The papers, the Sky Sports ticker and Twitter were all buzzing with anticipation ahead of the weekend’s sporting action, with a healthy crowd congregating to cheer the game’s superstars.
And for those not in West Wickham to watch Kent Ramblas vs Priory, there was always Stoke-Chelsea and West Brom-Man Utd…
Ahead of the duel on the lush green surface at Ex-Blues, both teams were effectively down to 10. The visitors turned up a man shy, while the hosts – batting first after winning the toss – could call on the brave efforts of Steve Cleverley to bolster the batting up with an extra body. In other team news, the gallavanting Laurie Stocks returned with injuries to calf and shoulder. Rumours his teammates were wishing his tongue was also injured were, sadly, unfounded.
As ever, get more on the players in our introduction to the team.
Due to the aforementioned ailments, it was a Stocks double bill for the opening pair, with Laurie joining younger brother Jonny as the hosts looked to post a competitive score to bowl at. The scorecard, for those interested, can be found here, on our Play Cricket site.
And Cap’n Stocks saw off the first over – not without a scare – before a clearly struggling Laurie scooped up a dolly to mid-off in the second over.
So, quicker than he may have imagined, it was Bradley Scoates up next. Alas, 4 for 1, soon became 10 for 3, as first Scoates, offering a catch from a pull shot, then a run-out Michael Cooper stayed at the crease for the same time it takes to boil an egg.
But if there’s one thing the Ramblas are used to, it’s collapses, so there was still hope as Mark Loughlin, fresh from a confident 29 in the last game, stepped into the fray.
However, that hope was, erm, misplaced, as an attempted block provided as much protection as cardboard hat in the rain, to send Loughlin back to hatch without troubling the scorers.
As the Ramblas looked through their fingers at the scoreboard, they would see a frightening 17 for 4 off just 8.4 overs. Perhaps even more scary, though, was the fact Chris Thomas was next man in…
Stoic Stocks and Turgid Thomas
The task facing Messrs Stocks Jnr and Thomas was a mammoth one, but mainly one to avoid embarrasment. With plenty of overs still to come, “slow and steady” was the name of the game.
And slow and steady it certainly was, Thomas looked far from comfortable at first, unable to play his trademark leg glances due to tight lines from the Priory attack. Meanwhile, not wishing to give his wicket away, Cap’n Stocks played assuredly while attempting to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
At drinks, the pair had survived and managed to scratch their way to 40. The ship had been steadied and the plan was to now up the run rate.
Courtesy of many an extra and some calamitous running between the wicket, as well as some fine strikes by the skipper, the two battled their way to 75 before a seemingly innocuous delivery failed to bounce and dribbled beneath an attempted sweep by Thomas.
Upping the ante
That ground-out seven by Thomas may not have been pretty to watch, but it provided a platform to the team’s big hitters to accelerate in the final 12 overs.
And that challenge was taken up with aplomb by Geoff Parrett who battered a quick-fire 24 – including a glorious six – to give the Ramblas some much-need momentum. James Benson, knackers in tact after an ‘incident’ in that region in the last game, came and continued where Parrett left off, hitting an assured 10 before falling.
After a month-long hiatus, Steve ‘Stitch’ Fitch (or ‘Stinch’ if you’re Sheena…), came and went in the blink of an eye, before the ever-improving Felipe Sanchez-Rodriguez hit a sumptious four, with the hobbling Cleverley at the other end also offering brief punishment to the labouring bowlers with a mighty boundary.
That atrocious start was soon forgotten as the Ramblas posted a barely-believable – and competitive – 143, with Cap’n Stocks top scoring with 41. (Well, discounting the 57 extras…).
Curry on Ramblas
A well-earned break was rounded-off by a gorgeous curry from the ever-reliable Sheena and Ruth Parrett, as well as another fine assortment of culinary delights.
Stuffed and barely able to move, the Ramblas returned to the pitch looking to restrict the boundaries and make the visitors work for every one of the 144 runs needed for victory.
Opening up, Loughlin (no need for the ‘M’ due to the absence of Jon) was again testing the openers, and brought a sharp chance early on which was dropped by the immobile Stocks Snr at mid-off.
With Stitch at the other end, there were little opportunities for the batsmen to get the ball away, but some uncharacteristically sloppy fielding across the board helped the visitors keep the scoreboard ticking along.
The breakthrough was soon upon us though, with Loughlin bowling a peach through the gate to send the timber flying. Stitch soon got in the act with his own bit of wicket rearranging, before putting a steepler down off his own bowling. He didn’t allow it to affect him, though, and the skipper’s decision to bowl him out proved wise, finishing with a healthy – and economic – 1-22 from his eight overs.
Replacing Loughlin from the football ground end came the big-htting Parrett and he bowled beautifully, stifling the batsmen, slowing up the run rate with the help of the Ramblas’ traditionally sharp ground fielding, particularly from the likes of Sanchez-Rodriguez, Scoates and Cooper.
Behind the stumps, Benson was again looking nothing like the novice he still is with the gloves, making some sharp stops including a beauty which started on off stump and ended up whizzing over leg.
Parrett, in tandem with Sanchez-Rodriguez, continued to test the batsmen and the former’s fantastic eight-over spell garnered just the 17 runs – to much applause from his teammates.
Turning the tide
On to replace him was Thomas and after his first ball was generously termed ‘a loosener’ by the umpire, the second ball brought a wicket, as the batsman’s attempted sweep looped up off the glove into the leap hands of replacement wicketkeeper, Cooper. That wicket maiden soon became two wickets in seven balls, as a delivery that seamed off the pitch beat the batsman’s defence to crash into the stumps.
With four down and still 50-odd needed for victory, Cap’n Stocks smelt blood and brought back Loughlin. And his remaining four overs were an exhibition in pace and precision, with neither batsmen able to open their arms, before a fierce cut was caught sharply at point by the skipper.
Was this the chance the Ramblas had been waiting for? Well, yes. But could they take it? Erm…
With Loughlin bowled out, and Thomas taking a battering in one over, that hope proved short-lived. The chase was over in the 35th over, with Thomas smited for another six for the winning runs.
The Ramblas, proud to have been in a real contest, were left rueing some dropped catches and not being able to put on another 15-20 runs.
But in what was one of the closest games, the hosts have plenty of positives to take into the next game – a rematch against Kent Elite.
Man of the Match: There were some tough decisions to be made here, with Loughlin’s economy and wicket-taking making him a contender, while Parrett’s wondrous spell and rapid-fire 24 also came into the equation. However, after witnessing his team collapse to 19/4, the top-scoring captain Jonny Stocks just about nicks it after setting the base for some late hitting to post a competitive total.