After an aborted game on Jubilee weekend, the Kent Ramblas boys were once more itching to don their (off)whites as they headed to South Croydon to face Old Whitgiftians.
With some of the team witnessing Tino Best’s outrageous innings at Edgbaston, anticipation was high as skipper Jonny Stocks won the toss and opted to bat. In terms of team news, in came Felipe Sanchez-Rodriguez for Steve Cleverley, in the only change from the Ex-Blues abandonment, but the latter gamely joined proceedings as cheerleader/groupie/photographer.
For those of you who are factually-inclined, the hard, cold figures can be found on our Play Cricket site.
So, into bat went the two Jons and it soon became apparent that the bowling on show was going to be, in the words of Jamie Oliver, “tasty”. Good pace, allied with a nagging line and length left little for the batsmen to get away before both fell for nine.
In at three was Michael Cooper who, after some trademark motionless blocks, fell to a corking ball that pitched wide of the wicket and grazed off stump. Also departing without troubling the scorers in a rare failure was Laurie Stocks, bringing two of our more explosive batsmen to the crease in the guise of Geoff Parrett and Steve Fitch at 27 for 4.
After a brief contretemps between umpire and fielding skipper, Parrett and Fitch got a brief respite from the consistent Amin and Akil and filled their boots off the bowling of Schaad. This brief deluge of runs continued at a steadier pace, but both remained in good form as they posted the first 50 partnership of the Ramblas season.
However, the pace of young Yusuf soon proved the undoing of Fitch, departing the field to hearty applause from his teammates having helped drag the score to a more respectable 81 for 5. In his place came James Benson, itching to get his first run of the season – which he duly attained.
That joy was short-lived, though, as first Parrett was bowled, then his replacement Mark Loughlin contrived to run out the unfortunate Benson… by about half a mile.
Next up was Chris Thomas, also in the hunt for his first score of the season. Joining a fluid-looking Loughlin at the crease, the pair put on a steady 20, before Thomas, who had scratched his way to eight, saw his timber flying by young Yusuf. Coming into support Loughlin next was Sanchez-Rodriguez, who blocked solidly and provided a platform for the big-hitting Loughlin to add valuable runs to the total.
However, the class of the bowlers soon told and Sanchez-Rodriguez was en route back to his pint after one got through the gate and, although some decent blocks by Ian Dacre gave Loughlin the chance to squeeze a couple more runs out, the latter soon departed as he feathered a catch behind, leaving the hosts to chase a less-than-daunting 138 to win.
Parrett’s natural habitat
While he looked more than comfortable batting, his big hits a joy to behold, there’s no denying that Parrett’s natural habitat is around the tea trolley. And the fayre on offer certainly had the West Malling native licking his lips.
Sandwiches and cakes were duly snaffled, like a pig spotting a truffle, but the highlight was the chicken and chips on offer – and in particular Parrett’s forlorn lingering around the empty chip bowl. Thankfully, tears were averted when a fresh batch were brought out – though they did catch Cooper off guard as he chowed down on the piping hot goodness, forgetting his mouth isn’t made of asbestos.
Following a brief lesson in what fruit looks like for Messrs Parrett and Cooper, the Ramblas slowly waddled their way back to the field to prepare for the host’s innings.
While there are few greater sights for the Ramblas players than seeing Parrett in full flow with the bat, one rival for this is seeing M. Loughlin steaming in with ball in hand – especially when he finds the right line and length as he did here.
Coming downhill, from the garden end, he teased and tormented the openers outside off stump, bringing some quite excellent stops from wicket-keeper Benson, before getting his reward with a superb take above his head at deep mid-off by skipper Stocks.
From the other end, Dacre began with purpose and promise, finding swing from his hand and offering little in the way of runs, with one edge just dropping short of Benson. The pair shared the first 10 overs and bowled fantastically, but some uncharacteristically sloppy fielding and the odd good shot meant the home side were still going at a decent pace.
With the rain starting to come down, the captain called Thomas and Parrett into the attack, but neither could really make any headway as the batsmen opened their arms, with number three Yusuf Snr quickly getting his half century. As defeat loomed ever larger, the captain called upon Sanchez-Rodriguez and Fitch to work their magic, but they too suffered from bowling with a slippery ball and facing two batsmen who were well set.
Excitement at the death
With only 20-odd runs required, Loughlin and Dacre came back into the attack, the former particularly unlucky not to add to his wicket tally, while Dacre’s last over was dabbed away by Yusuf in an attempt to help opener Higgins reach his half-ton.
More in hope than expectation, Thomas stepped up to the plate and with Higgins on 49, the field moved in, four slips and a gully in place for the first ball. Looking to grab his 50 in style, Higgins played too aggressively at a ball that darted between bat and pad to dismantle the stumps.
Still only needing seven to win, the hosts were far from quaking in their boots, but the wicket buoyed the visitors and with the attacking field remaining, Thomas took another, bowling the new batsman around his feet. Was the impossible on?
A double-wicket maiden from Thomas was followed by another great over by Dacre who was unlucky to see a chance put down at mid-on (quickly followed by “the most pointless tantrum ever” – in the words of the culprit), but a couple of runs saw Old Whitgiftians needing just three to win, which they achieved off the second ball from Thomas’s next over.
Another defeat, but against a team that were clearly a cut above. The lovely setting, cracking tea and mutual respect among the sides left the visitors keen for a return next season, while the last few overs could go down in folklore as some of the most fun the Ramblas have had in the field.
Man of the Match: Despite some fine batting from Parrett and Fitch to help drag the score towards respectability (and a fine, fun bowling spell from Thomas), the honour has to go Mark Loughlin. His late-order hitting was as composed as it was devastating at times, while his rhythm with the ball was glorious to see in full flow.