Sporting fever has been gripping Britain – and, in particular, London – this week. And while ‘some’ people have been focusing on the Olympics, sport’s truest fans trained their eyes on events in West Wickham as Kent Ramblas made the short trip to neighbours Wickham Park for a Thursday night Twenty:20 game.
On what turned out to be a gorgeous summer’s night, T:20 captain Cooper has a bit of juggling to do with his squad due to a number of absentees. Club captain Jonny Stocks was rolling in the casinos of Monte Carlo, while Messrs Scoates and Sanchez-Rodriguez were also unavailable. The now perma-Ramblas member Ash Harriss was again in the team, with fellow Ex-Blues starlet Dave Gambie coming into add some much-needed nous. Elsewhere, the return of Chris Thomas and Ian Dacre ensured plenty of options in the bowling department.
The stats (incomplete at time of publishing) can be found on our Play Cricket site.
Batting first, the Ramblas had to rush in Mark Loughlin to partner Ash Harriss due to the late arrival of a few members of the team. Though, as it worked out so well, skipper and vice-skipper claimed it a tactical masterstroke. Whatever the reason, the rest of the visitors just sat back and admired the big hits and intelligent running between the wickets as the pair put on a 50-plus partnership for the first wicket. Despite receiving a full, pacy delivery on the tip of his toe from the very first ball, Harriss smited a splendid 42 before being bowled as he played around a straight one.
Joining M. Loughlin at the crease was new boy Gambie who played well for a quick-fire 18 to ensure the run rate was maintained, while allowing his younger partner to continue his fine form. With around six overs to go, the Ramblas were eyeing a total of 150-plus. Could Steve Cleverley provide the necessary support to the well-set M. Loughlin and take the away side to an imposing total?
Brothers in arms
A nervy start was quickly overcome by the new batsman and he played well for a short, sharp six runs before being struck LBW. He didn’t hang around for those runs, so there was still plenty of time for new batsman Jon Loughlin and his twin Mark to do some damage. Although the boundaries dried up, the pair ensured every opportunity to turn one into two was taken with some smart running between the wickets. With just five balls to go, the late-arriving J. Loughlin was caught in the deep to bring board member Laurie Stocks into the fray.
A couple of streaky singles from Stocks and some more fine strokes from the half-century-making M. Loughlin saw the Ramblas close on 141-4 from their 20 overs. Given the teams’ previous encounter saw Wickham Park pass the 200-run mark, it looked a little below par, but it was certainly something to defend.
After his great knock, Captain Cooper decided to give Mark Loughlin a little breather and opened the bowling attack with Steve Fitch and Dacre. The pair bowled smartly and gave little away, but a wicket proved elusive as the two openers looked set for a long stay.
But there were chances for the Ramblas. Thomas and Cooper combined for what they felt was a certain run-out, only to be denied by the square-leg umpire, while some big shots fell just out of catching range.
Into the attack came Geoff Parrett – looking decidedly fresher than his last Ramblas appearance – and he bowled a tight line, particularly when given some protection when swapping ends. At the other end, Harriss, then M. Loughlin exhibited their varying skills with full deliveries that the batters just couldn’t get away.
The economy displayed here reined in the Wickham Park batsmen who were at 68 for no loss at the 10-over mark. With all wickets in hand, it looked a foregone conclusion that they’d cut loose and comfortably reach their target…
Finally, though, the Ramblas got the breakthrough, as newcomer Gambie produced an excellent run-out, somehow only taking one bail off in the process from another fine over from Dacre, who was also unfortunate to end wicketless (a fielding mix-up seeing one chance go begging) as he again showed why he is the Ramblas go-to guy to stem the run rate.
Soon after, Fitch returned to the attack and a pull shot was gratefully snaffled at square leg by Stocks. With Parrett completing his spell unlucky not to have claimed a wicket, the Ramblas had their backs up and the trademark energy returned to the field.
While not exactly sniffing blood, a collective look at the scoreboard brought the realisation that the fat lady was far from singing.
Coming into the attack was Thomas, and although still scarred from his last T:20 bowling performance, proved surprisingly economical and struck the stumps with a slower ball that the batsman didn’t read. A dramatic tumble due to cramp and a couple of loose deliveries the only blots on his bowling copybook.
Close, but no cigar
With four overs to go, the hosts were still in charge, but replacing the precise Fitch, M. Loughlin looked to change that. He sent the timbers flying (overcoming the drop of a dolly at mid-on, too) and was in full flying form – there really are few greater sights for Ramblas fans.
Deciding to keep Thomas on for the penultimate over, there was really was good cricket all round. Some sharp running between the wickets helped the hosts edged closer to their target, while alert fielding by J. Loughlin, Harriss and wicketkeeper Cooper ensured every run was well-earned.
Into the final over, Wickham Park needed seven to win and their task suddenly became that little bit tougher as Thomas and Loughlin combined for one of the less orthodox run outs off the first ball, as the fielder used foot, ankle and hand to stop the ball before somehow looping it up to the bowler who slam-dunked the ball onto the stumps.
Five balls, seven runs required. It was tighter than a camel’s arse in a sandstorm (or Fitch at the bar).
A single saw the deficit fall to six in four, before another blistering ball from Loughlin crashed into the stumps to leave the hosts seeking six from three for a hard-fought victory. The next delivery came flying down and a swipe by the batsman looked set to be safely pouched by Dacre, but it ended up flying over his head for four.
The looks on the fielders’ faces suggested they knew the game was up, and the fat lady was now warming up her vocal cords.
Sure enough, the penultimate ball of the innings proved the finale, slipping through for two byes to secure the win for Wickham Park.
All in all, it was a cracking contest between two well-matched teams. Everyone in a Ramblas shirt contributed in some way, with every batsman doing what was asked of them and the entire bowling attack proving difficult to get away to ensure a tense end to proceedings.
This is likely to be the last we’ll see of Wickham Park in 2012, but the Ramblas are hoping to be up against the friendly faces and fairness on the field next season. We wish them well for the rest of the year.
As for us, it’s on to the home game against Commonwealth Offices. COYR
Man of the Match: Stop me if you’ve heard this before… Ash Harriss again underlined his qualities with the bat, providing the perfect platform for the visitors to post a competitive total with his at times vicious 42. Alas, for his unbeaten 51, athletic fielding and devastating bowling, the honour must once again go to Mark Loughlin.