“Will it or won’t it?” Was the thought in every Ramblas head on Sunday. No, they weren’t wondering whether the hole in Ash Harriss’s trousers would finally give way. Instead, in true British style, they were worrying about the weather.
As the Ramblas headed south (and east) to Herne, the sunshine offered plenty of hope that the second clash between these two would escape any intervention from the rain. With that in mind, and local meteorologists offering their expert advice, the captains agreed to a 30-over-a-side game… and it proved an inspired decision.
For the Ramblas, there was one change from last week’s agonising one-run defeat to Locksbottom, with Skipper Stocks returning in place of Rich Harriss. Although the late-night partying Sam Ford was a little tardy in his arrival, the Ramblas were up to their full complement soon enough and raring to go, having won the toss and chosen to field.
As ever, first up were Mark Loughlin and Ian Dacre who bowled superbly from the off – the latter dismantling the stumps with his first ball. Not to be outdone, M. Loughlin was soon among the wickets as he caught one off his own bowling. With Dacre again rearranging the timbers in his next over, the hosts were 9 for 3 as the Ramblas made their now customary quick start in the field.
However, they knew that the contest was far from over, as last year’s scourge – Robinson – was finding his feet at the crease, putting on a swift partnership with Watson before Chris Thomas – having already seen one dropped by the same fielder – claimed the latter when Dacre caught a sharp chance at square leg. Despite Geoff Parrett finding his form from the other end – including an excellent, teasing maiden over – the bowlers received some brutal punishment at times.
With Robinson and Browne laying anchor at the crease, it looked like the game was getting away from the Ramblas, particularly as a range of catching opportunities went begging. The batting pair continued to score freely despite riding their luck and looked to be carrying Herne towards an imposing total of around 150.
Much like last week, the Ramblas – barring a collective case of butter fingers on some tricky catches – were again at their level best in the field, with wicketkeeper Jon Loughlin particularly sharp and the bowlers well-supported by their team-mates.
The somewhat bleary-eyed Ford gamely came into the attack and was again unlucky not to get a wicket from another strong spell, while at the other end, Steve Fitch overcame a shaky first over to claim two wickets – finally dismissing the big-hitting Robinson with one that snuck through the gate and then owing a debt of gratitude to Harriss at short long-on who confidently pouched one that came down with snow on it.
That left the hosts six down, but still on course for a competitive score.
Sensing a chance to strike, the Ramblas captain brought back his opening pair. And boy did they deliver. First, Loughlin snared the important wicket of Browne as Parrett’s, ahem, lunchbox helped with the catch. Then the same bowler had Harriss to thank for another good catch, before vice-skipper Michael Cooper pulled off another excellent take in Dacre’s last over.
The innings was completed by a run-out, as Ford and the Loughlins combined fantastically to leave the hosts on 139.
As another sterling tea was enjoyed – Parrett threatening to break his record for number of trips to the kitchen – the Ramblas reflected on a couple of chances missed, but knew that sensible batting with wickets left at the end would leave them with half a chance of victory.
So much for ‘sensible’…
(That sub-heading is harsh, in all honesty, but let’s call it artistic licence)
Looking to lay a platform for their side were the brothers Stocks, and they batted gamely to keep the run rate ticking over, before the captain fell for 6. Still, at 22/1 and with Ford in next, there was still plenty of time to build a base for a late charge.
Alas, you know what they say about the best laid plans…
First, Laurie Stocks went for 11 having looked in good nick and despite a quick-fire partnership between Jon Loughlin and Ford, soon the Ramblas were 40 for 4. Four quickly became five as Harriss departed, before Fitch and Cooper looked to steady the ship. The pair hung around for a while, but were unable to make any real headway on the scoreboard to leave the visitors some distance from their target at 71 for 7.
There was no sign of the Ramblas giving up the ghost though, as joining the already well-set Mark Loughlin was Parrett and the pair batted well before the former departed for an impressive 29.
Some strong running between the wickets from Thomas and Parrett (all the hits coming from Parrett, all the wafts coming from Thomas) edged the Ramblas towards respectability before Parrett was undone by a ball that somehow tickled the bails off having gone on from his bat via the foot. A last stand between Dacre and Thomas saw both finish not out, but neither could find the big hits to the boundary to really get the hosts sweating, as the Ramblas closed on 120 for 9 – 20 runs shy of the win. For those interested, here’s the scorecard.
Those final few overs saw the rain start to come down, which underlined the smart decision by the captains to make it a 30-over game. Despite the defeat, the game was a real ebb and flow contest played in good spirits between two evenly-matched teams. Here’s hoping for more of the same next year.
Man of the Match: A very special shout-out must go to Ian Dacre who bowled superbly for his three wickets, as well as taking a good catch and putting on some late-order runs. However, for his spell of 3-8 (including a catch) and a composed 29 with the bat, this week’s award goes to Mark Loughlin.