So, after two weeks of waiting (which felt like an eternity for our impatient vice-captain, Michael Cooper), the Kent Ramblas were able to kick-start their 2014 season with a home game against local rivals Locksbottom.
For the first game of the year, Skipper Stocks called upon an experienced Ramblas XI, with new permanent member Drew Smith set for his full debut.
With Stocks winning the toss and opting to field on a pitch that needed extra rolling before the game, Mark Loughlin opened the bowling from the Tennis Ground End and struck in his first over as he sent the timber flying of a mystified batsman. His partner in attack was Steve Fitch who also claimed a wicket in his first – maiden – over as he bamboozled the batter with a sharp, seaming delivery.
Loughlin continued apace and again rearranged the stumps, before Ian Dacre was brought into the attack from the Gardens End. The first two balls did not fill either bowler or team-mates with confidence, but the third was a beauty that left the batsman with no chance to keep the pressure firmly on the visitors.
With Loughlin given a well-earned breather following a blistering opening spell, the effervescent Geoff Parrett came into the attack and promptly provided an early contender for moment of the season, as he did his best Bambi impression to come crashing to the ground as he completed his first delivery.
Never one to stay out of the limelight too long, Parrett was then involved in two vastly different types of run-out. First, the batsmen took a risky single to the arm of Fitch at mid-wicket who returned it to the bowler for Parrett to whip off the bails. In an over’s time, Parrett displayed his fancy footwork as he diverted a firm, straight drive by the batter onto the stumps to dismiss the backing-up non-striker. His celebration (twirling around, pointing like a game show host and bellowing “Yes!”) was worth the entry fee alone.
There were no such dramatics from the other end, though, as Chris Thomas began with a collector’s item maiden, before failing to retain that control and help the Locksbottom batsmen reach 108 for 6 at drinks.
After the refreshment break, Steve Cleverley replaced Parrett and Sam Ford took over from Thomas at the Gardens End.
Cleverley offered up something of a mixed bag, but did manage to claim an important wicket LBW with a ball that kept a shade low to break up a partnership that was in danger of taking the game away from the Ramblas.
That left the visitors seven down, but still in a position to post a competitive total. Ford, though, had other ideas as he steamed in to deliver a devastating spell. Unlucky not to claim his first wicket with an edge that was dropped at slip, Ford delivered the best riposte by sneaking through the batter’s defence with the very next ball.
Having brought Loughlin back to join Ford in attack, Skipper Stocks looked to apply real pressure and see off the remaining duo. And the pair did just that, as Ford clinched his second wicket with another one that crashed into the stumps and Loughlin repeated that feat to dismiss the last man in as Locksbottom ended on 143 all out.
Chasing targets… and shadows
After another excellent feed from Ruth Parrett (and her able assistant, James) – who continues to excel as Director of Teas – the Ramblas headed out to bat with Skipper Stocks joined by Ash Harriss; who had been solid behind the stumps in the fielding effort.
Alas, hopes of the two of them seeing off an eminently gettable 144 on their own were soon dashed as that age old rush of the blood to the head saw Harriss clean bowled as he raced down the track.
With Ford coming in next, there was still no need to panic for the hosts. Yet that was soon to change as first Stocks – top-edging an attempted glance to a gleeful fielder – then Ford, who was dismissed following a sharp catch by the bowler, departed to leave the Ramblas without their three main batsmen and the total not even in double figures.
That meant it was down to Smith and Fitch to rebuild. The pair stuck around for a couple of overs, as Smith ensured the scoreboard continued to tick over before a strange dismissal – even by Ramblas standards – brought about the demise of Fitch.
A sharp delivery came down that trapped Fitch’s back pad in front of the stumps and the umpire instinctively raised a finger – but instead of signalling the wicket, he was merely saying that it wasn’t out and that he thought the batsman had nicked it first. Alas, amid the Locksbottom celebrations, Fitch couldn’t hear the umpire calling him back and was promptly stumped as he’d left the crease. A comedy of errors…
Four down became five the very next ball, as Cooper played around one that moved a touch (a touch generous? – Ed). Loughlin was next in the firing line, but could only manage four before being bowled. Next man in was Cleverley who put on a solid partnership with Smith, before the latter went for one too many and was caught for 23.
Parrett joined the well-set Cleverley with 100 runs still required. Although the Ramblas were seven down, a strong partnership here could provide the basis for a case of squeaky bum time for the visitors, as there were plenty of overs to go.
The pair put on 24, before Parrett departed just before drinks to leave the hosts still requiring 75 runs for victory. The fat lady was doing her vocal exercises, but the last three men standing were still strangely optimistic of at least getting close to the target.
Where this belief came from is anyone’s guess, particularly given Thomas and Dacre were the next men in. But without hope, what have you got?
A brief partnership between Cleverley and Thomas looked to be taking the Ramblas towards the edges of respectability, before the former was caught and last man Dacre’s resistance lasted only a couple of overs to leave the hosts all out for 81 in the 27th over – and nursing a 62-run defeat.
There was definitely some first-game rustiness among the Ramblas; but the abject batting (barring a couple of exceptions) will certainly need to be rectified next week against Herne. But the Ramblas are notoriously slow starters and, in the words of Yazz, the only way is up…
And you can find the full scorecard on the new look Play Cricket website.
Ramblas MVP: Given the collective inability to get even close to a target of 144, even the stand-out performances with ball (Loughlin and Ford) and bat (Cleverley and Smith) seem insignificant when compared to the sterling work of Ruth Parrett in the kitchen, who again ensured both teams were supremely well fed. Cheers Ruth!