So the sun settles not only on the summer, but – more importantly – also the fifth Kent Ramblas season, as we provide the final match report of the season – pitting our wits (such as they are) against the ever-friendly and welcoming St Mary Cray Red Dogs.
Injury had shorn the team of some players, while a late message of absence from Ash Harriss on his deathbed meant the Ramblas – not for the first time – were forced into action with just nine men. Returning were Ian Dacre, Drew Smith and Chris Thomas, as the Ramblas looked to build on an encouraging performance the previous week against landlords Ex-Blues.
Winning the toss and sensibly opting to bat first, Skipper Stocks was joined by Sam Ford – the latter hamstrung early on by, erm, his hamstring.
The pair were forced into being watchful, as the pitch was hiding plenty of demons. After a solid enough 40-run partnership, which had seen Ford start to force the pace and storm ahead to a 23-ball 24 before being sold a wrong’un by the pitch that saw a short ball keep low and struck his back pad in front of the stumps. To give an indication of how much the pitch had to say on that dismissal, the previous ball on around the same length was smashed for six.
On paper, this was a decent enough Ramblas batting line-up despite being shorn of their top run scorer this season and a score of around 140 looked both attainable and competitive. Alas, we’ve said that before…
Skipper Stocks was next to be done like a (s)kipper by the pitch, as a full delivery died and crept along to tickle the stumps to put the end to a positively racy 16… from 51 balls. The returning Smith looked solid enough before being deceived by one that stayed low and crashed into his pads, while Michael Cooper got off the mark in trademark style (edge down to third-man) before being bamboozled by a ball that pitched well outside off and struck middle. Not a lot he could do about that one!
By this time, Peter Ford was well set and entrusted to anchor the innings, with the pinch-hitting Mark Loughlin next in. The latter was off the mark (no pun intended) immediately and raced to nine before one that spat up and was edged behind to the effervescent Graeme Moir Sr behind the stumps.
A promising start was now shaping up to be a familiar tale of woe for the Ramblas, and were now concentrating trying to accumulate a total worth defending. Still, with Geoff Parrett in next, the visitors knew there could be some fireworks to at least raise a smile. And, never one to disappoint an expectant crowd, the Parrett Pyrotechnics were in full flow, smiting some wonderful sixes to nudge the score over 100, before being well caught going for a cover drive and departing for a top-scoring 27. It really was a joy to behold.
Next in was the Mongoose-wielding Dacre, but alas the thicker edge just made it easier for the bowler to find, as he top-edged one that came down with snow on it to depart without troubling the scorers. Similarly requiring little ink for the scorers was last man in Thomas, who successfully saw off his first ball only to watch on with dismay as the very next ball saw Peter Ford caught for a well-earned 10, to close the Ramblas innings on 107 – about as respectable as a few of the establishments we’ve drunk in after games these past five years…
Good balls, bad balls, but no miracles
With a well-stocked tea in them and the first (and maybe last) Ramblas huddle to gee them up, the visitors set about defending their pitiful batting total, opening with a fantastic eight-over spell from Loughlin that somehow only managed to yield one wicket, but conceding just 18 runs in the process meant there was at least some semblance of a contest in the early stages. That one wicket garnered from a cracking delivery that snuck through the batter’s defence and, almost apologetically, dislodged the bails.
From the other end, Parrett was bowling well and unlucky to be the first victim of the big gaps in the field – and a couple of misfields – as the runs started to tot up, before being replaced by Thomas. A good start was soon marred by the traditional leg-side dross that left the Wicket-Cooper with little chance, but having largely kept it tight to earn the right of a final fifth over, his skipper’s decision was vindicated as he saw one somehow miss the stumps, a tough chance dropped and then finally a smart catch taken by Dacre.
That left Dacre to replace Loughlin and Sam Ford to take over from Thomas, but fatigue, resignation and the whiff of beer had started to set in and neither bowler – or their field – could garner any real chance barring a very optimistic run-out shout following a direct hit from fine leg.
With the scores tied, Sam Ford gamely stepped up to bowl what turned out to be the last ball which was despatched with aplomb for four by Graeme Moir Jr. The final scorecard can be found on Play Cricket.
Once more, the Ramblas were unable to perform at anywhere near their best against a team that will surely start wondering if the Ramblas are going backwards. However, there were plenty of mitigating circumstances in this instance, as defending any total with nine is tough, while a bit of rustiness and end-of-season fatigue had also set in, which manifested itself in some of the messiest fielding seen by the Ramblas.
If they’ll have us, the Ramblas will surely return to St Mary Cray in the hope of finally putting up a decent contest and while it wasn’t quite the finale hoped for, the struggle for players and runs was perhaps the perfect way to finish a season that has been underlined by record numbers of ringers and some quite remarkable batting collapses.
Still, we’re five years in, with some new players set for the 2015 season, so there’s plenty to look forward to. Not least the end-of-season awards ceremony and the traditional Ramblas Christmas Party!
Ramblas MVP: To give you a bit of insight into the thinking behind the award of this each week, the thinking is to pinpoint the player that has impacted the course of the game the most. So that’s not just the simple number of runs, wickets and catches that we look at, but also the manner of them, the timing of them and the importance of them. Alas, there wasn’t a lot of any of them this week, but for the sheer delight it brings to the watching Ramblas and for helping us into three figures, this week’s MVP is Geoff Parrett for another lower middle-order innings of the highest quality.
While we may not have been as competitive as we’d have hoped on the pitch this season, there’s been no doubt that our commitment in the bar remains unwavering and unmatched. This may or may not account for this picture. (I couldn’t find a doghouse to put Sam in for that dropped catch, so this was the next best thing…)