What a difference a week makes – in terms of the weather, at least – as last Sunday’s downpour made way for bright sunshine in West Wickham, with the Kent Ramblas making the short trip up the road to take on neighbours Wickham Park.
With the team on something of a Ramblas roll (a run of defeats, for the uninitiated), they were keen to put their loss to Petts Wood behind them, as well as gain revenge on their hosts for defeat earlier in the season. Skipper Stocks had to contend with the late withdrawal of Mark Loughlin, who looked like he’d gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson after too much time with a cat (really), but could call upon Alex Danks to replace him, while Peter Ford and Howard Hardy-King returned from their respective holidays.
In a sure sign that the end of the world is nigh, Stocks won the toss and, having inspected the pitch, opted to bat, with Tom Danks and Sam Ford leading the charge for the Ramblas.
On a pitch that was producing uneven bounce – and some unenviable bruises – the pair swatted away what they could, calling through some good singles, as the Wickham Park bowlers gave very little away.
While it was tough to score, the Ramblas openers remained sturdy in defence, offering nary a chance to the fielders and maintained their partnership up to the drinks break, taking the score to 76 without loss.
Having carried the fight so well in that opening spell, the Ford-Danks alliance looked to kick on and take the score towards an imposing total. Some well-run ones and twos were complemented by the odd boundary, before the partnership was broken at 105, with S.Ford being bowled by one that turned sharply to rattle into leg stump.
As is often the case, one Ford brings another, with Peter replacing brother Sam at the crease. And the new batsman carried on where he left off following that glorious innings against Priory, quickly uppishly driving for four and running well in tandem with T.Danks before departing for eight as he toe-ended an attempted big heave.
That dismissal brought about another classic Ramblas trope – the middle order collapse; as Stocks (one), Michael Cooper (one) and Geoff Parrett (nought) departed in quick succession to see the scorecard turn from a favourable-looking 115/1 to a distinctly less promising 119/5. However, with more than 10 overs still to go, and T.Danks still in, the cause was far from a lost one.
Joining the incumbent T.Danks was brother Alex, who looked sharp from the off and harried the fielders with good running, helping his brother to a hard-earned half-century. Alas, hopes that the Danks double bill could see the Ramblas home were dashed when A.Danks was bowled for 10.
Hardy-King was next in, not bothering to get his eye in and smiting a four first ball, before T.Danks chased a wide delivery and was caught for a superb 55. It would’ve been great if he could’ve carried us home, but it was still a fantastic knock in trying circumstances and one that could still prove pivotal.
That left the Mongoose-wielding Dacre and Hardy-King to see off the final two overs, both ending not out on nine and 10 respectively, as the Ramblas closed on what looked like a competitive 175 from their 40 overs.
Having refuelled and refocussed, it was back out into the field for the Ramblas, with Hardy-King taking the first over and striking with his very first delivery, crashing into the batter’s stumps and completing a maiden. That was just the start the visitors needed, while Thomas came in from the other end and began steadily enough, before some loose deliveries helped the hosts get the scoreboard moving.
However, at the other end, Hardy-King was in full flow – clearly re-energised by his break – and causing all sorts of problems to the Wickham Park batsmen, claiming his second victim as another searing delivery elicited an edge that was caught by the telescopic right hand of wicket-keeper A.Danks.
Having replaced Thomas, Dacre was in full flow from the Open End, tormenting when on a length, less so when not. But the birthday boy got a well-earned wicket, snaffling the batsman LBW to give the Ramblas a bit of hope.
Hardy-King bowled his eight overs off the reel to great effect to end with figures of 2-29, as Doug Danks came into the attack just before drinks and used that timeless action to restrict where possible and keep the batsmen honest, with Wickham Park reaching 106/3 at drinks. With just 70 needed to win, the Ramblas – whose fielding really was below the standards that have been set this year – knew they would have to pull a rabbit the size of a dinosaur out of a hat the size of an egg cup if they were to win this.
Despite a largely collective brain fade in the field, special shouts are warranted for SGF P.Ford and the seemingly endless running of Cooper – not to mention the latter putting his body on the line to stop one lusty hit with his calf.
D.Danks continued after the break and pieced together three cracking overs that were unlucky to go unrewarded, while at the other end, Parrett showed he’s still very much got it from his four-over spell.
Alas, the mountain was too large for the Ramblas to climb and the winning runs were struck off S.Ford’s third ball, as the hosts closed on 178/3. The scoreboard for another Ramblas defeat can be found here.
It was another friendly encounter in gorgeous conditions with our nearest neighbours, yet there was a sense of dismay and slight befuddlement at how what looked like a respectable score was chased down with such ease.
Ramblas MVP: The bowling of Howard Hardy-King and the ‘keeping of Alex Danks were both worthy of mention, even more so in a sub-par showing in the field, yet the half-century of Tom Danks gets the nod this week, as it helped take the score towards competitive.