Aaaaaand we’re back! After last week’s intra-squad workout, it was down to the real business, but not without some classic Ramblas worries.
The first hurdle to overcome was finding a team to play against, after the original opposition pulled out on Friday with just four players. Thankfully, a different kind of internet-wrangling than he’s used to by Vice Cap’n Cooper came up trumps and Pecos XI were warmly welcomed to West Wickham.
Disaster almost struck in the form of the weather, but the overnight rain soon made way for glorious sunshine for the majority of the game. That’d be that, surely, in terms of bad luck? Pah, this is the Ramblas…
For his first selection of the season, Skipper Stocks added newly full-time members P. Ford, A. Danks, T. Danks and H. Hardy-King to the regulars Fitch, Loughlin, S. Ford, Harriss and Thomas – as well as himself and Cooper.
Alas, in the last catching warm-up moments before the game’s start, Alex Danks was the victim of an unfortunate hand injury that resulted in a trip to the hospital. Thankfully, there seems to be no long-term damage.
So, after that drama, it was onto the game with 10 men.
As with much in life, why mess with a good thing? With that motto in mind, Stocks had Loughlin opening the bowling from the Tennis Courts End. It was a case of old meets new for the opening pair, with Howard Hardy-King steaming in from the Gardens End.
It was a steady start from the hosts, with a few half chances going begging and a tough caught and bowled attempt going down from Hardy-King, but looking to change things up, Thomas came on in place of Loughlin.
Now, it’s only idle speculation if this decision had any impact on Loughlin letting a relatively simple chance off the bowling of Thomas slip through his hands. The fact the ball went straight through and smashed him on the bridge of the nose suggests otherwise…
Fitch came on for Hardy-King and bowled one of his best spells in a Ramblas shirt and was unlucky not to claim a scalp with his largely probing line and length.
With Santa making the most of any bad balls, Pecos XI were looking comfortable as they approached the 100 without loss. The Ramblas, though, hadn’t bowled or fielded too badly, yet they knew they’d need wickets soon to make a fist of it.
A mixed two-over salvo from Peter Ford preceded our second debutant, Tom Danks, in tandem with the familiar face of Sam Ford.
After a couple more chances just evading fielders and Ramblas thoughts turning to last season’s game against Petts Wood, the breakthrough finally came courtesy of a sharp caught and bowled by S. Ford. Then new boy T. Danks got in on the occasion, first with a smart catch from Loughlin, before Thomas made an absolute meal of one and just clinging on. A third wicket for Danks was no more than he warranted after some great bowling, this time caught by Sam Ford (I think…).
On for their second spells, Thomas and Fitch were the victims of some brutal hitting, before the latter got a richly deserved wicket courtesy of another good catch by Loughlin.
Hardy-King returned and was supremely unfortunate not to claim a scalp with some wicked deliveries, before finally getting his man as wicket-keeper Harriss scampered back to take a smart, looping catch to dismiss the century-making Santa.
Despite these wickets, the runs were still pouring in for the visitors as they edged over 250 with some brutal hits. That total became 287 for seven, with Sam Ford getting a wicket with the last ball of the innings thanks to a catch by T. Danks.
After a sterling tea courtesy of Mama Stocks, the Ramblas headed back knowing that runs would need to be scored quickly. However, with a strong-looking batting line-up – bolstered by a late appearance of Rich Harriss – it wasn’t the daunting total it might have been even last year.
Ash Harriss and Skipper Stocks opened up, the latter getting a plumb LBW to traipse back to the dressing room for two, before Harriss joined him having doubled that score.
That, evidently, was not the start the hosts had hoped for, but Sam Ford and Tom Danks were now together at the crease, which heralded memories of a high-scoring partnership by the pair on this ground AGAINST the Ramblas three years ago.
Alas, S. Ford fell for six following a sharp catch by the ‘keeper down the leg side, before Peter Ford hit four and promptly became the first victim of the visitors’ ton-making Santa. One soon became two for the bowler, who must’ve thought Christmas had come early (sorry…), angling one into castle Cooper.
With Danks still accumulating runs, he was in danger of running out of partners, before Rich Harriss joined him and the pair put on 50, despite some agricultural running between the wickets.
After a steady start, Harriss soon belted some huge boundaries, while Danks continued his steady amassing of runs to keep the scoreboard ticking over towards respectability. However, the former was stumped by a smart bit of ‘keeping for a fine 28.
Making 12 was next man Loughlin who almost lapped Danks on one hard-run two (having almost been run out following a suicidal call), before departing to be replaced by Fitch. The new batsman got off the mark before a hugely optimistic/insane run was called by the 50-making Danks. Not even the desperate, balletic dive could save Fitch…
Hardy-King was next in, but didn’t get to bed in long before Danks’s fantastic innings came to an end on 58.
Last man in was Thomas who survived the one ball he faced, before getting a front-row seat to some huge sixes from his new team-mate, who hit 6, 6, 2 and 6 before departing.
That meant a fairly resounding 120-run defeat. It wasn’t the start to the season the Ramblas had hoped for, but the gap between the two teams could have been so different if some of those half-chances had been claimed and they’d found some decent support for Danks. The scorecard – which makes for miserable reading from a Ramblas perspective – is on Play Cricket,
Still, after initial fears the game wouldn’t go ahead and the far from ideal start with Alex Danks’s injury, it was great to be back out on the hallowed turf of Ex-Blues and it’s onwards and upwards to next week down in Herne.
Ramblas MVP: With a few regulars showing a few signs of rustiness, it was down to the new boys to show us how it’s done. Hardy-King was probing with the ball and destructive with the bat, but on his Ramblas debut, for his half-century, three wickets and catch, it can only be Tom Danks.