If you asked any member of the Ramblas squad what they’d do to get a game, all of them would say they would play through cold, rain and even hailstones.
It’s a good job, too, because that’s exactly what they had to do this Saturday against Regents Park Originals in NW1.
Having seen the first scheduled game of the season cancelled, the Ramblas made their way to Regents Park raring to go and, despite a few directionally-challenged Ramblas, they all got there in one piece.
With the de facto home team, skippered by once-upon-a-Rambla Adam Roberts, bowling first, the Stocks brothers set their stall out with a solid opening partnership. The bowling was on the mark and the batters really hard to work hard on steady accumulation, with rarely a ball puncturing the well-placed field and racing to the boundary.
Having batted for more than 10 overs, it was Laurie Stocks who departed first for a well earned 26, bringing Jon Loughlin to the crease. As ever, Loughlin didn’t hang around, ably supporting his skipper with swift running between the wickets.
In a moment that threatened to ruin Christmases at the Stocks household for years to come, Laurie gave his younger brother out LBW. However, the skipper’s hard-earned knock of 33 and general joie de vivre meant he took it in good grace.
Harriss harrasses the bowlers
Now, though, it was time for some fireworks as now perma-Rambla Ash Harriss strode out and – after a little bit of scratching around – was dispatching deliveries to the boundary as he raced to a quick-fire 49. To say he was far from amused upon hearing he was agonisingly short of a half-century would be putting it kindly…
In between that innings, though, Jon Loughlin had notched up a well-paced 29 to shake off the pre-game nerves, while Michael Cooper and Steve Fitch finished things off – the former swatting one down the ground to roars of approval from his watching teammates. All that meant the Ramblas closed on 185/4; a solid score that looked simultaneously defendable and maybe 15-20 runs shy of par. Still, with the bowling and fielding usually their stronger suits, they headed in to the field with confidence.
As ever, Mark Loughlin opened the bowling, but when his first ball – a not particularly bad one, at that – was sent racing to the boundary, the Ramblas knew they were in a game.
Bowling from the other end was the once more miserly Ian Dacre and, in tandem, they probed at the batsmen on an unforgiving pitch, but received no reward for their efforts. Indeed, the usually sharp fielding that the Ramblas pride themselves was absent in the opening stages, with some very presentable chances being put down and some sloppy attempts at gathering the ball ensuring Regents Park Originals raced along in their chase.
Next up in the firing line of the well-set batsmen were Messrs Fitch and Thomas, with the latter getting biffed for six on more than one occasion, before the former again exhibited his uncanny knack of getting wickets with ‘interesting’ deliveries, as one ball bobbled through to hit the stumps of the unsuspecting batsman.
No monkeying about from Parrett
However, that was after Geoff Parrett – coming in from the Zoo End – had finally got the Ramblas one in the ‘W’ column at the start of what can only be described as a masterclass of slow bowling after Harriss caught one in the deep. Soon after, Parrett had claimed the wicket of the other opener to leave two new batsmen in following a brilliant reflex catch by Laurie Stocks (and equally brilliant insta-celebration) and the Ramblas’ usual happy-go-lucky demeanour was very much back in evidence.
Another positive for the Ramblas was the excellent bowling of Steve Cleverley, resplendent in once-white cricket gear, as he toiled for no reward despite some excellent deliveries. Meanwhile, back behind the stumps was Jon Loughlin – and it was like he’d never been away.
Fitch was again soon in the wickets, thanks again to the safe pair of hands of Harriss, while the unlunched Parrett claimed another – caught well be the Skipper – to leave Regents Park five down, but still with plenty of time to chase the 40-odd runs needed for victory. The Ramblas knew they needed to maintain the pressure and with Parrett bowling his allotted eight overs off the reel, he got another deserved wicket courtesy of a safe pouching by Cooper at mid-on.
With six men down and eight overs to get the 20 runs needed for victory, the pendulum was still very much in the favour of the Originals; but the Ramblas never know when to give up and sensed one more wicket could really set the panic in amongst the tail-enders.
Alas, with M.Loughlin and Dacre back in the attack, despite a couple of half chances in the amid the driving rain and pounding hailstone showers, that last run at the tail failed to materialise for the Ramblas with the Originals reaching their target with four overs to spare.
It was a well-fought contest, between two evenly-matched teams and, despite the heinous conditions, it was a good day all round. With hopes high for a bluer sky next weekend, the Ramblas return to their home ground to take on local rivals Locksbottom. COYR!
Man of the Match: For the eight-over spell of subtle variety and consistently placing the ball in the right area, the first award of the season can only go to the four-wicket Geoff Parrett. With Graeme Swann still recovering from surgery, the England selectors may be checking up on him soon…