After a week of looking forlornly at the grey skies, the hopes and wishes of the Kent Ramblas collective were granted on Sunday, as the clouds cleared and the sunshine beamed down for the visit of the friendly faces from St Mary Cray Red Dogs.
Fresh from a second successive victory last week, Ramblas skipper Jonny Stocks was forced into a few personnel changes; back came bowlers Ian Dacre and Chris Thomas, in place of Steve Cleverley and the Wembley-bound Geoff Parrett.
Winning his fourth toss of the season, Stocks opted once more to bowl first, in the hope of his bowling attack restricting the visitors to a chaseable target. But, you know what they say about the best laid plans…
Again opening with the pace of Mark Loughlin in conjunction with the probing lines of Steve Fitch, the Ramblas kept it tight in the field in the opening exchanges – with one tight run-out call going against them, before Loughlin struck with the next ball to scatter the batsman’s timber.
Changing it up in attack, Thomas replaced Fitch from the Gardens End, while Ahsan Haji came on from the Tennis Courts End; the former showing signs of rustiness having been absent for the past two games, the latter keeping things tight. However, each bowler (barring the ever-efficient Loughlin) so far was showing a propensity to concede boundaries, which let the pressure ease on the batsmen at regular intervals.
With Dacre coming on in place of Thomas after his own two-game sabbatical, and the skipper bringing himself on from the other end, the pattern was maintained, with the odd boundary (and lost ball) ensuring the scoreboard was kept ticking over, to leave the Red Dogs at 96/1 at drinks.
Looking to change things up, Stocks then brought on Ford from his favoured Gardens End, but even the usually reliable bowler was unable to stem the tide, as tough chances started to elude the Ramblas. With Loughlin back on in an effort to ramp up the heat, the hosts’ luck looked to be out as the odd delivery fell just short of fielders or trickled past the stumps. With little of the usual seemingly working, the skipper took to the alternative route, taking the pace off the ball with the spin of Harriss from the Tennis Courts End and Ford slowing it down with his own brand of turning deliveries.
Catches continued to slip by and the runs continued to pile up. Despite their best efforts – and there were still no signs of giving up in the field – the Ramblas couldn’t make a breakthrough, as the visitors’ opener treated himself to a century. Continuing the changes, Dacre’s second spell showed signs of his old self, but still there was no breakthrough.
As 300 increasingly looked like an attainable target, Drew Smith came on for the Ramblas, with Haji finally taking the second scalp as he got one to go through the ton-making batsman’s defence. Alas, the respite was only brief, as the new man in carried on where his team-mate had left off, leaving the Red Dogs on 295/2 – the Ramblas unable to stem the steady flow of boundaries, with the batsmen seemingly seeing the cherry like a beach ball.
A mountain to climb?
Stepping up to the plate (see what I did there?) on tea-making duties this weekend was Mrs Beech – mum to our very own Jonny and Laurie Stocks. And, once more, it was another fine feed. But would it be enough to fuel a remarkable Ramblas run chase?
This target was 60 higher than their previous best (achieved against Eden Park in some style last year), so the Ramblas knew they could not afford any mistakes.
Hoping to set the platform was the now-established opening partnership of Skipper Stocks and Harriss; the latter storming away to quick-fire 25 before falling in the eighth over to bring in Ford. He soon looked set before succumbing to a smart catch on the square-leg boundary while on nine, leaving the Ramblas on 46/2 after 13 overs – the run rate creeping up towards 10 an over with two of their biggest hitters already back in the hutch.
However, there was still hope with a fairly deep batting line-up and the in-form Smith next in to join the captain, who continued to stoically go about his business and anchor the innings.
The pair saw their team through to drinks for no further loss, but still in need of 220 runs for the win (as any of you with a mathematical mind will have spotted… that’s 11 runs an over. Yikes!). The chase was further hampered by an injury to the captain leaving him calling on the services of Harriss as his runner. Things then took another turn as Smith fell for 25 well-struck runs, having put on a partnership of 40 with his skipper.
Vice-captain Cooper was next up, notching a solitary run before getting caught as he looked to keep the run-rate at a more manageable level. The skipper soon followed suit for a battling 43, leaving older brother Laurie and Haji to take the fight to the visitors, with 174 needed from the last 10 overs. Even with Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen in the team, this was starting to look ominous.
With nothing left to lose, the Ramblas decided it was a case of hit out or get out. Stocks Snr struck a sweet two before being bowled, Haji went for four, while a late-order 15 from Loughlin offered the embers of recovery before Fitch (six) and then Thomas (didn’t trouble the scorers) struck out to leave the Ramblas all out for 139 – some 157 runs shy of victory. The rather depressing read (up there with Anne Frank’s diary) can be found in stat form on Play Cricket.
The game was again played in the right spirit by both sides and remains a fixture the Ramblas, at least, look forward to. The gulf in class is also very apparent, but the Ramblas will be hoping for revenge in the final game of the season at the home of the Red Dogs.
Ramblas MVP: Despite their best efforts, the bowlers by and large failed to hit their personal and collective heights, while the batting featured a couple of starts, but never really threatened to take the Ramblas towards their daunting target. This week’s MVP, though, goes to our skipper Jonny Stocks for his stoic 43 that could have underpinned a closer run chase with a bit more support.