Fresh from their first victory of the season, the Ramblas shifted into Twenty:20 mode for the short away trip to neighbours Wickham Park on a glorious summer’s evening.
Captaining the team was Michael Cooper who, due to a mixture of injuries and other commitments, had slim pickings available to him in terms of personnel. On temporary loan from Ex-Blues came in Lewis Barham and Rich Harriss for their second Ramblas appearances of the season, yet that still left the visitors with nine players. Given their efforts with a full complement, fears of a struggle had to be put to one side as they were put into bat as their team turned up in dribs and drabs.
Due to a number of late-running Ramblas, Cooper instated Barham and Mark Loughlin as his opening partnership with hopes the former could continue his good form from his last knock, while the latter was hoping to reprise his half-century from the fixture last season. And the pair got off to a solid start, racing to 15 off the first two overs before Barham hit another brace only to depart next ball by looking to strike out against a straight ball.
In next was Rich Harriss who biffed the first ball straight to a fielder, but was back in the hutch immediately after following a strange delivery that dipped wickedly to take out leg stump. That brought in Ash Harriss who, having survived a caught and bowled opportunity from a wild slash off his first ball, recomposed himself to put on a much-needed partnership with Loughlin. This kept the run-rate at a much more respectable level, but with his score on 20, Harriss was caught in the deep.
Laurie Stocks came in next, in a different scenario to his last innings, but failed to trouble the scorers to leave the Ramblas four down for 36 after six overs. Things were not looking pretty as Cap’n Cooper strode to the crease intent on giving his side half a chance by sticking around in support of Loughlin. The latter continued to find the gaps for the odd single, but the runs were drying up like a man on Immodium after a spell of Delhi Belly…
Having made his way to a hard-earned 20, Loughlin departed after driving on the up, while Steve Fitch notched one before being caught and bowled to bring in eighth man Chris Thomas at the 11th over.
With just one wicket left and plenty of overs to see out, they looked to accumulate steadily. However, they may have adopted that approach to rigidly as both struggled to get what was fairly presentable bowling away. That said, with a mixture of extras and the odd strike, they scratched their way to a 20-run partnership before Thomas was bowled to leave the score at 66/7.
Dacre came in to support his skipper, but the pair continued to get bogged down before Cooper looked to snatch some late-innings runs and was bowled. Due to the generosity/eagerness for an actual contest, a 10th man was allowed in to add a much-needed 11 runs to drag the Ramblas – kicking and screaming like a surly toddler – to 83 off their 20 overs.
Backs against the wall
Given that the run rate required was a touch above four per over, there was little need for Wickham Park to go for broke from the off. Tossing the ball to Loughlin and Dacre, the skipper knew an early breakthrough was paramount.
After a loose first over, Loughlin hit back with a superb maiden, while from the other end Dacre offered a mixed bag but was still hard to get away. That brought on Thomas in place of Loughlin who recovered from a woeful first over to bowl a maiden of his own that included a couple of optimistic LBW shouts.
Replacing Dacre was Barham whose four overs were bowled off the reel and offered nothing to the batsmen and was unlucky not to claim a wicket.
Despite a steady bowling performance, the lack of a decent total to defend left the Ramblas struggling as the hosts’ opening pair picked off the bad balls – and the odd good one – to keep them comfortably on course to reach their target of 84.
Captain Coops turned to the experience of Rich Harriss next, with a tough caught and bowled opportunity going begging from a solid two-over burst. Having earned his rest, Barham was replaced with Dacre, while at the other end Fitch sent down two stellar overs.
As ever, the Ramblas fielders backed up their bowlers well – despite the odd hiccup – yet the Wickham Park openers remained stubbornly reluctant to give up their wickets.
Dacre’s final two overs were unable to bring the breakthrough, with Thomas replacing him, while Loughlin returned to the attack from the other end. The latter was again hitting the sweet spot but for little reward as a couple of half-chances of run-outs went begging to leave the hosts needing four to win from the last three overs.
In true Ramblas style, there was a late mini-twist as Thomas had one opener stumped by the excellent Ash Harriss at wicketkeeper, before he doubled his tally by cramping the new batsman for room two balls later. However, hopes of a remarkable victory were soon laid to bed as two balls later the requisite boundary was slashed on the offside by fourth man in. The full scorecard can be found here.
Following the script of previous clashes between these two, the match was played in good spirits, but a slightly ramshackle batting performance from the Ramblas left themselves with too much to do to make it a real contest. Still, there’s always the rematch next week as a chance to exact some revenge!
Before that, though, a trip to Chevening…
Ramblas Man of the Match: A solid 20 in trying circumstances backed up with another fine four-over spell means Mark Loughlin gets the nod this week.