On what must have been the year’s hottest day so far, the Kent Ramblas hosted London Saints in West Wickham, topping off a weekend of celebrations off the pitch with some Ramblas’ landmarks – personally and collectively – on it.
At the request of the visitors, the Ramblas were put into bat, which saw the sun-drenched Jon Loughlin returning from his latest jaunt away to open the batting with Skipper Stocks.
After a steady start, Loughlin failed to properly get hold of one to loop up a simple catch to mid-on. That brought Sam Ford into the fray and, with his captain, set about meticulously dismantling the field with smart running and some fierce hitting. With Ford in such fine fettle, Stocks Jnr knew that his job was to stick around and support his big-hitting team-mate.
Given the sweltering conditions, a wise call was made to have two drinks breaks in each innings to ensure there were no casualties, and the two batsmen continued untroubled to take the hosts to 66/1 at 15 overs, securing a rare half-century Ramblas partnership in the process. But they were determined not to settle for that…
Resuming after a thirst-quenching orange juice or two, Stocks and Ford continued where they left off, the former diligently accumulating runs while the latter started to unleash his full repertoire. The pair remained together to post an even rarer century partnership, with Ford reaching his 50 and neither looking likely to give up their wicket without a fight.
And on and on they went, cultivating a great balance of boundaries and well-run singles to ensure the run-rate was at a healthy four an over.
The biggest cheer of the day was then reserved for Ford as a smart single saw him notch the first ever Ramblas hundred. With fatigue playing a part and the onus on Ford – having celebrated his birthday on Friday – to accelerate even further, he eventually departed to huge applause from the sidelines for a fantastic 110; finally breaking his and captain’s 167-run partnership – another new Ramblas record. His departure, meanwhile, brought in birthday boy Steve Fitch.
Two quick singles got Fitch off the mark, but a cracking ball that kissed off the bails meant any fairytale story would have to wait…
Vice-skipper Cooper was next in, with the rare opportunity to play his shots from the off. A couple of singles were followed by a textbook four, while at the other end, Skipper Stocks was looking to up the ante with only a few overs to go, reaching a well-paced and diligent 60 before being bowled.
That left Laurie Stocks with little time to work his magic, but hitting two singles before Cooper finished the innings off with a cracking straight drive for four to finish on a career-high 16 not out and leave the Ramblas on a team-best 228 for 4 at the end of their 40 overs.
Birthday barbecue beefs up bowling attack
As part of the celebrations for the aforementioned Fitch’s birthday, a barbecue of the highest quality was laid on as the Ramblas looked to fuel themselves sufficiently to get stuck into the London Saints batting order (one which was shorn of three of its brightest lights).
Both teams were momentarily left wondering if there’d be enough grub to go around as the injured Geoff Parrett turned up to offer his support – to sister Ruth on tea-making duties and to his teammates in the middle. Thankfully, widespread starvation was averted and while the Ramblas broke records on the pitch, rumours were rife that Geoff’s burger-eating record was in danger of being broken too…
Having seen the batsmen do a wonderful job, it was up to the bowlers to ensure that wasn’t a wasted effort.
Given both Mark Loughlin and Ian Dacre have been in fine fettle of late, there was no reason for the captain to change his opening pair, and they didn’t let him down.
Loughlin overcame a shaky over to find his rhythm, while from the The Garden End, Dacre got one to spit up off the pitch to elicit and edge and bring out a fantastically sharp catch by Jon Loughlin behind the stumps.
The same pair combined in Dacre’s next over, this time the ball grazing the new batsman’s glove before being safely snaffled by wicketkeeper Loughlin.
Not to be outdone, Mark Loughlin was soon on timber-rearranging duties as he pinned back the well-set opener and the ball rolled onto the stumps off the batter’s foot.
The situation was beginning to look a little dire for the visiting Saints even before two disastrous run-outs really left them in the mire. First, Ash Harris quickly pounced on one to get a direct hit from 20-odd yards, then Jon Loughlin continued his sharp work behind the stumps by reacting quickly to his own misfield to hit the stumps as the batters called a suicidal single.
Dacre completed his spell by delivering a peach of a delivery that befuddled the batsman and got through his defence to mark a quite fabulous first 10 overs for the Ramblas. With the strike bowlers given a well-earned breather, Thomas was brought on in place of Loughlin, while Harriss took over from Dacre.
Carrying on where he left off last week, Thomas looked to be well in his stride early on with two wicked deliveries, before a rank full toss was swiped at by the batsman to Ford at deep gully. One became two in his next over as a short ball wasn’t punished and the batsman contrived to hit it onto his stumps.
From the other end, Harriss was teasing the batsmen with some turn outside off and was unlucky not to claim a scalp. The head-banded Thomas came in for his third over before his final ball was taken superbly at his feet by the diving Bradley Scoates at point to leave the bowler celebrating his first three-fer.
That signalled the end of his spell and meant Fitch was into the attack, supporting the fine work of Harriss from the other end. The former put down a mixed bag, before – midway through his second over – a low full toss was slashed at and looped up into the hands of the back-peddling Ford to end the London Saints innings on 58 all out to mark the fairytale ending to the day. See the full scorecard of the 170-run win here, on our Play Cricket site.
It was a game played in the right spirit – and searing heat – and one that saw many Ramblas record come tumbling down. The batsmen really put on a show to right a few wrongs of late, while the bowling and fielding – particularly by Dacre with the ball and Jon Loughlin behind the stumps – was of a really high standard.
And that, means the Ramblas could mark the occasion with their second ever win. What a day!
Ramblas Man of the Match: For hitting the first ever Ramblas century, being part of the highest Ramblas partnership and topping it off with two catches, it can only be Sam Ford, who helped provide the platform for a great all-round performance.