While half the nation was glued to their TV sets (and their leather sofas, due to the heat) watching Andy Murray make history at Wimbledon, the Kent Ramblas made their way to Chipstead to take on Chevening Amblers in glorious settings.
Michael Cooper was again in the skipper’s shoes and was hit by two late withdrawals to hinder the chances of a second successive Sunday victory for the Ramblas. Still, the ever game Ramblas recalled Steve Cleverley, welcomed back Felipe Sanchez-Rodriguez for his first game in a year and also new boy Ahsan Haji for a nine-man assault on their hosts in a timed game.
Being put into bowl, the Ramblas opened with Mark Loughlin and Cleverley, but a combination of the heat and the gaping holes in the diminished field meant the run rate was maintained at a healthy rate for Chevening. Given it was – like Ash Harriss – his fifth game in eight days, the pace and length offered by Loughlin was a delight to watch. From the other end, Cleverley was showing signs of what has been a stellar showing with the ball this season, but the pair were unable to make the breakthrough.
Giving his openers a well-earned breather, Cap’n Cooper called upon Chris Thomas and newbie Haji to work the batsmen. The former was nowhere near as fluid as he has been in recent weeks, but this was countered by a fine spell from his new team-mate who was unlucky not to claim a wicket as chances fell in the field. A couple of maidens from Haji helped stem the runs and after drinks, Sanchez-Rodriguez and Steve Fitch were brought into the attack.
A change will do you good
Indeed it will, and it did, as Sanchez-Rodriguez overcame early rustiness to elicit a couple of chances in the field, before Thomas – repositioned by the skipper on advice of ‘keeper Ash Harriss – caught the big-scoring opener on the drive.
That brought in Chevening’s centurion Cunningham, but Fitch showed no sentiment by claiming a smart catch off his own bowling. The belligerent Pointing remained well set, but an end had opened up for the Ramblas to attack and they continued to press, working as hard as ever in the field, with some good chases and blocks keeping the batsmen on their toes.
Fitch was in great rhythm and in his next over forced a leading edge from the new batsman that looped up invitingly for Thomas at mid-off. However, the ball somehow squirmed from his grasp to leave him with a look on his face akin to the one of someone who’s just realised they threw away a winning lottery ticket.
Sensing the hosts were vulnerable, Cooper called again for his big guns with Loughlin drawing the edge of the batsmen on more than one occasion, but the chances fell between the fielders. Switching ends, it was Haji in support and he claimed his first wicket as the batter scooped one high in the air and the back-peddling, side-shuffling, far-from-confident-looking Thomas managed to hold on. Haji then got rid of opener Pointing LBW to give the visitors a look at Chevening’s middle order with two new batsmen.
Thomas and Cleverley were brought back into the attack with time running out, and both got it on the wicket-taking action. First, Haji repaid his debt to Thomas by taking a sharp catch at mid-wicket. Some big hits bumped up the hosts’ score, before a topsy-turvy last over from Cleverley that saw one stumping as the batsman raced down the track and another bowled as they looked to add to the 15 taken off it.
All that left Chevening on 178 for 7 from 36 overs, marking a strong run-rate from the hosts, but also a good comeback from the Ramblas given their lack of manpower and the hosts’ strong start.
Marble cake and Murray
OK, OK, in the name of transparency, there wasn’t any marble cake, but ‘Penguin bars and Murray’ didn’t have quite the same ring to it…
A sterling summer tea was enjoyed and then it was back out to the field as Murray wrapped up the title in SW19, with the Ramblas’ batting line-up bolstered by the late-arriving Rich Harriss.
Opening up were Ash Harriss and Cap’n Cooper, with the onus on the latter to stick around in support for his big-hitting partner who again worked sharply behind the stumps, but took a nasty hit on his foot to hinder his movement.
Cooper remained watchful, resolutely refusing to play at… well, anything… while at the other end, a streaky first four from Harriss got the Ramblas off the mark and he was soon in his stride, finding the boundary well on occasion as both guarded their wickets like a lioness guards her cubs.
They survived to drinks, but the skipper knew that now was the time to attack if there was to be any chance of victory. However, in the first over after the break, he was deceived by one that cut off the pitch to rattle his stumps from the veteran Smithers.
That meant a Harriss double act in the middle, but they weren’t together long as Harriss Jnr was caught in the deep following a hard-earned 28 that gave his team-mates the opportunity to attack for a few overs in search of the runs needed for victory.
In next came Laurie Stocks, who worked well with Harriss Snr for a 20-run partnership, the latter making his way to a solid 15 before being caught. Stocks stuck around resolutely for six, including a glorious four, before Cleverley departed LBW – much to the big man’s chagrin.
Loughlin – suffering from sinus-related issues – battled for nine before being bowled as he looked to up the ante to help realistically challenge the target set, to leave Thomas coming in with six overs to go to join the fluent-looking Haji.
“A draw’s a draw,” were the words from his captain, so Thomas set about ensuring he didn’t expose the injured Fitch and out-of-practice Sanchez-Rodriguez, while at the other end, Haji displayed a range of shots that suggested the Ramblas may have unearthed a gem.
In true Thomas fashion, the partnership of 25 was hugely dominated by his partner, but the pair managed to see their team through to the end of the innings, closing on 96 for 6. You can see the scorecard, here.
Granted, that total some way off the 179 needed for victory, but given the gaps in the field when they bowled and a very bowler-heavy line-up, the Ramblas can be proud of their efforts in trying conditions.
Both teams played the game the ‘right way’, and the Ramblas are looking forward to hosting their opponents in a few weeks’ time.
Ramblas Man of the Match: For his 2 for 13 from eight overs (including four maidens) and an unbeaten 22 with the bat, this week’s accolade goes to newcomer Ahsan Haji. We hope he can become a regular part of the Ramblas cause!