After losing the previous week’s fixture to the elements and just plain old losing the two before that, the Ramblas were itching to get back to winning ways against Cuddington Casuals in what was a glorious day in West Wickham. Deprived of the talents of Messrs Fitch, Smith, Cleverley and Thomas, Skipper Stocks welcomed back Sam Ford from injury and re-enlisted Sam’s brother Pete and Alex Danks. And rounding off the XI was young James Dilley, an Ex-Blues player who had celebrated his 14th birthday just 24 hours earlier.
It came as a shock to the Ramblas, but Skipper Stocks actually lost the toss and the Casuals chose to bat first. The skipper opened the bowling with his tried and tested tandem of Loughlin and Dacre, with both bowlers struggling to find early rhythm before Loughlin struck thanks to a sharp catch from Sam Ford at short cover. Despite the early wicket, the Casuals were punishing any loose delivery to keep the runs flowing early doors.
Sensing that a change was needed, Stocks brought on both Danks and Parrett to shake things up. And the skipper was immediately rewarded when Danks struck in his second over, with an unplayable inswinging yorker that tore through the helpless batsman’s middle stump. Parrett, not one to miss out on the fun, joined in on the wicket-taking action just a few overs later as the batsman attempted a slog/heave only to be cleaned bowled. Parrett looked back to his best, cramping the batsmen for room with his own brand of top spin.
Three wickets quickly became four as the ever dangerous Danks helped himself to another wicket, an almost carbon copy of his first. Danks was looking like taking a wicket with almost every ball but the visitors managed to reach the drinks just four wickets down. The Ramblas knew that the game was delicately poised and that despite wickets, with the Casuals opener and skipper, A. Sattaur, still at the crease and the scoreboard still ticking over.
Danks continued his fine form shortly after the break, clean bowling another victim and finishing with impressive figures of 3-30 from his eight overs. Parrett’s bowling spell also came to an end due to a groin injury incurred after treading on the ball whilst attempting to back up a shot at the stumps. Stocks replaced his wicket-taking duo with James Dilley and Peter Ford.
Dilley and Ford offered up some decent bowling but unfortunately for the pair, any bad ball was being dispatched for boundaries as the Casuals looked to post an intimidating target. Dilley’s hard work paid off as the batsman swung at one too many and Dilley took a simple catch off his own bowling. It was surely the best present the birthday boy could have asked for, much better than cash or a Blu-Ray box set…
With the Casuals edging towards a total of well over 200, Stocks had one more ace up his sleeve in the shape of the returning Sam Ford and any fears over rustiness were quickly put to bed when he clean bowled two of the tail enders in his first two overs. Ford finally managed to dislodge the opener for 78 thanks to a sharp catch by Cooper at gully and then claimed his fourth wicket midway through his fourth over as the Casuals finished on 186.
The chase is on…
With another fantastic tea courtesy of Ruth Parrett, the Ramblas plan was very much geared towards slowing down the visitors with an endless supply of food. The Ramblas opener pair wisely opted out of the third helping of tea and geared themselves towards setting the home team on the path to victory.
Harriss and skipper Stocks started well, with the former in his usual big-hitting mood, before the partnership was broken with 36 runs on the board. Harriss was the man to go, clean bowled by the pacey opening bowler Wheaton, for 17.
The wicket brought in the returning Sam Ford to the crease and he quickly found his timing, hitting three boundaries early in his innings. Sadly his innings didn’t last long as he succumbed to one big shot too many, toe-ending a drive to the hands of mid-off for 12.
In true Ramblas fashion, the middle order had another collapse as L. Stocks and Cooper were both clean bowled by Wheaton for ducks in the space of four deliveries. Both batsmen were unable to rekindle their good form with the bat from earlier in the month and the Ramblas found themselves in a bit of a pickle.
Loughlin came into bat and managed to stabilise the innings along with the skipper, keeping the scoreboard ticking over and trying to put the pressure back on the bowlers. The partnership reached 19 before Stocks was clean bowled for a hard fought 25.
With Loughlin in good form with the bat, it was up to Pete Ford to stay with him at the crease if the Ramblas had a chance to chase down the target. Both players looked in good touch, rotating the strike well and scoring boundaries off any bad balls, with Ford hit one of the shots of the day, a glorious shot straight over the bowlers head for a maximum. The partnership of 44 guided the Ramblas over the 100 mark before Ford departed for a well-earned 16 and to much applause from the sidelines.
The wicket brought Parrett to the crease but the danger man was quickly back in the changing rooms, a mistimed shot saw him caught at point for another Ramblas duck. Dacre, promoted to nine in the batting order, justified the skipper’s faith in him, mixing his defensive duties along with scoring when possible. His late cameo of 11 saw him hit two boundaries, including a brilliant pull shot off a no ball before he was clean bowled, as was Loughlin shortly after.
With the match all but over, Dilley and Danks were at the crease looking to use the innings as an opportunity for time at the crease. Both players managed to get off the mark before Danks was clean bowled by Vincent to wrap up the Ramblas innings that saw them all out for 141, 45 runs short.
Despite a great effort all round from the Ramblas, the good quality of the opposition was the deciding factor in a game that on another day might just have gone their way. The scorecard is already up on Play Cricket for your delectation/suffering.
Ramblas MVP: Shout outs to Alex Danks for his impressive bowling figures of 3-30 and Mark Loughlin for his 33 that gave the Ramblas hope for a win, but the honour goes to Sam Ford for his bowling spell of 4-5 off 3.3 overs, which stopped the Casuals from putting on an even bigger total.