jamie Cummins came in with ten deliveries of the innings remaining. To the delight of the opposition Cummins manipulated the strike with great aplomb, ensuring he faced nine of the final ten balls and failed to get a single one off the strip.

In other parts of the world Cummins would be banned for life for match-fixing.

As it was he swung and missed at the final ball of the innigns and courtesy of a shocking piece of umpiring was rewarded with a run instead of a bye being added to the score.

Offley closed on 126-8.

Any hope of a shock victory depended on Offley fielding as though their lives depended on it and taking any catch that held their way.

Steve Denton made the early breakthrough as he claimed his first wicket of the season after missing the opening weeks with an elbow injury.

Moments later Denton looked as if he had picked up a second wicket as he surprised batsman Priyankara with a rare short pitched delivery and the ball was swung away into the hands of Cummins at deep midwicket.

Last year Cummins held more catches than anyone else - something he is not shy of sharing with his colleagues.

He dropped quite a few as well and he duly shelled this one, despite not having to move more than three inches and subsequently claiming that he hadn't picked it up clearly.

In other parts of the world Cummins would be banned for match-fixing.

It was a key moment. 

The scored would have been 37-2 and Priyanka would have been on his way for 10.

Instead the batter survived to make 46 before he succumbed to a flighted delivery from Barker that was slower than he expected and chipped a catch to midwicket where Gilkes took a well-judged catch to make it 96-2.

Barker picked up a second wicket when Scott (having been swapped with a fielder with the initials JC) took an excellent catch at deep sqaure leg.

Scott looked set to claim a well-deserved wicket when he induced a false shot to mid on. 

Alas, Piepenstock could do nothing more than flap at the ball like a distressed turkey and not only dropped it but also sent the ball on its way to the boundary.

The end arrived soon after as Flamstead eased to victory by seven wickets leaving Offley to ponder a third Saracens defeat in as many outings and wonder when and if a victory might actually arrive this summer.

Don't bet on it....


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