If there’s a sure sign of progress for the Kent Ramblas over the past five and a half years (aside from individual and collective improvement with bat and ball), it’s that we’re now in a position where we can actually provide players from the vast pool of Friends and Ringers of The Ramblas for the other team in a bid to ensure we get a game on.
And that’s exactly what was managed this weekend, as Tonbridge Foresters made the trip to West Wickham, joined in their ranks by familiar faces Adam Roberts and the lesser-spotted Drew Smith. For the Ramblas, Alex Danks and Geoff Parrett came in for Doug Danks and Ash Harriss in what was another strong looking bowling line-up.
Batting first, Skipper Stocks and Sam Ford were watchful of some tight lines and the odd delivery that swung – particularly from Foresters’ captain Rogers – but were alert enough to punish anything wide, as well as tucking away the odd good ball. In fact, so comfortable did they look, it seemed the only way they’d get out is by attempting some Tom Danks-esque running (more of which later…), with Ford being saved by a dive back into his crease that was tactfully described by his partner as a ‘plop’. Plop or not, it was effective… just.
The pair batted fairly serenely to notch up the hundred partnership as drinks approached, and both just shy of their respective 50s. With drinks summarily despatched, both notched up their half-centuries and then set about upping the pace with some big hits and more aggressive batting, before their stand ended at 147, as Ford accelerated to a fine 77 before being well caught.
Joining Stocks at the crease was T.Danks, with the former continuing his recent good form by moving to a well-earned 51 before being castled. As Mark Loughlin came in, there were plenty of runs on the board that he could afford to attack from the off, knowing there were still enough batsmen in the hutch.
As T.Danks set about politely asking for singles and setting himself another good platform, Loughlin was very much following the mantra of “Go big, or go home”… and it was home he went for six, having gone big one too many times. Still, that brought in the in-form Michael Cooper, who was unfortunate to see a glorious straight drive cut off for just a single, but was soon on his way to double figures for the third time in four innings, before chasing a wide one that was caught by Roberts at short mid-wicket. It was a fairly quick-fire 13, though, and Cooper offered some good support to T.Danks as he went through the 20s and 30s without any trouble.
Buoyed by a cheeky early dip at the tea and the escaping of umpiring duties, Parrett warned that he was going to follow the tactics of Loughlin, connecting with two lusty swipes that only garnered a single each, before being unfortunately run-out as he tried to avoid the visitors’ skipper’s shy at the stumps.
With just 11 deliveries left, there were only three questions remaining: would the Ramblas reach 250, would Chris Thomas get that all-important not out and would there be any more shenanigans between the wickets instigated by T.Danks? Well, the answer to all three was definitively yes.
First, a “Yes! No! Yes! No!” call by T.Danks was met with a “Make your bloody mind up!” retort by his partner, before he deservedly reached another half-century in Ramblas colours with a boundary. A streaky edge by Thomas and a few more singles saw the hosts home without any more scares to finish on 250.
Danks very much
Following yet another exquisite tea offering from Ruth Parrett and James Webb, the Ramblas headed back out on the field feeling unfamiliarly full on the aforementioned spread as they looked to contain the Foresters batsmen and get that required run rate rising.
Opening from the Tennis Courts End was A.Danks whose showed no signs of the night before, pitching on a good length that cramped and confused the batsmen and left the visitors already struggling to maintain the run rate. At the Gardens End, it was last week’s hero, Ian Dacre, with ball in hand – and he looked in fine nick from the off and soon snuck a peach of a delivery through to bowl the opener.
A.Danks then got his rightful reward with a searing delivery that elicited an edge that was well taken by ‘keeper Ford and at the end of the same over, the third Foresters wicket fell courtesy of a mix-up between the big-hitting Dawkins and Smith, with the latter succumbing thanks to a composed lob over the batsmen to the ‘keeper by Parrett.
Dawkins and Jackson then opened their arms and put some pressure back on the hosts’ bowling attack. Alas, the riposte was short-lived as a petrified-looking (his team-mates’ word) Thomas took a steepling catch in the deep off the bowling of A.Danks, who then made it three wickets with the penultimate ball off his seventh over thanks to a smart, low catch by Steve Fitch.
Replacing Dacre was Howard Hardy-King who was on the money from ball one and soon among the wickets with a quick one that simply kissed the bail off to claim the scalp of dangerman Dawkins. In his second over, he repeated the trick, as the ball deflected off Roberts’s inside edge and again barely dislodged the bails.
As Hardy-King magnanimously acknowledged and stepped aside following a two-over foray, Skipper Stocks wanted to get all of his bowlers to turn their arms over and recognised there were only two wickets of the 10-men Foresters remaining to leave Fitch and Thomas to finish things off.
The former was soon in the bad books of one of his oldest friends as he dropped something of a straight-forward catch off the latter, but both bowled on a decent line and length to restrict the batsmen’s scoring opportunities before Thomas claimed the final two wickets in consecutive balls; the first courtesy of a fine low catch at point by Dacre, while the second saw Fitch make amends with a good catch that meant the Ramblas clinched a 155-run victory – the scorecard of which can be found here.
It was a good all-round performance by the hosts and a game played in the right spirit by two teams grateful to get the game on in conditions more suited to a first game of the season, rather than mid-June. That also leaves the Ramblas with a 50% win ratio from the season’s six games so far and should give them some confidence ahead of next week’s game against Borough Green.
Ramblas MVP: Now, this might cause some consternation from the batting unit and lead to cries of conspiracy amongst the bowlers’ union, but despite it being only the second time that there’s been three Ramblas half-centuries courtesy of the fine blade work of Ford, Stocks and T.Danks respectively, I’m opting (with a nod to Hardy-King’s important two-over burst) for the blistering spell of A.Danks as being worthy of this week’s award – which was even more impressive given the evident size of the hangover at start of play.