The word drama is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “an exciting, emotional, or unexpected event or circumstance” and those enjoying a game of cricket on a sunny Sunday in West Wickham could certainly empathise with that in what turned out to be another topsy turvy Kent Ramblas game against Locksbottom (the scorecard can be found on our Play Cricket site).
Following on from the disappointment of last week’s defeat to Regents Park Originals, there were some enforced changes to the Ramblas line-up. With Skipper Stocks Costwolding it up and Steve Cleverley out of action, in came Sam Ford and Rich Harriss, with Michael Cooper stepping into the captain’s shoes.
Winning the toss and opting to bowl proved to be the first of many good decisions by the stand-in skipper, as he was rewarded with a phenomenal opening spell from Mark Loughlin who took four wickets in his first five overs as he tormented the batsmen with his nagging line and length, allied with the now customary blistering pace. With all four of his wickets coming by crashing into the stumps – including one delivery that broke the bails – Loughlin was unplayable in this spell. Supporting him from the Garden End was Ian Dacre who was again very economical and was rewarded with one that took an inside edge off the dangerous-looking opener and rattled the stumps.
With the visitors now 27-5 and just nine overs down, into the bowling attack came last week’s hero Geoff Parrett and Steve Fitch. The former was again getting some decent turn, while the latter mixed it up, probing away particularly well when he actually decided to use the track. The pair worked well in tandem and gave little away, before Thomas and Ford came into the attack.
From the Garden End, Thomas got one to move away from the batsmen who edged it to Ford at slip, before Ford delivered a seven-over spell that left everyone in a Ramblas shirt scratching their head as to how he remained wicketless (particularly after one edged catch to the keeper was not given by the umpire). The spell also saw a potentially painful clash between Fitch and Ash Harriss in the field as both strived to stop a ball on the boundary, the smaller of the two launching into a two-footed challenge that brought to mind Roy Keane in his heyday. Thankfully, despite some simmering resentment between the pair, there was no lasting damage.
Catch of the season?
Before completing his first four-over spell, Thomas tempted the opposing captain into a loose shot outside off stump that looked to be flying wide of Cooper at point. However, the Ramblas leader for the day produced something truly special as he flew with both feet off the ground to claim a stunning two-handed catch to leave the visitors seven down.
In Ford’s final over, still reeling from that failed appeal, a mix-up between the batsmen saw Fitch produce a fantastic direct hit to bring the final Locksbottom batter to the crease.
Dacre and Loughlin came back to complete their eight overs, with both unlucky not to add to their hauls as the final pair opened their arms – the final man particularly destructive as he raced to 32. The partnership finally broken in the second over of a tight spell by Ash Harriss, as Ford capitalised on another mix-up between the batters to throw one in from deep for Jon Loughlin to take off the stumps.
After a great all-round fielding performance from the Ramblas and a sharp lower order comeback from the visitors, the game was evenly poised with the hosts set 199 to win as the teams went in to devour a most splendiferous spread put on by last-minute substitute Mrs Cooper, ably assisted by Soo.
The chase is on…
Having hit 185 and 219 in their last two regular-season games, the Ramblas – while not seeing it as a foregone conclusion – knew they were in with a shout, particularly with the Harrisses and Ford providing some extra firepower.
Jon Loughlin and Laurie Stocks – who was again excellent in the field – strode out in an attempt to get the chase off to a good start. However, the latter scratched his way to one before succumbing to an inbetween shot after being thrown off his stride by a ball that spat up into his grille. That brought the experienced Rich Harriss into the crease and with Loughlin scoring a quick-fire 20, the pair put on 31 before Loughlin got caught in the covers.
In next was Ash Harriss looking to add to his brilliant knock of the previous week. However, one slipped through the gate to leave him far from happy as he returned to the hutch without troubling the scorers. An unfortunate run-out meant that Captain Cooper also came and went in a flash to bring in Ford for his first knock of the season.
With Harriss Snr and Ford together, there was still plenty of hope among the Ramblas faithful that the target was attainable, but everyone knew that this partnership would be key.
Within touching distance
And that partnership was indeed key. Sensible running, expert timing and some vicious boundaries saw them past drinks and stay together until the 27th over, putting on 94 before another mix-up saw Harriss depart for a superb 56 and leave the Ramblas still in need of 62 further runs.
Fitch was in next, but playing around a straight one never ends well for the batsman and that rule of life continued as the wee man failed to score. Having run through the top order with the ball, it was Mark Loughlin in next who looked in great nick as he supported the continued hot hitting of Ford.
The pair combined for an important and rapid 23-run partnership, before Loughlin was caught at deep square leg after a pull shot was caught by the tallest person on the pitch.
That brought in Parrett for his first innings of the season, with 39 runs still needed from the last five overs. The tension on the touchline was almost unbearable, with Captain Coops pacing so much he may be charged for a new patch of grass. Parrett, as ever, nervously kept out the first few balls before finally opening his arms to reach the boundary with two good fours before smiting a huge six over the clubhouse to leave 21 runs required from the final 18 balls.
With Ford and Parrett still in, that target was not as daunting as it might have been. Some more good running and textbook shots left it tantilisingly tight going into the last over.
A fine shot down the ground by Ford off the second ball was brilliantly stopped by the bowler’s foot to limit the batters to just a single when it looked like certain two to bring Parrett into the firing line, with four needed to win. Unfortunately, two full deliveries were unplayable and going for the big shot, Parrett was stumped to leave four needed off the final ball and Thomas the next man in.
Locksbottom moved all their fielders to the boundary, leaving the number 10 left-hander few gaps to aim for. Another full, straight delivery was hit on the volley and despite some frentic running, the pair could only make two to leave the Ramblas agonisingly losing by one run.
Both teams made fantastic fightbacks in their batting innings, while the bowling on display was high quality all round. For the Ramblas, each and every player made telling contributions in the field, with the ball or with the bat and the nail-biting finish, although not producing the result they wanted, underlined exactly why they bother to turn up on a Sunday.
Next week’s trip to Herne will provide them with an immediate chance to put this heartbreaking defeat behind them. COYR!
Man of the Match: With a breath-taking four-wicket spell – and important knock – it feels churlish not to award Mark Loughlin the award this week. However… the stunning, well paced (and at times brutal) 67* means Sam Ford gets the nod, as he took the Ramblas from a dire position to the cusp of victory.