With a history of close games and some good individual showings from both sides, the clashes between the Kent Ramblas and this week’s hosts Chevening Amblers have proved some of the best the Ramblas have participated in.
Having overcome concerns about weather, and finding able deputies for Ash Harriss and Tom Danks in Steve Cleverley and Doug Danks, the Ramblas made the shortish journey to Chipstead to take on nine-men Chevening in a reduced 35-over game – but not before the now customary couple of cheeky pre-game liveners.
Skipper-for-the-day Michael Cooper won the toss and elected to bowl – a wise choice given the options at his disposal (and the relative scarcity of batting ‘expertise’ on hand). Due to the aforementioned abundance of bowling changes and a desire to give everyone a fair crack, Geoff Parrett and Alex Danks were promoted up the order – with Cap’n Cooper content to have one or both in his back pocket should their bowling be required.
That meant Ian Dacre and Steve Fitch opened the bowling, the former still tormenting the batter when on a length, while the latter was at his economical best – claiming the first wicket with a sharp caught and bowled. The pair shared the first 10 overs and while the Ramblas fielding was not at its sharpest, with the first of a few presentable run-out opportunities going begging, the run-rate was still being kept at around three an over.
With the sun shining brighter by the over, Chris Thomas and D.Danks were brought into the attack. The heat remained on the batsmen, before that pressure finally told and the home captain chased a wide ball from Thomas that was superbly snaffled on the run by Fitch – much to the chagrin of the outgoing batsman.
The Ramblas looked to remain in the ascendancy, but new batsman Leppard – with the incumbent E Isaac – set about swinging the momentum the hosts’ way, moving to 80 at drinks. D.Danks stayed on to complete his seven-over spell and the refreshments obviously did him the power of good, bowling beautifully to recover from a few big hits pre-drinks.
Replacing Thomas immediately after drinks was Peter Ford, who had the unenviable task of bowling to two well-set batsmen, but he took to his task with aplomb, showing great control and mixing it up well to create chances – one a run-out and another a presentable catch – while also ensuring the hosts didn’t race away.
Sensing the need for a change, Cap’n Cooper called upon the in-form Alex Danks. The bowler then made his captain look like something of a genius (which is saying something…) by tempting the big-hitting Leppard to edge a wideish delivery to the grateful hands of wicket-keeper Sam Ford. That three-over burst from A.Danks brought about a key wicket and also yielded just 10 runs.
Meanwhile, P.Ford was continuing to bowl with craft and, not confident about his fielders, took the job into his own hands – literally – with a fantastic leap to claim a catch off his own bowling towards the end of a cracking little four-over spell to take the key wicket of top-scoring E.Isaac.
Following those breakthroughs, it was time for Dacre, Fitch and Thomas to come back to see off the final six overs between them; Dacre recovered well from taking a bit of beating to nab a wicket with his very last ball, P.Ford taking another superb catch running in from long-on under a looping ball.
Fitch then doubled his tally courtesy of a great reflex catch by a reluctant Parrett, before Thomas had A.Danks to thank for his second wicket with a catch at backward point – needlessly being reminded to “CATCH IT!” by the bowler… That left Fitch and Thomas with identical figures of two for 23 as a few lusty blows late on helped Chevening to 155/7 at the end of their 35 overs.
After stocking up on sausage rolls and sandwiches, the Ramblas – led by Jonny Stocks and S.Ford – headed out knowing they’d need to set a strong platform in order for their team to chase down a tricky 156.
The hosts’ bowling was on the mark from the off, providing little opportunity for the batsmen to open their arms, with both Ramblas doing well to dig out the odd full ball and still look to attack the bad balls when they – sporadically – offered themselves up.
However, the heroically hungover S.Ford was first man down, edging behind to be snaffled by a good take by the ‘keeper having scored 23.
That brought in last week’s hero, Parrett, who helped see off the opening pair with Stocks while also exhibiting some of those trademark blows. With the foundations of a key partnership beginning to flourish, Parrett was to depart for a quick-fire 19 when caught looking to drive over extra cover off the bowling of R.Isaac.
The bowler was enjoying a fine spell and claimed his second wicket with one that did for Cooper. Last-minute replacement Steve Cleverley was next man in and saw off the last ball before drinks, but only lasted five more when going after an eminently hittable delivery from R.Isaac that was caught at short backward point.
R.Isaac was back in among the wickets in his next over, bowling the in-form P.Ford for two, before closing out his spell with figures of four for 11 – a fantastic effort.
Stocks knew that he was the last genuine batsman and was steeled to see his team through, but a quicker delivery as the sun was beginning to set saw him depart for a steady 27 to culminate a classic Ramblas mid-innings collapse that saw them go from 70/2 to 86/6.
Next man in was Thomas, who joined A.Danks in the middle – with the latter yet to face a delivery. With 60 runs required to win, just the tail left and only 10 overs to go, things weren’t looking too pretty for the visitors. But, if there’s one thing this Ramblas team does (or tries to do), it’s fight to the end.
Thomas overcame a tight LBW call to eventually start picking the bowlers on a ground that has been good to him so far, while A.Danks was looking good – batting particularly well given it was his first visit to the crease this season – as he ensured the scoreboard was kept ticking over.
The pair were keeping the fielders honest, running hard to turn ones into twos – and even a two into a three on one occasion – to ensure the run-rate didn’t become unmanageable. A strong over saw Thomas hit two boundaries and nick the strike to leave 46 required from the final five overs. A look over to the Ramblas on the sidelines saw a sense of nerves and confidence, while the two batsmen just lived by their mantra “Loud call” as they scampered as many singles as their weary legs (Thomas being particularly weary…) could muster, with A.Danks picking out the gaps to claim a string of twos that helped the chase no end.
With the partnership having passed 50 at almost a run a ball, they went into the last over requiring 18.
Another smart shot by A.Danks garnered two off the first ball to leave 16 from five. On the next ball and aware of the increasingly desperate situation, Thomas called A.Danks back through in an attempt to turn an easy two into a stolen three, but the home skipper arrowed the ball in from deep with Thomas comfortably out of his ground to depart for 29, having put on 57 with A.Danks and taken his average on the ground to a not out-inflated 68 (that stat was for you, Geoff).
Fitch came in next with little time to make an impression, but once on strike smited two fours to leave the Ramblas five agonising runs short of victory – A.Danks not out for a fine 22.
The hosts defended their total well, particularly given the fact they had just nine men, while the Ramblas were left scratching their heads in the pub post-game in an attempt to work out where those five extra runs could have come from. We’re not going to talk about overthrows, though…
It was another keenly fought contest between these two sides, with both already pencilling in next year’s fixture, while the weather – eventually – provided the perfect setting for a heartbreaking Ramblas run chase. The scorecard for a cracking game is on Play Cricket.
Ramblas MVP: Despite the defeat, there were some heroic performances. Peter Ford’s bowling and fielding was top notch, while Steve Fitch married those disciplines with some late-innings hitting that proved just short (that’s not a height gag, Stitch). However, for taking the key wicket, a good catch and his part in the Ramblas key partnership, this week’s award has to go to Alex Danks.