It might not quite be Eubank-Benn or even Froch-Groves, but the burgeoning rivalry between Petts Wood and Kent Ramblas enjoyed its latest (and fifth) instalment at the weekend – and very nearly included a knock-out blow. More of that later…
Home skipper Jonny Stocks changed the winning side from last week’s trip to Herne and brought back in bowlers Howard Hardy-King and Chris Thomas to replace Doug Danks (despite his spell-binding catch the previous week. That’s a fiver, please Doug…) and Peter Ford, but was unable to win the toss, meaning the Ramblas fielded first.
In time honoured tradition (to quote the Kaiser Chiefs), it was Mark Loughlin opening the bowling from the Tennis Courts End and barring a few full tosses that were unceremoniously despatched by the batsmen, the line and length was set to ‘nagging’. His partner in the early stages was Hardy-King, whose left-arm deliveries were causing plenty of consternation to both batsmen when hitting the danger zone.
A steady start from both sides was soon shattered by a stunning delivery from Loughlin, disposing of Mitchell with one that pitched on middle and leg before swinging back to tickle the bail from the off stump. Batsman, fielders and umpires could only look on with a mixture of bemusement and admiration. The cry of “One brings two” certainly rang true in this instance, as in the next over, Loughlin – having seen one agonisingly juggled and grassed by Sam Ford – claimed his second victim thanks to a trademark smart take by the same fielder.
With Hardy-King and Loughlin having set the tone, Steve Fitch and Thomas replaced the pair at their respective ends. Alas, the duo’s nine-over spell was to yield no wickets, but the former in particular delivered another five overs of teasing and tantalising medium pace that kept the pressure on the Petts Wood batsmen.
As has become the norm, the Ramblas fielding was superb all day long, with Hardy-King’s exocet-like arm from fine leg striking so much fear into the batsmen, that nary a risky single was taken, and the all-round ground fielding maintained to standards that will now be the benchmark for the rest of the season.
Petts Wood had edged along to 78 for two at drinks, eyeing a strong second 20 overs to set a testing total for the hosts to chase, while Skipper Stocks brought Ian Dacre and Geoff Parrett into the attack. Dacre was unfortunate with one of the politest (and almost apologetic) appeals seen on a cricket pitch, but largely kept it steady, while Parrett’s ‘flipper’ really had the batters in a spin. If poor Peatfield was in a spin because of that bowling, he was soon seeing stars as Ford accidentally lobbed the ball on the batsman’s head as they ran through for a single. Thankfully, no lasting damage seemed to have occurred… although, with the very next ball, a bouncier ball from Parrett tempted Peatfield in to a dab outside off that was expertly snaffled at slip by Skip.
Fabulous figures of 5-2-6-1 marked the end of Parrett’s spell, before Ford and Tom Danks entered the attack to maintain the pressure.
The latter soon got in amongst the wickets, courtesy of one that stayed straight and struck the batter’s pads, while the fielders continued to back up their bowlers with sharp stops that prevented ones becoming twos.
Fast-becoming a one-man slip cordon, Stocks claimed a second sharp take off the bowling of Ford, as the Ramblas sensed the stranglehold tightening. That soon increased courtesy of an absolute stonker of a catch at gully by Fitch, two-handed low down as he dived to his right.
Ford – bowling well once more in tandem with old pal Danks – then completed his three-fer thanks to another take by the latter, while the continued strong work in the field restricted Petts Wood to merely the odd single in the last few overs as Loughlin and Hardy-King came back into the attack and saw the visitors close on 166-7.
With a tea-lightful spread courtesy of Mrs C and cake thanks to Lucy B unceremoniously demolished by all and sundry, the task of chasing down the requisite runs was at the forefront of the Ramblas minds (well, Thomas and Parrett still had eyes on the remaining cake, too…).
Harriss and Stocks out of the blocks
Knowing that the total was chaseable, but aware that a collapse is never too far away for the Ramblas, the opening pair set about laying the necessary platform.
Stocks was watchful but ready to pounce on any bad ball, while Harriss was a bag of energy and soon well into his stride, racing to 20 before his captain went for one over mid-wicket…only to hear that deathly crash of cherry onto stump and depart for five.
Ford joined the only other Ramblas centurion at the crease and got to nine before being sent on his merry way as one jagged in and snuck through to the stumps from the economical Meaton.
The man in form (with bat and ball), Tom Danks, was next in, comfortably taking a bite out of the total with the big-hitting Harriss, which was soon down to double figures. However, the bowling remained tight and backed up by decent fielding, which meant the Ramblas couldn’t get ahead of themselves.
Having batted for 25 overs, Harriss departed for a well-constructed 67 as he failed to middle a drive that looped up to be well taken by Meaton. It would have been fitting if he’d stuck around to the end, but it was still exactly the foundation the Ramblas required.
Overcoming a shaky start and putting to bed a mini run drought, Vice Cap’n Cooper joined Danks as the scoreboard continued to tick along and quickly brought out the patented Cooper Chines Cut (TM). Alas, Danks was done by a superb piece of fielding off his own bowling, as Symonds caught a firm drive low to his right in front of the wicket. Still, it was another important contribution by Danks that had edged the hosts closer to their target.
In partnership with Parrett, Cooper soon opened his arms and two glorious drives didn’t quite make the boundary, before one that whistled past the fielder finally went all the way. New man in Parrett was initially watchful before showing that dazzling hand-eye coordination to great effect and feasting on runs.
Cooper departed for a well-made – and well-received – 11, with his team just needing five more.
Loughlin and Parrett made short shrift of that, the latter ending on 19 not out as the Ramblas closed on 168 for five with almost six overs to spare. The nitty gritty in the form of a scorecard can be found on Play Cricket.
Carrying on the good showing of last week, the Ramblas delivered a strong all-round performance, with each bowler and batsman offering some level of contribution, while the fielding to a man was top notch. As ever, it was a fiercely-contested match against the friendly foes of Petts Wood that was played in the right spirit, and we look forward to the reverse fixture later in the summer.
Ramblas MVP: There were some important contributions across the board with the ball (Loughlin, Ford, Parrett), the field (Fitch, Hardy-King, Stocks), bat (Danks, Cooper) and tea (Mrs C, Lucy B), but for top-scoring with 67 at a good nick – and some continued good work behind the stumps – this week’s award goes to Ash Harriss.