Once upon time, in a land far, far away (from the South Pacific at least), there was a group of unlikely lads who thought it would be a good idea to start a cricket team. That good idea looked to have been misguided at best, as for two and a half years they toiled for no reward, before breaking their duck against Kidbrooke.
However, that was not to be the dawning of a bright new era, as – barring an entertaining draw – the team suffered agonising defeats (and the odd collapse. Or two) as they struggled to get over the line again in what was their fourth year of existence. But then, something strange happened… They won. And, after another draw, they won again. And then they did it again.
Some called it a miracle. Some people thought it was the first sign of the apocalypse. Others – who don’t believe in that sort of thing – just put it down to a mixture of hard work and more equal opposition. That team – the heroes of our story – are, of course, The Kent Ramblas.
So, after four 40-over games unbeaten, the Ramblas welcomed a Cuddington Casuals side that looked like they’d offer some robust opposition on the basis of their scorecards this season. Having scratched around for players in last week’s win against Priory, Skipper Stocks was able to put out – on paper – one of the strongest Ramblas teams available to him, as he welcomed back the quartet of Geoff Parrett (injury), Steve Cleverley (rested), Jon Loughlin (holiday. Again) and Sam Ford (shape-cutting).
A loss at the toss (I’m a poet and I didn’t know it…) saw the Ramblas put into bat, with Ash Harriss dealing primarily in boundaries as he raced to a brutal, yet beauteous half century. At the other end, the captain was stoic in his support for the big-hitting Harriss, ensuring that the pair set a solid platform on what was a fairly bowler-friendly pitch.
The Casuals bowlers offered a decent line and length, but were unable to trouble the pair, as Stocks Jnr continued his excellent form of recent weeks, before falling LBW for 24 as the openers put on 98 for the first wicket. That brought in the dancing feet of Ford who was quickly among the runs, before the drinks break brought about a change of pace.
First, Harriss struggled to rediscover the rhythm he had in the first 20 overs, as fatigue set in and the boundaries dried up, then Ford – having hit a well-paced 31 to keep the scoring going at a very healthy rate – was adjudged caught behind; much to his disbelief.
Laurie Stocks was next in the firing line (of bowler and umpire), defending some good balls well and nicking a couple of singles in tow with Harriss, before a glorious straight drive for four. However, his innings of nine was brought to an end by an LBW appeal that he felt was harsh to say the least. Even more upset by the decision was the wall in the dressing room, though…
Mark Loughlin came out next to join Harriss, as the latter continued to eke out the runs. That also brought about a change of umpire, and a change of fortunes for the Ramblas batsmen, who looked to up the ante and post a truly competitive score on their home ground. Loughlin took the bowlers on, but was bowled for a quick-fire 13 – not before seeing Harriss notch up the second ever Ramblas century. It may have been a more turgid second 50, but it was a fabulous knock by Harriss, who continued on his merry way.
The centurion was finally dismissed for 132 – a new Ramblas record – as the bowler got one to tickle the off-stump. He departed to hearty applause from all round the ground. Vice-captain Cooper came in next with little time to do anything other than swing in the hope of adding precious runs to a total already over 200. His brief cameo yielded nine runs, including another trademark four down the ground, to bring in Geoff Parrett for his first innings in almost two months.
After a few outings for the traditional Parrett Hop, the returning Rambla smited a humongous six to the longest boundary, before a suicidal second run on the very last ball brought a run out for Jon Loughlin to leave the Ramblas closing on a new best score of 251 for seven.
Stepping up to the plate
Having gorged on another resplendent culinary offering from the recently exam-free (and exam-passing) Ruth Parrett – despite some confusion and consternation about the inclusion of some actual salad – the Ramblas headed back out knowing a tight first 10 overs would be key in ensuring their opponents would have a mountain to climb. Still, this is the Ramblas…
The now-traditional opening pairing of Mark Loughlin and Ian Dacre set about their task, well supported by their fielders, with Dacre claiming a wicket at the end of a shaky first over thanks to a breath-taking two-handed catch low to his right by Ford at point.
That early breakthrough proved just the ticket for the Ramblas, with Loughlin getting one through the other opener shortly after in what proved to be another devastating spell of fast bowling. Dacre’s first five-over spell was mixture of good and wide, but the run-rate was still kept in check, while at the other end, Loughlin bowled his eight off the reel.
Replacing Dacre was Thomas, now returned to last season’s slower bowling action, and he proved to be uncharacteristically economical, as well as claiming a wicket with his third ball thanks to a smart catch by Cleverley at deep square leg – the latter having been castigated by Cooper the previous delivery for his ball-throwing abilities.
Loughlin continued from the Tennis Court End and claimed his second victim thanks to another sharp take by Ford, this time at slip. With four down and barely 40 on the board, things were looking good for the hosts. With Loughlin bowled out for a fine spell of 2 for 14, it was the returning Parrett on to replace him, and he helped produce another classic Ramblas moment.
Looking like he’d never been away, he teased the batsman with his first delivery, confused him with a wide, tempted him into hitting a good hooked four onto the leg side then teased him into playing at one outside of off-stump that was heading in the vague direction of Skipper Stocks. The captain, moving quickly to his right, initially looked like he’d misjudged it, just managing to parry it with his right. But he then readjusted to get his left hand to it, before gratefully clasping it to his chest on the way down to the ground and a fine celebration.
Five down at the drinks break, the Casuals launched something of a fightback post-juice, with E Vincent and M Stockbridge both hitting 25. Alas, the latter was bowled by a stunning delivery by Parrett, while the former succumbed to a peach of a ball by the roaring Ford that dismantled the woodwork.
That really left the visitors chasing shadows, but the Ramblas kept up the good work in the field despite the tail-enders offering some resistance as all reached double figures. However, the Ramblas weren’t to be denied…
First, Cleverley got in on the act by deceiving the batsman and getting the ball to crash into the stumps, then the visitors’ star bowler Bartlett unluckily played onto a delivery from the fired-up Ford. With one wicket remaining, Dacre replaced Ford and Harriss came on for Cleverley, as the Ramblas remained professional to the end.
Dacre came back and looked sharp, before Harriss completed a sterling showing with the final wicket, caught by Ford at square leg to dismiss the Casuals for 157. The scorecard can be found here.
It was another stellar all-round performance by the Ramblas, as each batsman again got off the mark, while every bowler claimed at least one wicket. Elsewhere, the fielding and wicket-keeping was back to the high standards the Ramblas have set themselves. Although the victory may have looked convincing, the Casuals were a good batting and bowling outfit, which just underlines what a good showing it was from the Ramblas.
Can they make it four on the bounce against old foes (and friends) St Mary Cray Red Dogs?
Man of the Match: It really was a fantastic collective offering by the Ramblas, with honourable shout outs going to Mark Loughlin and Sam Ford particularly for their all-round efforts. But, for a new Ramblas record score of 132 – as well as the last wicket – we can only really give it to Ash Harriss.