Having made a strong start to the season, the Ramblas went into their visit to Petts Wood seeking to halt a two-game slide – having endured heartbreak against Chevening and taking something of a hiding against Priory. Coming back into the team were Mark Loughlin, Ian Dacre and Geoff Parrett, while Rich Ford was making his first appearance of the season, and as Skipper Stocks was once more fruitless at the toss, the Ramblas were put into the field first off.
Opening the bowling, Loughlin showed little signs of rustiness, yet the batters were able to use his pace to pierce the field and keep the scoreboard ticking over, while Steve Fitch at the other end proved as prudent as he is on a night out, giving little away as he kicked off with two maidens. The latter soon made the breakthrough, though, ripping one through to crash into the stumps to cap off an excellent opening five-over burst.
Replacing Loughlin was Chris Thomas, who started somewhat waywardly in comparison to recent weeks, before tempting the left-handed opener into chasing a wide one that looped up to be well caught at point by Dacre – who had now come on in place of Fitch with the ball. Thomas then claimed his second with one that ricocheted onto the stumps off the batsman’s pads, with Dacre again teasing the batsmen and unlucky not to add to his season’s wicket tally. The Ramblas fielding was back to its usual high standards, with some good stops and chases keeping the batsmen honest, as the hosts reached 80 for 3 at drinks.
Into the attack post-refreshment was Doug Danks, who overcame a shaky first over to claim his first Ramblas wicket, as the batter skewed one up to be safely taken by a backtracking Sam Ford at ‘keeper. Much like the scenes following Peter Ford’s brilliant 78 last week, the all-round elation and celebrations following the wicket showed the unity of the team. However, Mr Danks Esq is not a man to rest on his laurels and he clearly had the bit between his teeth, tempting the new batsmen into a rash shot that was well caught by Jonny Stocks, before two became three courtesy of a catch from son Tom.
That fabulous five-over spell saw the run-rate slow drastically and the Ramblas now geared to get into the tail. Parrett and R.Ford were next into the attack with the ball, the former getting some great bounce and causing uncertainty in the batsmen, while the latter was unlucky to see a tough chance go down as a quicker ball elicited an edge. He was even unluckier when a ball skipped up off the ground and through his hands onto his temple! Thankfully, there appeared to be no lasting damage.
Back into the attack came Loughlin and Fitch, with Loughlin producing a breathtaking piece of fielding to run out the hosts’ top scorer with just one stump to aim at and the Ramblas knowing a strong last eight overs could see them with restrict the hosts to a gettable target. That hope looked even greater when Thomas struck in his first over back, a plumb (and vociferous) LBW appeal sealing his third victim of the day, before ‘keeper Ford got in on the run-out act, collecting a ball destined to be a leg bye and swiveling to hit the stumps at the bowler’s end. It was met with quite the celebration, too. Dacre and T.Danks delivered the final few overs, with the last pair for Petts Wood putting on a handy 44-run partnership to close on 234 for 9.
Once more, the Ramblas were left scratching their heads somewhat at how such a total was accumulated, as the bowling and fielding had largely been first rate. Still, on a good batting track, they knew a fast start to get ahead of the run rate would see them in with more than half a chance of victory.
At tea, there was another Ramblas first, as Parrett failed to partake in the grub on offer. Shouts for a medic proved unnecessary, thankfully, as it was simply that he was full. (I didn’t think that was possible – Ed.)
So, with that, it was down to Skipper Stocks and S.Ford to set that all-important run-scoring base for the imposing run chase at hand. As ever, the Petts Wood bowling was nuggety and on a good line and length that made it hard to puncture the array of close fielders, but there were still opportunities to turn over the strike to be taken, as well as the odd loose delivery requiring dispatching. A four saw S.Ford bring up 1000 runs in a Ramblas shirt (the fourth man to do so), but on 15 he was sent back to the pavilion after being deceived by one that kept low and scuttled into the stumps.
With the scoreboard seemingly on pause, it was T.Danks into the fray next, who rotated the strike well in unison with Stocks before top-edging one that managed to hit numerous parts of his body before being caught by the ‘keeper as he departed for 10. Vice Cap’n Cooper was in next and put behind him a recent barren run, as he helped the Ramblas get to drinks on 66 for 2.
However, the run rate had now crept up to above eight an over and the batsmen now needed to get a move on and force the pace. Cooper attempted to do just that, calling through some good runs and hitting two boundaries before getting bowled by a beaut of a delivery that darted back for 10. With Stocks playing slowly, slowly, catchy monkey at one end, we were set for a clash of styles as Parrett returned to the batting fold. The pair called well and hit some smart boundaries, before the Skipper departed for a pragmatic 49, unfortunately falling shy of his half-century as he top edged one to an onrushing square leg.
That brought in R.Ford who, aware of the team’s situation and the need for quick runs, had no intention of hanging around. The perfect companion for Parrett, then, who was now in his stride, smiting one huge six on the longest boundary and regularly finding the gaps in the field to bring the visitors back into the game. R.Ford was bowled for four, though, courtesy of a wicked delivery, to bring in Loughlin, who pushed the baked beans-laden Parrett hard to turn ones into twos in an attempt to remain within touching distance of the rising run rate.
Having scored a smart and speedy 17, Loughlin was bowled by a superb delivery that cut back in. Thomas was in next to try and give Parrett as much of the strike as possible, but could only score a scratchy two before attempting an ugly hoik to the leg side as the scoreboard pressure grew.
At the other end, though, Parrett was showing no signs of slowing down and supported by Fitch continued on his merry way before his innings was halted at 44 as he attempted one more big shot and was bowled. That trademark big-hitting and quick scoring had dragged the Ramblas back into contention, but it would prove too little, as Fitch departed for a smart 10 to leave D.Danks and Dacre in at the end – the former with a beautiful pull shot to end on nine not out, while the Mongoose-wielding Dacre scrambled to three not out as the Ramblas closed on 195 – resulting in a 39-run defeat. The scorecard is here, on Play Cricket.
As mentioned, the Ramblas felt their bowling and fielding efforts didn’t quite get the results they deserved, while the run chase was again impacted by a slow start that left them with too much to do. Of course, praise must go to the hosts who batted and bowled well, and again offered friendly and competitive competition.
Ramblas MVP: Despite an appreciative nod to the quick-scoring Geoff Parrett who threatened to bring the Ramblas back into the game, this week’s award must go to Doug Danks. His bowling finally got the rewards it has often deserved this season, while some smart batting at the end lent weight to his claims that he’s no Number 11.