While England fans among us were positively willing the rain to head towards The Oval to at least delay the inevitable Ashes embarrassment, there was as much willingness for it to avoid the climes of West Wickham to ensure that the Kent Ramblas could get back to winning ways.
As well as the traditional summer weather, there was also the now-traditional late drop-out of our proposed opposition, with Bromley Town unable to fulfill the fixture due to a lack of numbers. Thankfully, the Ramblas board again pulled a rabbit out of a hat and Snodland CC stepped into the breach to make the trip up the M20.
Similarly customary was the result at the toss, with Skipper Stocks again bested by his opposite number and the Ramblas put into bat for the reduced 30-over game. There were two changes from last week’s defeat to London City, with Ian Dacre and Steve Fitch replacing Mark Loughlin and Rich Ford.
On a damp pitch, with the bowler’s approach particularly loose under foot from the Tennis Court End, the Ramblas were unsure as to how the pitch would behave, but almost immediately the sun came out to join the party and the deck played true throughout.
Opening up were Alex Danks and Howard Hardy-King, the former suffering a bit with his footing due to the conditions, but still delivering a tight opening salvo in tandem with Hardy-King. The visitors’ opening batsmen were largely watchful, but pulled out the odd big hit to remind the Ramblas they were in a game. That partnership, though, was ended when Hardy-King claimed the first wicket LBW, much to the consternation of the outgoing batsman. Irrespective of the merits of the (admittedly tight) decision, the umpire’s word is final…
With a new batsman in, the Ramblas had their tails up early doors, and A.Danks was showing no signs of letting up, getting one to splay the stumps via the batsman’s pads and the Ramblas brimming with confidence.
The chirping new batsman got into his stride (with gob and bat), but after confidently telling the bowler that he’d be hitting the new ball to the boundary, Hardy-King made him look a bit of a plum by trapping him LBW with a swinging yorker that struck the batsman flush on the toe in front of middle.
That brought the opening spells to an end, with three wickets snaffled. The game was far from up, though, with the opening bat still in situ and beginning to open his arms. But the game soon got away from the visitors…
Coming into the attack were the returning pair of Fitch and Dacre, with neither showing any signs of losing their touch following their breaks from action. Fitch carried on his fine season’s form with the ball, holding a tight line against the batsmen to ensure the run-rate was drying up. From the other end, Dacre was slightly more wayward at times, but was backed up superbly in the field – Peter Ford and A.Danks expertly stopping what appeared certainties for the boundary – and soon got his reward by seeing off the big-hitting opener courtesy of a catch at point by Chris Thomas.
“One brings two,” is often the shout and that adage came to bear, with Dacre bowling the new batsman for nought.
Five wickets claimed with less than half the innings gone left the Ramblas sitting pretty, but there was to be no resting on laurels, as fielders chased and harried and Fitch maintained that gloriously nagging line, unlucky not to get among the wickets, while at the other end, Dacre was in one of ‘those’ moods.
Wicket three for the bowler came thanks to a superb steepling catch at backward square by Specialist Ground Fieldsman P.Ford – which also brought up Dacre’s 50th wicket in a Ramblas shirt, while the fourth came on the last ball before drinks with one that looped up and confidently claimed by wicket-keeper Sam Ford.
That spell had torn the Snodland batting card asunder, leaving the visitors seven down for 74 after 16 overs.
Despite the temptation to share the workload among his bowlers, Skipper Stocks granted Dacre one more over after drinks to see if he could claim another five-fer (having already done so against Wickham Park earlier in the season). Sure enough, with the second ball of his final over, the batsman drove one firmly into the ever-steady hands of Hardy-King at mid-off, to end with figures of 5/31 from his six overs. What a spell!
Meanwhile, from the other end, Doug Danks had entered the fray and opened brilliantly with a maiden before, with just his seventh ball, took the final wicket with a good delivery that cut back in to the batsman. That meant the visitors finished on 91 all out.
Despite being caught cold by the early finish to the innings, Director of Tea Ruth Parrett (ably assisted by the returning Sheena Bulsara) still managed to put on another exquisite spread – an excellent finale to her own season on the frontline. Thanks Ruth!
With such a small total to chase, and the Geoff Parrett and Thomas not needed in the bowling stakes, Skipper Stocks shook up the batting line-up, with Michael Cooper and P.Ford opening up.
The pair were looking steady, both enjoying the straight drive, as they recovered from a pedestrian beginning to ramp it up a bit, before Cooper went for six, bowled as he – in his own words – “got a bit a excited”. Still, with 23 on the board, the Ramblas were already a quarter of the way there and with plenty batting to come. Alas, it wasn’t a batsman in next, as Thomas went to join P.Ford.
The latter was again in fine fettle, striking confidently anything wide, and being watchful at anything on the stumps. Some smartly taken singles and loud calls meant that the run rate was ticking along nicely with just 28 needed as drinks came in the 15th over. Alas, Thomas couldn’t see P.Ford to his half-century, holing out to point for a scratchy 10 as he played at a wide one he could have easily left well alone having played a (small) part in the 52-run partnership that had edged the Ramblas to the cusp of victory.
Still, that brought in the fireworks of Parrett, who was in no danger of hanging around. Having seen off his first delivery, he responded by hitting four, four, six to leave the Ramblas requiring just five to win. The most nerve-inducing aspect for the Ramblas on the side, though, was whether or not P.Ford would get the chance to reach his 50, with those nerves further jangled as he took a single first ball to get Parrett on strike and leave himself on 49.
A wide then only exacerbated the mood of his team-mates as the scoreboard crept forward, before Parrett snuck a single despite looking like he was going to finish it with the next ball. And on the last ball of the over, P.Ford delivered handsomely with a four to take him to 53 not out and see the Ramblas over the finishing line in the 19th over. Meanwhile, Parrett’s cameo had left him 15 not out (that red-inker quick to be mentioned in the dressing room to add more salt into the wounds of Thomas…).
Given the downpour and state of the pitch at 1pm, it was a feat in itself to simply get a game of cricket on. To have been so dominant with ball and bat was brilliant from the hosts, indeed, very un-Ramblas. The scorecard for the eight-wicket win is here.
With just one game to go, all eyes will be on Pickhurst Rise next week, and namely if Ex-Blues can get a team out, with some Ramblas milestones tantalisingly close.
Ramblas MVP: Another decent knock by Peter Ford has to be mentioned (as does that well-taken catch), but you can’t argue with a five-fer at any level, and Ian Dacre took his opportunity to claim that feat well.