While the Ramblas could claim one up on the England team by virtue of the fact the rain stayed away from West Wickham, the fayre on offer from the batsmen from both sides was much more similar.
With both sides fielding 10 men, there would be gaps in the field, with the visitors winning the toss and opting to bat. The Ramblas welcomed back Steve Cleverley in place of the injured Steve Fitch, while last week’s replacement Drew Smith was unfortunately called away at the last to leave those the only two changes from the embarrassment at RASC.
Giving how well the bowling unit has operated in recent weeks, there was no need for Skipper Stocks to try anything different, opening with Mark Loughlin and Ian Dacre. One sharp chance flew threw the slips from Loughlin before the Ramblas thought they had their first wicket when Thomas made a direct hit from short third man. Alas, their appeals fell on deaf ears, but the disappointment didn’t last long, as two balls later Dacre tempted the batter into a shot the skewed up in the air and was comfortably caught by the captain at short long-on.
With Loughlin offering the batsmen a probing length (as it were…) to keep the run rate fairly static, it was Dacre who made the second breakthrough with an LBW that struck the back pad after keeping a little low. Commonwealth’s opener, wicketkeeper and skipper (and, who knows, physio, tea lady) was still in and striking the ball well, but the Ramblas were putting in another strong performance in the field, with Scoates producing some fine stops and arrow-like shies at the stumps, while Laurie Stocks displayed some nifty footwork in an unorthodox stop at gully.
As Dacre and Loughlin took a well-earned breather, it was Chris Thomas – from the Garden End – and Ash Harriss bowling downhill into the attack. A small ratcheting up of pace in recent weeks by the former has seen a marked improvement in his bowling and he was rewarded with a wicket in his first over as the batsman flashed at one that looped up into the hands of the ever dependable Michael Cooper at point. That wicket brought in the big-hitting Emmanuel, who – in tandem with his skipper, who was lucky not see his stumps rearranged when charging down the pitch to Thomas – set about punishing anything loose, while also playing some brutal shots.
At drinks, the hosts were 119 for 3 – a formidable-looking halfway score, but with Cleverley – now bowling from his favoured Tennis Court End – in tandem with Sam Ford, the Ramblas began their fight back.
Having already seen the visitor’s skipper reach 50, he was soon followed by Emmanuel, before the latter departed for a fine 56, chasing one from Cleverley that hung in the sky for what seemed like an eternity before being caught by – don’t adjust your screens – Thomas on the boundary.
That was an all-important breakthrough, with the Ramblas knowing that if they could get the batsmen at the other end to Commonwealth’s skipper, they’d have a chance at restricting the visitors to a gettable total. And that’s what they set about doing…
First, Ford claimed a sharp caught and bowled chance before getting one to rattle into the stumps to leave the visitors six down. Although Patel remained on course for a big score, he was beginning to run out of partners as Cleverley got one to skip up off the surface and loop up off the top of the bat to be claimed by Harriss, who had taken over wicket-keeping duties from Ford at the halfway mark.
Ford then claimed his third scalp with another cracking delivery that shot through the batsman’s defence, before helping to complete the job by snaffling one at slip off the bowling of Loughlin to leave the hosts all out for 202. That signified a strong comeback from the Ramblas after drinks, restricting the visitors to 83 from 14.3 overs.
Something in the tea?
Well, no. The splendid spread kindly laid on by the Stockses’ mum had no impact on what proved to be a now typical Ramblas riposte with the bat.
Having started fairly well, it soon began to go the way of the pear as Stocks Snr departed for a duck going after one having seen a succession of shots find the fielders. He was soon followed by brother and captain Jonny who was (perhaps harshly) given LBW for 9 having looked well set.
That brought together Scoates and Ford at the crease, the latter racing to 11 before waving his bat at one outside off that was well held in the slip cordon. Vice-skipper Cooper and Scoates were now reunited after a solid – if low-scoring – vigil last week. Alas, there was little time for Scoates to unleash that gorgeous cover drive as he looped up a straight-forward chance back to the bowler.
Cooper was soon off the mark as he batted with sometime Ex-Blues team-mate Harriss who looked to demolish a half-tracker, but misjudged it and was soon hearing that sound all batters fear as the ball struck the stumps.
Mark Loughlin was in next and he was soon in his stride with a couple of fine fours, before seeing Cooper skittled by a peach of a ball from Emmanuel.
With six men down, and 60 on the board, the fat lady was beginning her voice-warming exercises. However, Loughlin and new man Cleverley had other ideas, seeing out the good balls firmly and opening their arms when possible to put on a fifty partnership before Loughlin went after one and didn’t quite connect to be caught for 35 at short long-off.
Having enjoyed some time at the crease the previous week, it was Thomas in next with Cleverley. The big man was looking in fine fettle as he biffed a couple more fours and the pair nudged along the scoreboard for Cleverley was unluckily dismissed by one that crawled along the floor and grazed his outside edge before trickling onto the stumps.
That brought in last man Dacre who gamely claimed he got an inside edge on one that flew to the boundary, while Thomas overcame some early nerves to hit a couple of fours and twos on his way to 17 not out before seeing Dacre get ideas above his station after hitting on lovely four and playing around the very next ball to leave the Ramblas all out for 127 – some 76 runs shy of victory. The match scorecard can be found here on our Play Cricket site.
Again, all the positives for the Ramblas came from the field, with some fine bowling from the whole attack, while the lower order at least proved some resistance to edge the score towards something approaching respectability. Still, there was more of a contest than the previous week’s debacle and they were one half-decent score away from making a real contest out of it.
Ramblas Man of the Match: A fantastic three-wicket haul from Sam Ford would normally be enough, but this week we’re plumping for Steve Cleverley for his 2-42 (including the key wicket of Emmanuel) and confident-looking 20 with the bat.