For the second successive week, the Kent Ramblas were on the road, in glorious sunshine AND missing out the final moments of a British victory. This time round, they were in Petts Wood and it was the turn of the England cricket team to steal the headlines.
With holidays and injuries piling up, Skipper Stocks was left with the bare bones of his squad, welcoming back himself and Sam Ford to Sunday action, as well as new recruits John Sturgess and Paul Herderschee. However, it was set to be another tough day in the field as the Ramblas remained one shy of their full complement as they looked to avenge defeat from earlier in the season.
Much to the initial chagrin of some of his team-mates, the captain won the toss and opted to bowl first in another timed game.
Mark Loughlin opened the bowling from the Pavilion End and was showing no signs of fatigue having played the previous day in similar temperatures, while at the other end, Steve Cleverly overcame a sticky start to find the line and length that has proved so successful for him this season.
Despite the now-ubiquitous sharp ground fielding (barring a calamitous slip and “Oh, shit!” from Cleverley), the only danger of a breakthrough was via a run out, as the Petts Wood openers expertly (and at times, dangerously) milked the singles.
After the opening 10 overs were shared by Loughlin and Cleverley, the captain called upon Thomas and Ford. The former was offering a mixed bag, with some nicely-shaped deliveries thrown in with some gimmes, while Ford again offered up a probing length with no little pace.
Thomas and Loughlin at the double
After drinks, the hosts moved to 70 without loss before the visitors changed the complexion of the game. In his first over after a refreshing orange squash, Thomas tempted the opener into a loose drive outside off stump that was caught at backward point by Loughlin. That brought in the big-hitting Mitchell, who had helped take the game away from the Ramblas in the reverse fixture, but he had no time to make an impact, as a Thomas brought a near-identikit dismissal, this time caught by the captain at mid-wicket. Alas, there was to be no hat-trick this time, as the final ball of the over was well kept out.
That breathed new life into the Ramblas and Ford struck in the next over, getting the batsman to flash at a shortish delivery that looped high in the sky. Wicketkeeper Ash Harriss called it early and made his way swiftly to take a really good catch at midwicket.
Sensing the time to strike, the captain recalled Loughlin to the Pavilion End and teamed him with newcomer Sturgess in an attempt to bamboozle the batsmen with pace. And that they did, as with his first ball in Ramblas colours, Sturgess struck the pads of the well-set opener and, after what seemed like an eternity, the umpire raised his finger.
In the field, the Ramblas continued to press their opponents, with some good stops by Herderschee and Ford, while Sturgess’s arm made ‘keeper Harriss very grateful for his gloves.
With the ball, Sturgess and Loughlin really tested the batsmen with their pace, before Loughlin became the second Rambla of the day to have a chance at a hat-trick. First, he bowled one through the gate and with his next ball brought a loose shot that looped up to Thomas at not-so-silly-point (serious point?). Unfortunately, the hat-trick ball was a bit wayward, but that burst from the Ramblas attack had brought six wickets for just seven runs.
Petts Wood’s Dryden came in and scored well, but his team-mates offered little resistance as first Loughlin rearranged the timbers, then Sturgess claimed his second wicket thanks to another good take by Skipper Stocks.
Bringing back Cleverley, this time from the Pavilion End proved a masterstroke by the captain as he claimed the last two wickets, first getting Dryden safely snaffled by Loughlin and then bowling the last man in, albeit a little fortuitously as the ball trickled onto the stumps. After a stellar start that took the hosts to 77 for no loss, the Ramblas regrouped well and restricted them to 123 all out.
Bat to the future
After a standard tea and much-needed shade, it was the captain and Harriss who strolled out together to lead the chase. Given the nature of the timed game, it was key that the attack was timed right, having learned their lessons from last week against Chevening.
Harriss started promisingly, with a trademark biff for four, before being caught and bowled for five. Third man in Ford didn’t hang around for long to leave the Ramblas in a now-traditional batting malaise: 2 for 5.
Vice-captain Cooper was next up and he was again on fire-fighting duty. With his captain they stabilised the innings, with Stocks getting the odd boundary to relieve the pressure and ensure the game didn’t drift from them. Cooper was soon in on the act with a single, before unleashing his now trademark straight drive for four. However, as he looked to up the ante, another drive was misjudged and was caught by the bowler.
Having steadied the ship, the score was now 24/3 and Loughlin came in with plenty of time to get the 100 needed for victory.
And the pair played beautifully up until the first drinks break, seeing off the opening bowlers and expertly picking off the bad balls to keep the runs coming at a healthy rate. With the captain digging in, intent on seeing this through, Loughlin was opening his arms and boundaries were notched with regularity, while the pair ran well despite the oppressive heat.
Loughlin reached his 50 with another four, as the Ramblas raced towards the total, while the proximity to victory brought one particularly sumptuous drive over the covers from Stocks.
Heading into the 24th over, just seven were needed. Two well-run singles and a two left the visitors tantalisingly close before Loughlin finished the job with another four to finish on 62 not out, while Stocks put in a great captain’s knock of 45. Their partnership of 101 a highlight of many a Ramblas season. For the match scorecard, head here on Play Cricket.
It was a cracking all-round performance from the Ramblas, with great groundwork and catching in the field, good line and length with the ball and some sterling work with the bat. The Ramblas were pleased to gain revenge for defeat earlier in the season and return home against Priory next weekend.
Ramblas Man of the Match: There were some strong contenders with the ball, while the captain’s well-paced knock is worthy of mention, but for his three wickets, two catches and at times glorious 62 not out, we really have to raise a glass to Mark Loughlin this week.