After last week’s comprehensive win against Snodland Community, there were many questions for the Kent Ramblas going into the Bank Holiday weekend for their final game.
Would landlords Ex-Blues manage to assemble a team? Would the Ramblas manage to end on an eight and eight record? Could Tom Danks reach 500 runs for the season? Could Steve Fitch claim the single season record for catches? Could a range of bowlers reach their own season milestones? Would there be any tea left with Geoff Parrett injured and left untamed on the sidelines?
Well, the most important question was the first – and, alas, the answer was a resounding no. With just three players at their disposal (including one Rambla), Ex-Blues pulled out and it was left once more to the Ramblas board to source some willing opponents, that were eventually found in the shape of Carlton Sports CC.
There were two changes for the hosts, with Tom Danks and Mark Loughlin in for Sam Ford and the aforementioned G.Parrett respectively, while Skipper Stocks broke the habit of a season by winning the toss and opting to bowl.
Playing on the furthest strip to somewhat negate the short boundary, Loughlin and Howard Hardy-King opened up, with both looking in fine fettle. Pace was backed up with a good line and length, with the latter continuing his run of misfortune as chances went awry and the batsmen played and missed at a few from both bowlers.
The visitors, containing a number of league-level players in a strong batting line-up, were making hay where possible but largely contained by the opening bowlers and the game was finely poised as the Ramblas made their first change to the bowling attack with Thomas replacing Loughlin from the Tennis Court End.
Having missed out the previous week with the ball, he started fairly well and maintained a decent line and length, barring an expensive fourth over including the batsman hitting the ball onto a grounded helmet behind the ‘keeper, while Dacre came on from the Gardens End and was finding that odd delivery to truly bamboozle the well-set openers.
Thomas was convinced he’d snaffled the opener with an LBW appeal that went on. And on. And on… as he ended up past the wicketkeeper by the time his throat gave up on him. Alas, that conviction wasn’t matched by the umpire.
At drinks, the visitors had fairly serenely got themselves to 105 without loss, while the Ramblas – having seen a few chances go begging – knew they’d not bowled too badly.
In the first over post-drinks, the hosts finally got the breakthrough, with Thomas testing his voice box with another vociferous LBW shout that was met this time with agreement from the umpire and also saw him claim his 20th wicket of a fairly profitable season.
Dacre’s five-over spell was slightly unlucky not to yield a wicket, and was followed from the Gardens End by Fitch, with the canny bowling of Doug Danks coming on at the other end.
The pair were combating the attacking instincts of the well-set batsmen where possible, with a couple of deliveries just evading the desperate attempts of the fielders. Fitch was again economical and recovered from a shaky start to deliver fantastic third and fourth overs, with one ball that cut back in somehow missing the furniture.
At the other end, D.Danks was not letting some big hits put him off his stride and tied together a few dots before getting his reward to bowl the on-rushing batsman.
Having finally made some in-roads, the final 10 overs were shaping up to be an interesting passage of play. The visitors’ opener was still in and on his way to a century, but the Ramblas at least had one end to bowl at and knew that restricting a League-level team to a sub-300 score would still be an achievement.
Hardy-King came back on for his last two overs and was unlucky to see a couple of chances go down as the batsmen started to swing, with another optimistic (and solo) appeal from Thomas to boot.
That left T.Danks and Peter Ford to share the final four overs, the former keeping it very tight, while the latter unveiled a shift from off-spin to medium pace that signalled good things for next year. Alas, neither could claim a wicket as the Carlton opener reached his ton and carried his team home to a healthy score of 294/2.
With plenty of family and friends on the sidelines, and the opportunity to devour another cracking tea from Mrs C (hot dogs proving an inspired choice), plus cake from Lucy B, the Ramblas took the chance to reflect on what had largely been a solid bowling performance and assess the best approach in chasing a formidable total.
In terms of approach, the obvious statement was that we needed runs. And we needed them at a decent lick.
Taking the fight to the visitors was Skipper Stocks and Vice Cap’n Cooper, but despite a steady start and an early boundary, our esteemed leader was out bowled for five.
That brought in Tom Danks, but he wasn’t able to build a big partnership with Cooper as the latter departed for three, caught at slip.
Specialist Grounds Fieldsman P.Ford was next man in and he wasted no time in carrying on his recent fine form, dominating the strike and finding the boundary regularly, including an almighty six. Having lost a couple of quick wickets, this partnership had gotten the Ramblas back into the game, but P.Ford was undone by one that he edged to slip having scored an enterprising 23 in double-quick time. Anybody would think he had an engagement party to attend…
The departure of P.Ford meant we had a Danks double bill in the middle, as Alex joined brother Tom for the Ramblas chase.
And the pair, with similarly angular batting actions, set about dispatching the bad balls and pushing hard for singles where possible. The Danks brothers steered the hosts to 80/3 at drinks, only 25 behind their opponents at the same stage.
Reaching their 50-run partnership shortly after the break, the pair were not looking unduly troubled and continued to rotate the strike, while the boundaries were becoming a little harder to find, as the slow outfield helped the fielders.
The traditional Ramblas sticky period just after drinks slowed things down a little bit, as the required run rate started to get a bit steeper. Still, the Danks brothers continued notching up the runs, reaching an excellent 100-run partnership, with the elder of the two surpassing 50 for the fifth time of his debut Ramblas season.
In the 37th over, their fine pairing was brought to an end as A.Danks departed for a Ramblas-best 41, having put on 129 with his elder brother.
Suitably refreshed from his waiting on the sidelines, Loughlin was in next and he was intent on seeing the season out with a bang, racing to a rapid 17 by the close, while the studious and steady accumulation of T.Danks ensured he ended his year with another excellent knock – this time 87 not out. Alas, the Ramblas remained comfortably short of their target, losing by 97 runs.
The scorecard of our final game of the season is here.
All in all, it was a handy microcosm of the Ramblas 2015 season: largely solid with the ball, enthusiastic and effective in the field, but finding themselves a little shy when it came to the batting. That said, the quality of the opposition should be taken into account, given a lot of the team are members of a division-winning side in league cricket.
It’s been a fine season for the Ramblas, benefiting from a tight-knit squad and some welcome new additions – both on and off the field. Given the start we had, to finish a season with seven wins against nine defeats is still remarkable going, while the improvement on an individual level across the board is encouraging for the future.
So, that’s us done for another year, with just the usual end-of-season award ceremony and undoubted countless excuses to meet up and reminisce about the season in pubs during the winter months.
Ramblas MVP: Almost ever-present throughout the season, and often in some trying circumstances, our final award goes to Lucy Brewer and Ray Danks for their unwavering support from the sidelines. They’ve put themselves through some dire collective performances (see games vs Pecos and Wimbledon for starters) and endured the chill and gloom of our final game, but their enthusiasm never waned. There’s also been some excellent cakes, to boot!