After months of anticipation and preparation (well, by some of our number…), the seventh (SEVENTH?!) Kent Ramblas season began in earnest on the Kent coast away to Hythe.
With a fully-fit squad to call upon, there was even cause for Skipper Stocks to ask if anyone wanted to step aside due to an overabundance of players – Howard Hardy-King manfully offering to take a voluntary demotion for the week. For a reminder of our squad, why not visit this year’s Meet The Ramblas?
As dark clouds loomed ominously like Geoff over the buffet, there was some skepticism that the game would last the duration (never really a consideration given the notorious slow start with the bat, we make each season…). However, Hythe – with their number bolstered by some first-team/league players – won the toss, chose to bat and we were set fair for the inaugural game of 2016.
Opening the bowling were Alex Danks and Ian Dacre; the former’s pace proving to the batters’ initial liking and while the latter found his groove early on, the hosts were largely untroubled in the game’s formative stages, as they reached 50 after 10 overs. Despite not bowling badly, there was nary a chance forced and the captain turned to Steve Fitch and Mark Loughlin in search of a breakthrough.
Fitch began with a maiden and Loughlin’s three-over burst of pace produced a sharp caught and bowled chance that went awry, as the Ramblas ramped up the pressure. That pressure soon told as the customary early-season wicket in the Garden of England came for Fitch as he castled the Hythe opener one run shy of an opening century stand. It was a much-needed scalp that pepped up the frozen-fingered Ramblas contingent, as Chris Thomas and Doug Danks came into the attack.
The former displayed the kind of rustiness you’d expect from someone who’s not picked up a cricket ball since September, but at the other end, D.Danks was in imperious form. Bowling with guile and subtle variety, the batsmen were consistently undone by the teasing, flighted deliveries. As the runs slowly dried up – due in part to the other Hythe opener retiring – some attacking shots saw the undoing of the home side’s middle order.
D.Danks got the first of his wickets thanks to a smart catch at wide fine leg by Peter Ford, while that was soon followed by his second courtesy of a smart catch by son Tom. His third came thanks to smart work behind the stumps by Loughlin, who had the gloves for the second 20 overs, as he whipped off the bails of the advancing batsman. That spell of 3-19 either side of drinks had helped the Ramblas claw themselves back into the game in the hope of making it a contest, and that impetus continued as Thomas got in on the act, getting the batter to loop one up to Tom Danks who snaffled his second catch of the innings.
With Stocks rotating his bowlers, it was T.Danks who was next to claim a wicket, with a quicker delivery that caught the uncertain batsman’s edge and was quite brilliantly taken by Loughlin at ‘keeper. The Ford brothers – Sam and Pete – both enjoyed fine spells that belied the fact they’d been on a four-day bender, before Dacre and A.Danks came back into the attack to claim a wicket each; Dacre tempting the batsman into a loose drive that was confidently taken by Cooper at mid-off, while A.Danks finished things off with the last ball of the innings with a brute of a delivery that skittled the stumps and saw the hosts finish on 207/9.
Having endured an array of weather from spells of hail stones and a biting sea breeze to actual sunshine, the Ramblas were energetic and committed in the field and fought back well after that near-100 run partnership at the start of the innings. Would the hot dogs and flapjacks on offer be enough to power them through and chase down a very competitive total against a superior side?
Tasked with getting the Ramblas off to a good start were Skipper Stocks and S.Ford, but facing league-level bowling, they were unable to get anything away in the opening overs – barring the odd bye – before Stocks was bowled. T.Danks came in next and while there were a few scoring shots, the partnership with S.Ford was unable to gain any traction as the latter was bowled by a beaut that pitched outside and swung back in.
It was Cooper to join the fray now, in classic Ramblas territory, and he looked in fine fettle alongside the elegance of T.Danks, as the pair looked to rebuild. Alas, having confidently accrued a 21-run partnership, Cooper was out courtesy of a superb reaction catch by the bowler, as the Ramblas sunk to 32/3 from just 12 overs.
P.Ford was the next man to walk the plank and he immediately outlined his tactic by swinging – and hitting – at almost everything, before T.Danks was undone by an LBW decision that he felt was ‘generous’ to the bowler. Nevertheless, the call stood and he departed for a decent 13 as Loughlin came in to replace him.
Although some serious scampering between the wickets threatened to lap his team-mate, there was nothing Loughlin could do, as the incumbent batsmen both fell in quick succession – Ford caught as he looked to go big and Loughlin undone by a delivery that stayed so low it disappeared from view.
A.Danks came in with the score now at 41, but after he was bowled, Fitch was caught behind and Thomas was caught (on the leg-side, obviously…), the Ramblas scorecard showed 58/9.
However, not content with being a shining beacon during the visitors’ bowling performance, D.Danks lit up the place with his batting too as he scored a brilliant 19 not out before the stumping of Dacre signalled the end of the game, with the Ramblas all out for 79. The scorecard can be found here, on Play Cricket.
Given the gulf in quality between the sides (Hythe’s league-side bowler finishing with 4-22 from his eight overs; and their league batter retiring on 72) and the fact there were some sore heads after a Spanish Expedition by some of the number, there’s not much more that could be done by a Ramblas side who hustled hard in the field and batted gamely in the face of superior opposition.
Dacre and Fitch bowled smartly and tightly, which will surely garner more rewards on other days, while T.Danks and Cooper were looking strong in the middle, but the game was all about one man from a Ramblas perspective…
Ramblas MVP: Yes, there’s no doubt about it, in one of the easiest decisions this humble match reporter has had to make, this week’s award goes to Doug Danks who bowled a fine spell of ingenuity and class to claim three well-deserved wickets and put the icing on the cake with some derring-do with the bat as the rest of the team somewhat crumbled.