Kent Ramblas made the short 500 yard journey to local neighbours Wickham Park in this customary season opener.
Ramblas have come a long way in 12 months, securing a home ground, sponsorship, kit and Kent Cricket board membership. Would this progress off the pitch be complemented with style, skill and poise on the pitch as well? Having capitulated to a 169 run loss last year, 365 days on, this match would provide the perfect benchmark.
Wickham Park won the toss and elected to bat first. The wicket was sizzling, the outfield was rough, not a cloud in sight, it could have been an England Lions match in Bangalore, not a Sunday friendly in the suburbs of South East London.
M Loughlin and S Cleverley opened the bowling looking to tear through the Wickham openers with pace and precision. It wasn’t long before the break through came. With the Ramblas energetic in the field Wickham failed to dictate play and M Loughlin soon sent the stumps crashing back towards the keeper.
Ramblas kept the pressure on the Park batsmen, Steve Fitch coming into the attack at the scene of arguably his finest moment as a cricketer where he knocked the stumps over in his first ever delivery a year ago. We had to wait a little longer this time, the second delivery. Both openers were gone having scored 12 runs between them.
Sniffing the opportunity for more wickets the bowlers applied the pressure at both ends, restricting Park to only a handful of boundaries in the whole match. Cooper making his debut behind the stumps was proving a more than capable depute for J Loughlin, who was a key component of why Wickham found it so hard to find the perimeter of the ground.
The drinks break was inviting, a chance to reflect on Ramblas’ most successful 20 over spell. Wickham were three wickets down and feeling the heat. The pitch was bouncy and unpredictable. The Ramblas Kit was sexy and stylish.
The second 20 overs saw wickets tumble at an increasing rate. S Cleverley pitching one up for Park’s dangerous number 3 to punch out the ground, or so he thought. James Benson brilliantly catching in the deep. It wasn’t long before L Stocks got in on the act removing two middle order batsmen including their skipper.
Despite Park being on the back foot, Ramblas struggled to remove Rahul Govada who had occupied the crease for some time. S Fitch and M Cooper began to reminisce about old School days testing his concentration levels. The breakthrough came when Sanchez pitched it in line and caught Govada plum.
M Loughlin and S Fitch finished off the innings with 3 wickets in the final two overs with a beautiful display of slower bowling. It was indeed the final ball of the innings, caught by L stocks on the stretch that ensured that Ramblas secured 10 wickets in a match for the first time, ironically at the tenth attempt. Park were all gone for 159.
Several cheese sandwiches and 3 jaffa cakes later it was Ramblas’ opportunity to finish off Park with the bat. Contrary to earlier opinion, the pitch was clearly slow and volatile, Ramblas had to concentrate if we were to avoid a defeat.
It’s fair to say, the innings didn’t begin well. First ball and B Scoates mis-timed his shot into the waiting hands of the Park fielder. J Stocks was next in with only one thing on his mind, stay there for as long as it takes. It turned out to be 27 overs. The innings steadied through Stocks and the Loughlin twins. Boundaries were proving difficult to find as Park had shown but batting resilience, patience and discipline kept the Ramblas in the game at drinks.
After 25 overs Ramblas begun to step up the run rate. The game turned on it’s head though with two wickets in consecutive deliveries, M Loughlin fantastically caught on the boundary and then James Benson mis-timing a defensive shot which went through the gate. Back to discipline and resilience. This was Jose Mourinho at his very best.
After 27 overs of toil J Stocks was bowled, losing concentration and attempting a six. Steve Fitch and Geoff Parrett provided some resistence with a more Pep Guardiola approach to batting however the cavalier approach left the tail exposed and the Ramblas dream of a first win was out of sight. Bowled out for 108 from 36 overs. Here’s the scorecard.
It was a disappointing end to a match which at times was genuinely exciting. There is no doubt that Ramblas had the opportunity to win, but perhaps composure deserted us at the crucial times. On the whole it was a very pleasing performance, bowling and fielding were excellent. Batting still needs improving but to reach over 100 in the first game of the season on clearly a tough wicket is a good sign.
Have we progressed on the pitch as well as off? Without a doubt.