“I need some time in the sunshine / I gotta slow it right down,” once sung Oasis and there was certainly plenty of the former on Sunday, as the Kent Ramblas made the trip to the serene setting of Bickley Park CC.
Having begged and borrowed players for the previous week, it was a fairly straight-forward selection this time around – even without the injured Skipper Stocks to call upon. Taking the reins was Michael Cooper, who had the bowling quintet of Ian Dacre, Steve Fitch, Ahsan Haji, Geoff Parrett and Chris Thomas back at his disposal, as well as the batting prowess of Drew Smith.
Given the glorious sunshine and a true-looking pitch, Cooper won the toss and chose to bat – elevating himself to open alongside Ash Harriss in the absence of our erstwhile skipper.
Knowing that a steady start could provide the platform to post a competitive total, Harriss and Cooper were studious in watching the ball, but after nine overs there were just 12 runs on the ball, as neither were able to get the scoreboard ticking over. Aware of the stagnant nature of the scoring, Cooper took it upon himself to get things moving, but a late change of mind to one that straightened up saw his demise.
That brought in Sam Ford, looking (and feeling as fresh as a daisy compared to recent Sundays, and he and Harriss began to pierce the field to take the Ramblas to 56/1 at drinks, going on to compile a 59-run that ended in the 26th over as Harriss’s shot over the bowler’s head found the fielder at mid-on, departing for an important 42.
Smith was in next, but was soon back in the hutch as he chased a wide delivery that was well snaffled at point, while next up was Laurie Stocks – desperate for a decent score after a scratchy start to the year. With Ford at the other end starting to look in menacing form, Stocks knew his main aim was to ensure his partner got as much of the strike as possible. That selflessness – one of the Ramblas’ main tenets – helped Ford reach 49 before he nicked one to slip.
With six wickets still in hand, the score over a hundred and six overs to go, the Ramblas knew that they had to accelerate. Haji joined Stocks who was getting scant reward for some good shots, with the former departing LBW for three as he looked to attack the slow bowling of Ashley. Stocks was nicking runs where he could and Mark Loughlin joined him for a quick-fire 10 before being bowled, to bring in The Parrett (or Gareth, if the Bickley scorecard was to be believed…).
Stocks joined his team-mates on the sidelines in revelling as Parrett quickly reached double figures, before departing to a well-taken one-handed catch at wide mid-on for a solid and important nine. With only three balls left, Fitch walked to the crease in the hope of supporting Parrett’s big-hitting with smart running between the wickets. That helped the Ramblas to 139 for 7, with Parrett 14 not out at the end.
Defenders of the dearth
After one of the better teas the Ramblas have received (Parrett’s photographic memory of last year’s offering was a particular highlight), the Ramblas headed out knowing that, in truth, they’d have to repeat their previous week’s feat of bowling the opposition out for a measly total to have any chance of winning the game.
With such bountiful bowling options at his disposal, Cap’n Cooper knew that if those who barely got a bat were having an off day with the ball, the likes of Haji, Ford and Smith were great options to have in support.
Having had supremely solid start to the season, Fitch returned to open the bowling with Loughlin; the latter giving little away – despite seemingly having his slippers on (much to Parrett’s amusement) – and the former largely maintaining a sweet line outside of off. However, with a fairly low total to aim for, the opener Brad was determined to reach them quickly and was racing away, with Sean in support.
As ever, the Ramblas refused to merely accept their fate and Loughlin made the breakthrough, tempting Sean into a flash outside off that was caught at mid-wicket by Thomas, low to his left as he moved to pouch the dipping ball. The next man in was also quickly to double figures, but Parrett – now bowling in tandem with Dacre – again prompted a sloppy shot that was again taken by Thomas at mid-wicket. This time, though, it was far from smooth, but he held on to the simple chance at the second attempt.
Parrett soon doubled his tally in slightly controversial circumstances. Having had what seemed to be a stonewall LBW appeal turned down as he bamboozled the well-set Aussie opener, the very next ball again spun past the bat and crashed into the pads, which led to a hearty appeal from every Rambla… that was eventually given by the umpire. Much to the chagrin of the batsman.
With drinks still five overs away, the Ramblas knew they’d have to put in a big push before the break. Thomas came into the attack and overcame a loose, shaky over to start beating the batsmen, getting his first scalp of the season with one that beat the batsman’s edge and was snaffled by ‘keeper Harriss who whipped off the bails. After consultation between the umpires, the wicket was finally given and in the next over, Thomas claimed his second thanks to a smart catch by Fitch at mid-on.
At drinks, the hosts were five down, but now within 40 of their target. It would take some comeback from the Ramblas to secure victory…
Persevering with Thomas for one more, with Haji at the other end, the Ramblas carried on where they left off, working hard in the field – with some great work in particular by the bowlers union of Dacre, Fitch and Loughlin – and ensuring there were no freebies.
Haji bowled superbly, seemingly operating at a quicker nick than of late and beating the batsmen all ends up on numerous occasions. His reward soon came, when the big-hitting Hickey flashed at one that looped high in the air. It looked like there might be an almighty collision between Ford and Stocks, but the latter never took his eye off the ball and – with a comically late (and quiet) call – safely took it.
The hosts were creeping closer to their target, but with Loughlin replacing Haji and Fitch back on at the other end, there was no let up from the Ramblas, with Loughlin claiming the seventh wicket thanks to a superlative take behind the stumps by Harriss, diving high and wide to his right to take it one-handed.
With less than 10 runs needed now, the visitors knew that another quick wicket could get the Bickley bums squeaking. Alas, despite the best efforts of the bowlers, the batsmen inched home in the 29th over.
All in all, it was a perfect day for cricket, played between two decent teams in the right spirit. From the Ramblas perspective, the pacing of their batting innings undoubtedly left them too much to do with the ball, but the whole team applied themselves with distinction in the field to ensure it wasn’t a mere formality for the hosts.
The scorecard (mainly for the benefit of Mr Stephen Cleverley) can be found on Play Cricket.
Ramblas MVP: This might be deemed a cop-out (so sue me), but this week’s MVP award goes to the whole XI for their fielding efforts. There were some stand-out performances that deserve note, namely Ford and Harriss with the bat, Loughlin, Parrett and Haji with the ball, but it was the collective sharpness and willingness to push it in the field that really ensured the game didn’t totally drift from the Ramblas.