If you’re on a four-game losing streak, the last thing you need is to go into the next game with nine men, but if there’s one thing the Ramblas are good at is making life difficult for themselves.
Having been comprehensively outplayed last week against neighbours Wickham Park, the Ramblas took on co-tenants Eden Park with nine men, as holidays and unspecified reasons led to a shortage of Ramblas. That saw Rich Ford come in for his second game of the year (supplanting Doug Danks as our requisite ‘elder statesmen’), Mark Loughlin return from his cat-related ailments and another of the original XI, Jon Loughlin, make his first appearance of 2015.
Given the news that the hosts were also two men shy of their full complement, and surveying the options at his disposal, captain Johnny Stocks won the toss (Gasp! Shock!) and elected to bowl, with M. Loughlin and Howard Hardy-King taking the new cherry.
The pair bowled supremely well for little reward, with the batsmen exploiting the gaps in the field well and the odd edge evading the field. With the short boundary very much the bowlers’ enemy, anything even remotely loose was dispatched and, despite the opening pair consistently on a good like and length, the Eden Park batsmen looked fairly comfortable.
In heat that was increasingly approaching ‘searing’, Skipper Stocks knew there was no value in flogging either of his strike pair with a full eight-over spell and called for Geoff Parrett and Chris Thomas to take over.
Parrett – more sporadically used than in recent seasons – has been unfortunate not to garner more wickets from his teasing wrist spin and he was on the money once more, eventually making the breakthrough to snaffle the 55-making Ilyas courtesy of a good catch at long on by M.Loughlin. That broke the opening 116-run partnership and injected a new lease of life into the Ramblas, whose fielding was top notch, hustling and chasing hard to plug the chasms in the field.
From the other end, Thomas was again a little off colour, but managed to snag the new man who went after a ball sliding down leg and pulled it to (the just-about-alert) Parrett on the boundary. 116/0 had suddenly become 116/2.
Things continued to swing the Ramblas’ way, as the other opener, also making a half-century, had to hobble off injured and was set to return if required.
Thomas thought he had doubled his tally when the new batsman tried a pull that spun up and was caught by R.Ford at slip. Alas, despite a suspiciously wooden sound, the batsman remained. Rumours that the batter was called Pinocchio can neither be confirmed or denied…
The wickets and retirement helped stem the tide and the Ramblas were well and up for the fight – and still had time for a laugh when our erstwhile leader elegantly managed to lob the ball back over his head into the trees when retrieving the ball from the third-man boundary.
Into the bowling attack came a Ford double act, with Rich and Sam both on the money from the outset. Father Ford took his first scalp in a Ramblas shirt thanks to one that dug back in and snaffled the wooden-armed batsman LBW. Despite his dismay (“It was plumb!”) at not getting another LBW decision, he got his second wicket thanks to a smart catch on the run by Parrett after the batsman got cramped for room on the pull.
From the other end, son Sam was finding some serious rhythm, skittling one batsman via his inside edge and then seeing an edge fantastically taken down the leg side by wicket-keeper J.Loughlin – who was showing no signs of rustiness. However, kudos must go to the Eden Park batsman who gamely walked knowing he’d nicked it.
Having seen the injured opener Patel return and then limp off (arm-in-arm with Stocks), there was just one more wicket for the Ramblas to take, and the captain called for his big guns, with M.Loughlin back in the attack to strike the final blow as he dismantled the stumps. That left the hosts on 178 from 33.4 overs – marking a good recovery in the field from the Ramblas, but also underlining that runs were there to be scored.
After a tea that was even the migrants at Calais would turn their noses up at, Skipper Stocks and Vice Cap’n Cooper headed out to lead the chase – buoyed by the fact there’d be only eight men in the field due to the unfortunate injury of Patel.
However, if there were thoughts the chase was a foregone conclusion, they were soon wiped out by the first ball of the innings, that spat up off a length to rattle into the helmet of Stocks. Despite a bump that grew as the afternoon wore on, there thankfully appears to be no lasting damage.
The captain shook off the knock to hit the next ball for four and set the Ramblas on their way. However, facing the first ball of the second over, Cooper was the victim of a jaffa of a ball that darted back in to the stumps.
That brought in S.Ford, who had batted well for 41 the previous week and he was watchful when required, but also not afraid to push through for singles and wait for the bad ball that could be sent to the boundary.
Stocks was bowled for 15 by another good ball from Ilyas, which brought in R.Ford who would reprise his partnership with son Sam – this time swapping the ball for bat. With S.Ford being suitably vigilant and nicking the strike for the first few overs, the pair’s confidence grew and R.Ford was soon in among the runs, calling firmly and executing the pull well.
The pair compiled a nerve-settling 50 partnership and looked well set at the first drinks break. Thankfully, the curse of the drinks break didn’t strike the Ramblas, as the Family Ford continued untroubled. More quick singles, some well-run twos and a smite of a six all helped Sam to his own half-century, which in turn contributed to a 112-run partnership with Rich, before the latter departed LBW.
It was a fantastic 51-ball knock of 39 from R.Ford that left the scoreboard looking favourable to the Ramblas at 129/3. With S.Ford well set and a fairly strong batting line-up left, surely it was a mere formality (so much so that *someone* suggested they’d retire if the Ramblas managed to cock it up)?
Next in was J.Loughlin, who scampered well with S.Ford and pulled for four a couple of times, but his seven-ball stay was ended as he played across the line.
Still, that had edged the Ramblas within 38 runs of victory and with plenty of time and four wickets remaining, things were looking bright. The only thing that could prevent a Ramblas success would be the classic collapse…
Parrett was next to join S.Ford and the pair put on 19 before the all-rounder was bowled for a superb 74 from 96 balls that left the Ramblas very much on the brink at 160/5. Despite there being plenty of time, next man in M.Loughlin clearly had somewhere better to be, smiting a six before being bowled and getting the nerves jangling just that little bit more.
With the score at 173/6, Hardy-King joined Parrett in the middle and, despite a few heart-in-mouth moments, they successfully saw the Ramblas home – Parrett 16 not out (and creeping into second place in the Not Out League) and Hardy-King six not out – with five overs and a ball remaining. The scorecard is HERE.
Both sides did well given their lack of resources, the opening partnership for Eden Park setting a great foundation that the Ramblas managed to stifle, while the Ramblas batting line-up was led brilliant by the Fords.
Ramblas MVP: Call it diplomacy. Call it wimping out of making a decision. Call it whatever you ruddy like, ‘cos we won. This week’s award is rightly shared by Rich and Sam Ford. The former delivered his best spell with the ball in a Ramblas shirt and offered brilliant support in a 112-run partnership that took the game away from the hosts. Meanwhile, Sam underlined his all-rounder status by combining two key wickets and a miserly economy rate with a stellar 74 that dominated the run chase.