After a humbling defeat to Locksbottom the previous Sunday, the Ramblas were looking to right last week’s wrongs and get their first win of the season away to the ever friendly, and unbeaten, Herne. However, the cricketing gods were determined not to make it easy, with five players missing. This meant skipper Stocks and vice-skipper Cooper had to launch a full-scale, multi-platform campaign for players, which nearly reduced Cooper to going door-to-door preaching the gospel of the Ramblas trying to find players.
Faced with taking to the field with a mere eight players, the Ramblas’ new signing Ahsan Haji found a player, Sultan Khans, to don the Ramblas whites to take the tally to nine. The Ramblas have had success with nine men before but it was still a daunting task. Luckily for the Ramblas, Director of Tea Ruth Parrett’s boyfriend James made the mistake of arriving before the game started and was duly persuaded to help out in the field. Hard working in the field, James also managed to pull off the cricket shirt and black jeans combo in a way few Ramblas members could.
With the toss won by the visiting skipper, the Ramblas elected to field first. Stocks looked to the opening combo of Loughlin and Fitch in the hope they could replicate their fine form from last week. And, as ever, Loughlin failed to disappoint, clean bowling the opener Mark Richardson in his first over. It was a peach of a delivery that pitched just outside off and jagged back to shatter the stumps.
At the other end, Fitch was bowling a terrific line, cramping the other opener for space and keeping the pressure on. The batsmen were hoping for a bad ball to exploit, which Stitch duly offered up in the form of the classic moon ball. However, in the excitement of having a ball to hit, the batsman merely scooped it tamely up to Loughlin at square leg. Two wickets soon became three as Loughlin as tore through Herne’s number three’s stumps with another cracking ball. Loughlin was looking in ominous form, causing elation for the Ramblas skipper and despair for Herne’s.
The ever dangerous Robinson, a constant thorn is the Ramblas side, was now at the crease and the Ramblas knew he was the key wicket. Fitch offered him a slightly shorter delivery, which he pulled for what looked like a four all the way, only for Loughlin to pull out a stunning one handed, diving catch to dismiss him. Not content with an early catch of the season contender, Loughlin followed up his stunning catch by claiming his third wicket in the same fashion as his previous two, clean bowling Bartlett for a duck.
Skipper Stocks gave Loughlin and Fitch a well earned rest, with Parrett and Haji replacing them. Haji was offering his usual tight line & length, offering the batsmen very little to put away. Parrett was also bowling up to his usual high standards, offering plenty of flight to keep the batsmen on the back foot. Unfortunately for Geoff, his hard work was being rewarded by numerous drop catches of varying difficulty. Haji managed to claim a wicket when the batsmen top edged a short ball, which was snagged by the outstretched gloves of ‘keeper Harriss.
Haji was replaced by newbie Khan, who took his time to find his rhythm but in his second over took the seventh Herne wicket, thanks to a smart catch over his shoulder from Parrett. After seeing so many of his own chances dropped, Parrett was determined to show the rest just how it’s done. With just two wickets left to take, the Ramblas went to the drinks break full of confidence.
The last two wickets duly came shortly after drinks, with Parrett and the returning Loughlin both being the recipients of sharp catches from Haji. In the same manner as many previous wickets, Parrett offered up looser delivery, which the batsman attacked, only to see the ball sail into the arms of Haji. The final wicket came when the Herne number ten tried to hit Loughlin over his head and saw his effort fall to Haji at mid-on. Herne were all out for 98 but the Ramblas knew that 99 was still a tough target to chase.
Party like we’re chasing 99?
Herne put on one of their customary, excellent teas and amongst sandwiches and jam tarts, talk soon turned to the run chase at hand. That and the football scores. Harriss and Stocks took the field, aiming to build a platform for a win. Alas, Harriss decided try a huge heave, that would have gone for six… had he actually made any contact with the ball, and was promptly clean bowled by the Herne left arm quickie Whitling for a duck.
New Ramblas signing Drew Smith entered the crease looking to settle the nerves. However, no sooner had Smith arrived than Stocks was departing, caught at slip by another cracking delivery from Whitling, for four. Cooper came in at four looking to make amends for his golden duck the previous week. He only managed to last a couple of overs before being bowled by a pearl of a yorker from Whitling for a duck. The wicket of Cooper only served to heighten the nerves as onlookers considered the prospect of another Ramblas collapse.
Smith and Loughlin had other plans, and proceeded to calm things down with a combination of quick singles and patient batting. Both players were showing a tremendous amount of focus, which saw them punishing any bad ball that came their way. Loughlin was happy to play the supporting role whilst Smith was hitting a flurry of fours as the Ramblas crept ever closer to their target. Crucially, they saw out both spells of the ever dangerous Whitling, which gave the Ramblas renewed hope that the chase was well within their reach.
With the partnership on 49, Loughlin was clean bowled for 27, with a ball that kept low and sneaked under the bat. It was an unlucky end to an important knock and he was greeted with generous applause on his return to the sidelines. All eyes then turned to the new batsmen in, Fitch, and with 35 runs still needed, there was plenty to do to claim victory.
Unfazed by the loss of Loughlin, Smith continued to accumulate runs despite being hampered by a slight ankle knock. Fitch was in good touch early doors, getting off the mark with a number of quick singles. As the runs piled up and only four needed to win, Smith was (unbeknownst to him) on 48 and the fans were willing him onto his maiden 50. Sadly for him Fitch stole the strike with the penultimate ball of the over, proof, if needed, that he really isn’t a team player…
Three runs were now required to win and any thoughts of Fitch giving Smith back the strike were dashed when he smashed the ball back over the bowler’s head for a glorious four. It was a shot worthy of settling any match and the Ramblas were celebrating a hard-fought win and their first ever win in May. The Ramblas are now 1-1 for the season and head into a run of three straight home games full of confidence.
You can see the scorecard in all its glory on our Play Cricket site.
Ramblas MVP: It was a solid performance all round and an honourable mention must go out to Drew Smith, whose match-winning knock of 48 would have won him the MVP in any other game. But, for his four wickets (including his unplayable opening spell) and his 27 with the bat, the award must go to Mark Loughlin.