Ebb and flow, ebb and flow. Like the tides of the Thames, Sunday’s Kent Ramblas clash versus Chevening Amblers really was a classic tale of cat and mouse in the searing heat of West Wickham.
Losing the toss and put into bat first, Cap’n Jonny Stocks opened up with long-term partner Jon Loughlin (no, not partners like that) and despite both looking sharp, Stocks was soon back in the hutch after seeing his off-stump uprooted. Replacing him was new(ish) boy Sam Ford – desperately seeking his first major contribution with the bat for his new team.
Together, Loughlin and Ford played sensibly and ensured a steady run rate before the former succumbed to his attacking instincts to be replaced by Laurie Stocks. Despite a scratchy start, Stocks Snr stroked his way to a rapid-fire 10, while Ford continued on his merry way as the sun pounded down.
With the hosts 50-odd at the first drinks break, the Ramblas suffered a small stumble as Michael Cooper and Steve Cleverly fell quickly, before Steve Fitch joined the fray. A swiftly hit 12 offered more support for Ford who soon reached his half ton to warm (if sweaty) applause from his team-mates.
Alas, shortly after reaching the impressive milestone Ford fell to a weary shot and was welcomed back to the sidelines for some well-earned shade having left his team in a good position. Fitch followed shortly after, but Mark Loughlin and Geoff Parrett saw the Ramblas through to a competitive 162 with their usual late-order smiting.
A well-earned breather
And so to the refuge of the clubhouse, where shade and a feast aplenty were on offer – the latter again expertly provided by Ms Ruth Parrett, this time with the expert assistance of Mrs P and Tanja Klingseis.
And so, with the sun still covering every inch of the pitch, the Ramblas headed out knowing a good start could see them in with a chance of claiming victory.
With bowling options coming out of his… ears, Skipper Stocks chose Mark Loughlin from the football ground end and Chris Thomas from the garden end, the former striking in each of his first three overs and the latter proving difficult to get away with two maidens in his opening four-over spell. Superb takes by wicket-keeper Jon Loughlin and Jonny Stocks underlining the good all-round start made by the Ramblas.
At 13-3, the hosts sniffed something special and with Ford proving his all-round prowess to replace Thomas and Cleverly showing no signs of rustiness with his first overs for at least a year from the other end, the visitors remained behind the run-rate.
Following those two with the ball were Parrett and Fitch who kept a steady line and didn’t get agitated when the batsmen opened their arms. Indeed, the latter got amongst the wickets by smashing into the stumps as the batsman rushed down the wicket at him. Also troubling the wickets column was Felipe Sanchez-Rodriguez who was aided by a superb catch at point by Laurie Stocks.
A change of fortunes
The Ramblas were looking good, with five of the opposing wickets down, but would the two dropped catches of the incumbent batsmen prove costly?
It certainly looked that way, despite some continued excellent bowling from the likes of Sanchez-Rodriguez and Cleverly. A costly two-over return from Thomas coincided with some more breath-taking bowling from Mark Loughlin who claimed his fourth scalp by whipping off the bails with another pacey delivery.
However, with six down and just over eight overs to go, the visitors needed just 31 runs to claim victory. It appeared that fantastic start was going to be in vain.
Momentum swings again
With Ford powering in for his last over, the pendulum didn’t know which way to swing as the bowler claimed a good looping catch to dislodge the number three who had batted patiently for his 24. As the Amblers’ No.8 came in, could it be the key wicket?
Loughlin continued to race in from the opposing end but was unlucky not to claim the first-ever Ramblas fiver-fer, leaving Chevening seeking nine runs from the last two overs.
Cap’n Stocks was left with a dilemma, as all his remaining bowlers had performed with distinction and any one of them could be called upon to step up to the plate. In the end, he opted for Fitch from the football ground end to bowl the penultimate over. Seeking wicket-to-wicket deliveries, Fitch bowled well, with just one loose ball getting swiped for four. Alas, a couple of wides left the visitors needing a mere three runs for victory from the last over.
Final over drama
And so to the denouement. The skipper tossed the ball to Thomas for the final hurrah, with fielders surrounding the bat ready to pounce on the slightest sniff of a chance.
Ball one: dot ball. (“A dot ball’s a hot ball,” as our erstwhile second-in-command, Cooper, constantly reminded us.) Ball two: dot ball. Ball three: a single to fine leg. That’s two to win from three balls. Ball four: dot ball. Ball five: dot ball.
On the sidelines, hands were on heads. The umpires were nervously watching on, unable to help their in-bat team-mates. In the field, the Ramblas were set in nervous anticipation.
Ball six: wicket! A slightly wider ball from Thomas expertly stumped by Jon Loughlin. They’d done it!
But there was to be one final twist… The momentary ecstasy was drained from the faces of the fielding side as they turned to see the umpire signal a wide. The wicket stood, but that left the the scores tied on 162… with one extra delivery to come.
A few questionable glances amongst the fielders made no odds as Thomas came in for the last time…
Ball seven: wicket! A tempter on off-stump was played at by the new batsman, but his thick edge was superbly taken by a forward-diving Cooper.
So, after six hours of cricket, played in good spirits and on the hottest day of the year, the game was tied – Kent Ramblas: 162-8, Chevening Amblers: 162-9.
Having seemingly seen the chances of victory slip away with 10 overs to go, the Ramblas fought back superbly to force the dramatic final overs. With the bat, Ford excelled and was ably supported by cameos from J. Loughlin, Stocks Snr and Fitch before Parrett and M. Loughlin hit out in the final overs to post a competitive total.
In the field, every bowler offered something and those without wickets were both unlucky given they each had chances dropped, while the groundwork and ‘keeping was up to the usual high Ramblas standards. From 1 to 11, the players couldn’t have given any more.
Man of the Match: For his platform-building half century and key wicket, this week’s award must go to Sam Ford.