Ensuring the whites are in place, the sandwiches will be made, the ball’s been bought have long been staples of the Kent Ramblas week building up to a game, but this season has seen the addition of one other (fairly key) task… finding a team to act as a last-minute replacement.
For the third time in six potential games, there was frantic work behind the scenes to find someone to host our merry mob as Bickley Park had to cancel on Friday due to a lack of players. Thankfully, next-door neighbours and long-time foes Wickham Park were able to step up to the plate and the relieved Ramblas were faced with the short trip up Pickhurst Rise.
Having seen the previous week’s game against the same opposition cancelled, there were a few changes from the game against Wimbledon United, with Doug Danks, Howard Hardy-King and Ash Harriss in for Peter Ford, Alex Danks and Geoff Parrett.
Losing the toss, the Ramblas were placed in the field on a gorgeous day in West Wickham, Ian Dacre opening up with the new cherry that heralded an eventful first over; bringing a farcical (dare I say ‘Tom Danks-esque’?) run-out thanks to a sharp piece of fielding by Steve Fitch with the second ball, before then snagging the new man LBW.
From the other end, Hardy-King was initially struggling a little to find that lethal radar, but still left the batsmen bamboozled by the pace on more than one occasion. In tandem with Dacre, the pair’s opening spell was a mixture of tight lines and the odd loose one that were customarily punished to keep the scorecard rattling along for the hosts.
Replacing Hardy-King was Chris Thomas, who started off steadily and then claimed a wicket thanks to a great, steepling catch at deep mid-wicket by the aforementioned Hardy-King. Mark Loughlin took over from Dacre at the Pavilion End and helped tighten things up for the Ramblas.
A counter-attack by the hosts was curtailed once more by Thomas who had Tom Danks to thank for taking a spectacular catch as he moved swiftly to his left, before finishing with a flourish right out of the Michael Cooper copybook. Danks Snr has obviously taught him well…
Despite five wickets falling, a smattering of extras from all bowlers and pretty much every bad ball racing to the boundary, the hosts were at 115 as drinks were heartily welcomed onto the pitch.
Doug Danks and Fitch bowled well in tandem, the latter rewarded with the wicket of opener Samson thanks to a take by Loughlin.
Hardy-King tried his luck from the other end and looked much more like his old self, seeing a couple of tough chances go begging in the field and was unlucky not to snaffle a victim.
With Tom Danks on and bowling well from the Open End and Dacre back on at the Pavilion End, we were set for an interesting finale, as Dacre got two more wickets in his fifth over thanks to good catches under high balls by ‘keeper Sam Ford and Harriss with talk of the first Ramblas five-fer getting the fielders excited. And, sure enough, thanks to more good work from Ford, Dacre made Ramblas history having the 30-scoring Mangudi stumped. Marvellous scenes!
Not one to be left out, Tom Danks got in on the action with the last scalp, claiming the top-scoring hosts’ captain courtesy of a catch by Loughlin, leaving them on 192 all out.
A good comeback in the second-half of the innings, including that historical moment from Dacre, meant the target was on the cusp of attainable, but the Ramblas still knew they had their work cut out.
‘Fresh’ from his birthday celebrations, Skipper Stocks opened up with the returning Harriss, but there was to be no extension of the party, with Stocks departing for four as he was run out with a direct hit.
Sam Ford came in at three but was unable to trouble the scorers, before Tom Danks joined Harriss to get the scoreboard ticking over in the favour of the Ramblas.
Alas, there were to be no fireworks from the potentially explosive pair, as Harriss was bowled for 11. Vice Cap’n Cooper was unable to continue his recent good form, bowled by a quick yorker for two.
It all got a bit typically Ramblas there, but Danks Jnr and Loughlin joined forces to put on a good partnership that dragged the visitors back towards respectability and within sniffing distance of getting back in the game.
With that partnership approaching 40, Danks was out for 25 (though there was some gentle disagreement with umpire and long-term friend Ford as to whether or not it was a legal ball) to leave the Ramblas five down and still 110 from their target.
Thomas joined Loughlin and – just about – saw off the rest of the over before drinks before supporting Loughlin who made 40 before being fortuitously snaffled by a combination of the slip fielder’s arm and rib cage.
That brought in Fitch to embark on a (potentially combustible, given their previous efforts) partnership with Thomas and the pair began serenely enough – the latter surviving a strong LBW appeal before departing for 13, gloving one behind; and despite not being given out, fought his natural instinct to play on and walked – which was applauded by the hosts.
Fitch soon joined him in the dressing room, bowled for nine as the wheels came off what was looking like it could be a tense finale.
Doug Danks finished not out on one, seeing Dacre well caught off the first ball he faced and Hardy-King bowled for five as he tried to up the ante, meaning the Ramblas were all out for 127. The scorecard for the 65-run defeat can be found here.
On a supreme sunny day, the fielding remained largely top-notch, with a good comeback in the bowling, while with the bat, just one more telling contribution from the top order could have made things a lot closer.
Ramblas MVP: We can only look at one person this week, and that’s the history-making, fiver-fer-taking Ian Dacre. Started well and showed great tenacity to come back from a shaky end to his first spell to help clean up the tail-end and restrict the hosts to a sub-200 score.