Sunday saw the Ramblas return to the home dressing room of the Pickhurst Rise arena to take on a familiar foe in Chevening Amblers.
The two sides had faced off just six weeks ago in Chevening with an honourable draw being fought out in a timed match.
The hosts’ team sheet showed no less than five changes from last week’s thrilling three-wicket victory over Eden Park, with Jonny Stocks returning to skipper the side, Steve Fitch returning from injury and Drew Smith, John Sturgess and Rehan Qureshi called upon from the Ramblas extensive ringer rolodex (Ed – what is this, the 80s?).
Heading in to bat first with the aforementioned J Stocks along with Ash Harriss, a century-maker from last Sunday, it was clear from the outset that Harriss was in no mood to let the opposition settle as he launched his very first delivery straight back over the bowler’s head for six. Chris Gayle would have been proud.
This was a sign of things to come, as Harriss destroyed the bowling with four and sixes flayed all around the park. His 50 arrived in just the ninth over with another six as the shell-shocked Amblers were left to chase leather.
Looking for answers, Chevening’s captain used no less than nine different bowlers but it made no difference to Harriss who reached a stunning century in just the 16th over. J Stocks, meanwhile, was playing an intelligent innings, rotating the strike to give his big-hitting partner as many deliveries as possible.
The pair reached drinks on 161-0 with the Chevening fielders looking like they needed something a little stronger than the squash on offer…
With Hariss unbeaten on 117 at drinks, were the Ramblas about to witness the team’s first ever double hundred? Alas, the answer was no as in the very first over back, Harriss was bowled. His brutal innings containing 15 fours and six sixes. The opening pair had put on a stand of 167 – another Ramblas record in a season full of them.
This brought Ford to the crease who serenely made his way to 25 before a change of bat brought about his downfall when he scooped a catch to extra cover. All the time, J Stocks was happily going about his business and making another 50 before he was well caught by Rickett when looking to up the anti for 61.
Drew Smith came in and hung around as long as Geoff does at the salad stand which then saw Rehan Qureshi enter the fray to join the other new batsmen, L Stocks.
Qureshi will be familiar to some Ramblas as he played the key knock in a Ramblas defeat in the first game of the season and he was in equally impressive form in this innings, hitting a swashbuckling 63 which included four sixes of its own.
At the other end, L Stocks was playing a patient innings and bar one close run-out call – not seen by umpire Parrett who was already examining the lunch menu – he picked off the singles available to finish unbeaten on nine.
There was just enough time for Qureshi to be bowled and for M. Cooper to hit one glorious cover drive off his first delivery as the Ramblas closed on a massive 306-5, eclipsing their previous high score.
Even the Ramblas couldn’t lose this… surely?
Following another top-notch tea (thanks as always to Mrs C), the Ramblas took to the field knowing that most likely only a bowling and fielding meltdown would end up costing them victory.
As ever, it was M Loughlin who opened from the Tennis Court End and, as ever, he was bang on target to the two Chevening openers giving them no width. He was supported at the other end by John Sturgess who bowled with real pace and aggression, testing out the openers time and again with hostile short-pitched bowling.
Despite the opening eight overs costing just 17 runs, the Chevening pair survived and skipper Stocks turned to Parrett, hero with the bat in last week’s win to try and make the breakthrough.
Parrett was his usual miserly self with only the odd short ball offering the batsmen any free runs. In a double change, S Fitch made his bowling return after six weeks out and looked pretty rusty in his four-over spell, going through his repertoire of long-hops, wides and the odd ball on a length as the batsmen took the opportunity to increase the scoring rate.
With Chevening 71-0 at drinks, J Stocks turned to the ever-dependable Ford and he duly obliged with the first wicket. After softening up opener Littlefield with a beauty of a short ball earlier in his spell, Ford bought about a top edge and completed the job himself, despite the best efforts of the batsman to get in the way.
Chevening number three Pijper came in and looked technically solid until he was undone by another Ford delivery that kept low and rearranged his stumps.
With 12 overs left and Chevening still requiring 200 to win, the Ramblas biggest concern was the quality of the light, so skipper Stocks turned to his slow bowlers in an attempt to up the over rate. Qureshi, Cooper, Smith, Loughlin, Parrett and Sturgess all took turns bowling very different forms of spin bowling as the Ramblas rattled through their last 10 overs quicker than it took Northants to rattle through Surrey on 20:20 Finals Day.
Chevening finished their innings on 125-3, with opener Pointing carrying his bat for 55 (including a rather shameful run out of his 60-year old parter), but in truth, the game had been decided long ago by the Ramblas batting line-up.
And so the Ramblas made it six wins in the last eight games with this crushing victory that exacted a small measure of revenge for a controversial tied game with Chevening this time last year.
Brutality with the bat coupled with professionalism with the ball ensured one of the more comfortable afternoons for the Ramblas faithful.
Ramblas Man of the Match: Special mentions go to J Stocks for his well-crafted 61 and R Qureshi for his stylish 63, while with the ball, M Loughlin, J Sturgess and S Ford all impressed. But for his exceptional innings of 117, one that really knocked the stuffing out of the opposition, the award goes to Ash Harriss.