Oof, what a glorious day of sunshine to enjoy the cricketing prowess (cough) and sportsmanship on show as the Kent Ramblas played host to old friends Regents Park Originals.
Skippering the side in the absence of Canada-bound Jonny Stocks was the sun-scolded Michael Cooper, with James Benson making his first appearance of the year and the quartet of Steve Cleverley, Ash Harriss, Laurie Stocks and Geoff Parrett also returning to the fold. Defecting to the visitors for this game was our very own Drew Smith, while plenty of the joint Ramblas/RPO indoor cricket franchise were also on show.
Winning the toss and opting to bat, Cap’n Cooper opened up with Cleverley – the former getting off the mark before getting beaten by one that jagged back into the stumps. At the other end, Cleverley was going about his business, having been joined by Laurie Stocks, accumulating runs but also offering up the odd chance to the fielders that went unpunished (the scoop straight up in the air, a particular favourite that the opposition didn’t get wise to).
Stocks Snr continued where he left off against Bickley Park, striking the ball well and contributing a solid 14 to a steady 44-run partnership. Meanwhile, Cleverley continued to pierce the field at regular intervals, marrying those strikes with sensible running between the wickets, finishing on a career-best 37 before being bowled.
That meant the visitors were faced with the unenviable task of dislodging Harriss and Mark Loughlin in a reshuffled Ramblas middle order. The former entered the fray with Loughlin already set, and the pair were in devastating form – upping the run-rate in a manner that has been missing from the hosts in recent weeks. Smart running, battered boundaries and some sizeable sixes from the duo saw them put on a great partnership of 89 before Loughlin fell as he attempted a big heave down the ground.
With 10 overs still to go, the Ramblas had an eye on posting an imposing total around the 250 mark; and with Harriss well set and Benson, Parrett and Haji still to come, hopes were high.
Benson was in next and, after overcoming a few early-innings nerves, was soon back in the swing of things – smiting a glorious six down the ground to remind us all of his powerful batting. In conjunction with Harriss, who was also in maximum-hitting mood, Papa Benson’s 16 helped add 38 to the score – surviving a couple of drops on the way (no names mentioned here, Adam. We’re not like that…) before also being bowled.
Next up was the ridiculously t-shirted Parrett, promising something special to his female fan club. And, true to his word, his first runs off the bat came courtesy of an almighty six that zoomed over the clubhouse.
More sharp running and big hits helped Harriss on his way to a superb unbeaten 72, while Parrett closed on 12 to help take the Ramblas to 245/5. For the visitors, A. Roberts proved suitably miserly with the ball (including the solitary maiden), while Chris “Lethal Chrizzle” Lethbridge persevered despite conceding a few runs and got his reward with two wickets. Elsewhere, M. Roberts, M. Alloway and G. Durrell offered able support to the sterling work of opening bowler T. Pearce, whose 1/36 from eight overs was the bowling highlight.
Food, glorious food (as always)
Although some say change is a good thing, one constant is the superb tea-making skills of Ms Ruth Parrett – ably assisted this week by the Ondi-Sheena-Laura triumvirate.
Despite one or two (or three or four) of the Ramblas over-indulging on the aforementioned tea, they headed back out to the field intent on gaining some revenge for last year’s defeat. Opening up the bowling this time was Chris Thomas and Steve Fitch.
The former maintained his recent run of form, forcing a run-out in his second over as the RPO openers called a kamikaze second on the arm of Loughlin who arrowed one in from mid-wicket where Thomas had the simple task of gathering up the ball and whipping off the bails. However, that brought in Rehan Quereshi – the scourge of the Ramblas in their previous meeting, and the scorer of a fine half-century in Ramblas colours.
With Durrell fastidiously seeing out the good balls and scoring when possible, this could be a key partnership for the visitors. However, in his third over, Thomas got one to spit up off the track and take a nick off Quereshi’s gloves and into the grateful hands of the wicketkeeping Benson.
From the other end, Fitch was into the groove and unlucky not to get among the wickets in his first spell as he found his line, while Thomas almost had his second victim as Smith came in to face his regular team-mates and edged one between the motionless slip and ‘keeper. The opening bowlers had done their job and both took a breather after five overs each to bring on Ian Dacre and Ahsan Haji.
The former was on the end of some rather harsh laughter from a, ahem, ‘certain’ team-mate following an uncharacteristically loose first over, but at the other end, Haji was once more in sumptuous form and got his reward courtesy of another sharp take behind the stumps from Benson.
Intent on shuffling the pack, Cap’n Cooper called upon Harriss from the Gardens End in the over before drinks as the Ramblas looked to take the pace off the ball – Harriss joined in attack by Parrett post-drinks.
Harriss – hampered slightly by a trapped nerve in his shoulder – got the batsmen back in their crease before tempting the half century-making Durrell into a pull that was expertly taken as he ran backwards at deep midwicket by Cleverley. The opener departed to warm applause, acknowledgement and handshakes in recognition of a fine knock.
Parrett then got in on the act, his first victim coming courtesy of a straight-forward catch by Thomas – who pouched the ball despite the shout of “Don’t drop it!” from one colleague. Not that we count those things, but it’s getting to that point where Parrett needs to start returning the favour… He then doubled his tally, as he got the batsman to swing at one that looped up invitingly behind the stumps for Cooper – now on wicket-keeping duty – to take the catch.
The friendly nature of the game may have fed into some of the Ramblas fielding, which was perhaps not up to its usual high standards, but there were still some fine examples of groundwork and only the toughest of chances went begging. Indeed, one of those fell to Dacre, who would literally have been jumping with joy had he taken the scalp of A. Roberts with a diving catch close in.
However, with the tail now at their mercy, the Ramblas unleashed Loughlin. Fuelled by a mixture of Foster’s and some gentle ribbing by his team-mates, he was unyielding in his two-over spell as he speared the ball into the stumps with an unerring accuracy that proved too much for the inexperienced stragglers in the RPO batting line-up, as he mopped up the tail and finished with figures of 4/3 to see the visitors end on 135. The scorecard for the game, as ever, can be found on Play Cricket.
The greater experience of the Ramblas saw them comfortably through to gain revenge in the Robacre* Bowl. The visitors put up a stellar challenge, though, with the bowling of Pearce and the batting of Durrell particularly standing out. For the Ramblas, it was a victory that took them to four and four for the season, with a good performance from all the batters and the bowlers more than doing their bit too.
(* Roberts-Dacre. Needs work, right?)
Ramblas MVP: A career-best 37 by Steve Cleverley is definitely worthy of note, likewise the batting efforts of Benson and Loughlin, as well as the latter’s offering with the ball. However, for a fine 72 not out, a key wicket and good encouragement in the field, this week the award goes to Ash Harriss.