It may have been a mere formality for the pairing of Anderson and Broad at Lord’s, but there was something more dramatic on offer for cricket fans in West Wickham, as Kent Ramblas welcomed Petts Wood on what turned out to be a gloriously sunny Sunday.
The hosts made a few changes, as Hinton and Barham came in for Jon Loughlin and Ian Dacre, while a first coin toss loss of the season for the Ramblas saw the visitors opt to bat.
As is now customary, Mark Loughlin took the new cherry from the tennis court end and offered up an opening spell of precision and pace, while the young Barham operated from the garden end with a similar level, eliciting the odd edge that was just evading the despairing dives of the fielders.
The first 10 overs remained tight from the opening bowlers, backed up by some sharp fielding – particularly from Steve Fitch who seemed to attract the ball wherever he was on the park. Despite some fine deliveries, the duo were unable to make the breakthrough, but having kept the scoreboard relatively subdued, the Ramblas knew more of the same would stand them in good stead.
Into the fray next were Parrett, replacing Loughlin, and Thomas – the former producing another fine spell of subtle variety to end with 5-1-11-0. Meanwhile, despite seeing his first ball edged for four, Thomas pulled it back and got the well-set left-handed opener with one caught by Ford at wicket-keeper. The bowler and ‘keeper can take a great deal of credit, but some touchline advice from the newest member of the Ramblas family clearly did the trick…
One soon became two for Thomas on his way to 2/18 from his five overs, with Harriss taking a sharp catch at head height at point and at drinks, Petts Wood looked to be below par but with plenty of wickets in hand, the game was still in the balance.
Buttery fingers and belting batting
After a much-needed sup of orange juice, the teams continued apace, with Hinton and Ford taking over bowling duties, as opener Meaton continued his slow and steady accumulation in tandem with the big-hitting Mitchell.
In his first game for the Ramblas, Hinton bowled some delicious stuff and was on the receiving end of some sloppy fielding as chances of varying difficulty went begging, including one by Thomas who then had a shy at the stumps. However, despite some certain cries in the field, the decision went the way of the visitors.
That lifeline emboldened the batsmen and Ford was unlucky not to claim his much deserved first wicket of the season as a nick flew towards Laurie Stocks at slip who made a fantastic effort that wouldn’t quite stick.
The Ramblas maintained their energy and sharpness in the field, despite struggling to make the breakthrough, but they got the fillip they’d earned when Ford got one to rip through and tickle off the bails to dismiss the stoic Meaton.
Harriss and Fitch came in next for a combined short spurt that was unlucky not to garner a wicket, before Barham and Loughlin came back into the attack. The pair were again on the money, if not sharper than before despite weary limbs and Barham got his reward when he drew a shot from the new man who was caught at backward point by Thomas.
Loughlin and Barham maintained their efforts to the last, but to no avail, leaving the visitors on 163 for 4 at the end of their 40 overs. Having come on leaps and bounds with the bat, the Ramblas came off knowing that target was far from unattainable and talk of sensible batting over another top-notch tea from Mrs C left them with high hopes for a first win of the season.
Lightning strikes twice. Or is that thrice, now?
It was down to the Stocks brothers to set a platform for the chase, but Cap’n Stocks was soon back on the sidelines having been flummoxed by a peach of a ball.
Coming in at three was Ford and, having a far clearer head than the previous week, looked in good nick, with Stocks Snr supporting well as the former opened his arms, racing to a quick-fire 37 to have the Ramblas above the required run rate after 10 overs.
With L. Stocks also back in the hutch, the Ramblas were now three down, which called for Michael Cooper – fresh from his exploits behind the stumps in the second half of the first 40 – and Ash Harriss to embark on a nerve-settling partnership.
Harriss looked in fine nick, while Cooper got his obligatory nicked four and seemed determined to hold onto his wicket and support the big-hitting Harriss. Having smited three successive sixes, Harriss came a cropper after one held up on the pitch to take off the bails having scored a powerful 36.
Fielding extraordinaire Fitch joined Cooper at the crease, but the combination didn’t last too long, when Cooper got deceived by one that stayed low to bring in new boy Hinton. Two well-timed fours from Hinton relieved some of the pressure, while Fitch resolved to lay anchor and provide some much-needed stability.
Alas, Hinton’s stay at the crease went the way of most of his predecessors, as an ambitious shot proved his demise.
Next up was Loughlin who, having struck a lovely four, played around a straight one, while Parrett also failed to provide the requisite partner for Fitch after departing for six.
That brought Thomas to the crease and, having extolled to anyone who’d listen about ‘not doing anything stupid’ during the tea break, promptly called Fitch through for a kamikaze single to depart without facing a ball. Less than impressed would be an understatement…
Fitch and Barham had the unlikely task of seeing it through, but despite a brief retort, Barham went to leave the Ramblas all out for 119 – a disappointing 45 shy of a victory that was in their grasp. The full scorecard can be found here.
As ever, the bowlers were backed up by some top-notch fielding (barring the odd blip on the catching front), but it was again the collective batting efforts that let the side down. Still, a rematch away at Petts Wood later on in the season will provide the opportunity to right those wrongs, while it’s on the road to Norwood next week for an immediate chance of retribution for the Ramblas.
Man of the Match: There was no real outstanding all-round performance today, but rather a collection of strong cameos from bowlers, batters and fielders alike. However, the common consensus in the post-match debrief was that the award – for his responsible batting and excellent fielding (as well as a tight two-over spell) – should go to Steve Fitch.