Umbrella up. Umbrella down. Umbrella up. Umbrella down.
As the weather showed levels of indecision not seen since an Englishman stepped up to take a penalty, there were fears Friday’s Twenty:20 encounter against Wickham Park wouldn’t go ahead. However, those fears proved unfounded and the local rivals were set fair to put on a contest.
Winning the toss, T:20 skipper Michael Cooper opted to bowl. Back in the side were Steve Cleverley and Chris Thomas, with Ash Harriss again filling in and Graeme Moir reappearing after a year’s Ramblas hiatus.
Opening the bowling after a stellar performance at the weekend was Mark Loughlin, who was again displaying unerring accuracy with no shortage of pace and soon got off the, erm, mark as he splintered the stumps. From the other end, Moir was bowling a tight line and got his reward from a confident catch in the deep by Geoff Parrett.
Two soon became three, with M. Loughlin again showing devastating form – so much so that one of the bails had to be replaced.
Replacing the openers were Thomas and Steve Fitch, with the former striking in his first over to leave the visitors four down and the hosts contemplating back-to-back wins. Alas, momentum soon swung in the favour of Wickham Park, as two of their more experienced campaigners put Thomas and Fitch to the sword.
With drops and misfields, the Ramblas weren’t their usual sharp selves – exacerbating a situation that was worsening by the over as destructive hitting quickly took the visitors towards a daunting total.
There was, however, still time for more drama, with Fitch executing a wonderful run-out from the deep and Parrett bowling exquisitely for no reward.
M. Loughlin came back into the attack and took two wickets in three balls, but the damage was being done from the other end, with Thomas finishing with the horror show figures of 1/70 from his four overs (including three lost balls). His team-mates were just thankful that the dressing room was locked to prevent him from unleashing his frustration…
All that left the Ramblas with 186 to chase. Surely they couldn’t?
A modicum of respectability
Well, it may not be a great piece of storytelling, but I shan’t keep you in suspense: They couldn’t…
However, Jonny Stocks made a patient 12 – although he lived on the edge with his running between the wickets. Harriss was first man out following a wild swing, while Stocks’s running put paid to Jon Loughlin – who was the beneficiary of some generous fielding when the ball was inadvertently thrown over the boundary for an unexpected four.
Laurie Stocks was next in, hitting a superb flat six and nicking a couple of singles before being cleaned up. He was soon followed in – and out – by Cleverley who looked to up the run rate.
The task for the Ramblas was made all the more difficult by the Wickham Park fielding, which the hosts agreed was the best they’d seen in their short life. There were simply no easy runs to be had.
Captain Cooper was next in, looking to trouble the scorers – and that he did with a gloved single. However, he and J. Stocks soon departed to bring together the hard-hitting duo of M. Loughlin and Parrett. The pair batted superbly to put on a 30-plus partnership before M. Loughlin was caught sharply at square leg. Nothing he could do about that.
Keen to make amends for a below-par bowling performance, Thomas stepped into the breach as Fitch concentrated on scoreboard duty. Leaving the hitting to Parrett, the pair put on 10 before Parrett was undone by a quite astounding catch above the head of the close leg side fielder.
With nothing to aim for, Moir came in and the two left handers looked to go out swinging.
The new batsman hit a couple of sweet shots for four, while even Thomas found the boundary with a couple of trademark leg-side shots. Finishing with a 20-run partnership, the hosts closed on 101 – suffering an 86-run defeat against clearly superior opposition.
It wasn’t the best all-round performance by the Ramblas, but better days surely lie ahead. The visitors again proved to be sporting and friendly, with a return fixture mooted for a couple of weeks.
Man of the Match: It can only be Mark Loughlin. Four wickets for just 12 runs from his four overs is just one half of the story, as a devastating 29 with the bat completed an excellent all-round performance.