Continuing the alternate weeks of travelling to the Kent coast and playing at home, your intrepid Kent Ramblas returned to the reassuring surroundings of West Wickham for the visit of familiar (and friendly) foes, Petts Wood.
Taking the place of the newly married Sam Ford (congratulations again, Sam and Lou!) was the returning Chris Thomas, while Peter Ford stepped up at the last minute for the injured Howard Hardy-King. In the day’s least surprising development, Skipper Stocks came back empty-handed from the toss and – after a bit of deliberation – the visitors opted to field first, leaving the Ramblas in the slightly unfamiliar territory of gauging a good total to set.
Opening up with the captain was Tom Danks, pushed up a place in the order to accommodate the surfeit of bowling options at the Ramblas’ disposal, and the pair were studious against the wily Wood bowling. With nary a bad ball in sight, T. Danks and Stocks set about carving through the gaps and pushing hard on the singles – including one that saw a direct hit get the fielders excited… until the umpire ruled T. Danks had got home safely.
Having steadily accumulated a partnership of 40, the 13th over saw Stocks trapped LBW for a solid 20, while three overs later T. Danks departed for an equally solid 22 – the openers had done a decent job, but both felt they’d left runs out there and with talk of requiring a total around the 175 mark to be competitive, the rest of the line-up knew it was shaping up to be another tight call between these two sides.
Ford and Michael Cooper were three and four respectively, with both looking in fine fettle – the former maintaining his uncompromising style to attack the bowlers, while Cooper continued the rich vein of form that has been apparent since the season’s start. Boundaries from both ensured the run rate ticked along nicely – after Cooper had the sun to thank for getting in the eyes of one fielder as he looked to claim a simple catch – and they put on rapid 35-run partnership before Cooper’s luck ran out as he was caught for 12.
Wicketkeeper-for-the-day Mark Loughlin was next in and was soon pushing his partner for quick singles – threatening to lap Ford at one point – as the pressure was pushed back onto the visitors. Alas, hopes of a match-defining partnership were cut short as Ford was bowled going for a trademark biff over the top, departing for a fine 28. By his own admission, next man in Geoff Parrett wasn’t feeling at the races, departing for an uncharacteristically edgy six, before Steve Fitch and Alex Danks in turn offered solid support to Loughlin, without hugely troubling the scorer.
Doug Danks was the next to be put through his paces by the quick running of Loughlin, holing out for seven on the Cow Corner boundary, to bring in Thomas who helped Loughlin take the score to a respectable, if slightly below-par, 162… although he did run out Loughlin on the last ball as they pushed for a second. That might explain one of the dropped catches when the teams returned…
Mrs C was on hand to put on a veritable feast, supplemented fabulously by the culinary offerings of Lucy B and the quite frankly gorgeous wedding cake from Sam and Lou, as the Ramblas plotted their course for victory. Knowing the visitors’ batsmen were as wily as their bowlers, the hosts knew they would have to work hard to defend that total of 162.
Taking the new ball, A. Danks again offered express pace to disrupt the batsmen and prevent them from getting off to a good start, while at the other end, Ian Dacre was showing only minimal signs of his late night, and was soon among the wickets as Thomas took a sharp catch at midwicket. The pair continued to keep the visitors on the back foot and A. Danks can count himself unlucky not to have notched another wicket, but by keeping his end of things tight, it helped Dacre claim another scalp, brilliantly getting one through the gate to hit the top of middle stump.
After a stellar 12 overs, Parrett and Thomas came in and carried on where the opening pair had left off, proving suitably miserly to strangle the visitors’ batsmen. That scoreboard pressure again brought its rewards, with Parrett using flight and guile to bowl the batsman and Thomas following up with a wicket of his own thanks to a smart take by Fitch at point.
With D. Danks having taken over from Parrett as the spin option from the Tennis Courts End and done an equally sterling job to pin back the batsmen with flight and accuracy, Skipper Stocks called for Fitch from the Gardens End. A solid first couple of overs – including a wicket as he confidently called for a catch for Fitch off his own bowling – in tandem with D. Danks followed by a two-maiden burst by A. Danks left the equation pretty simple: 51 runs needed with five Petts Wood wickets in hand from the final 10 overs. It was, once more, shaping up to be a close one…
Ford took the cherry from the other end, and he and Fitch were unrelenting in their efforts – backed up fantastically by their fielders. Ford began with a maiden before cleaning up the stumps in his second over to claim another wicket for the season. Meanwhile, Fitch was going about his business with the usual low levels of fuss, bursting into life for a successful LBW appeal that left the visitors requiring 30 from the last four overs.
Palms were beginning to get sweaty. Nerves were starting to jangle. Bums were starting to squeak (nothing new there, given certain members of the Ramblas collective…).
That left Ford to finish things off, with plenty of gratitude to two of his oldest friends. First, T. Danks took an excellent catch running back to claim the scalp of the dangerous Petts Wood opener as he neared what would have been a well-earned half-century. Just as important as the wicket was the fact only three runs were scored, leaving the Petts Wood side requiring 27 from 18 balls. In the era of Twenty:20 – and the notorious short boundary at Ex-Blues – the match was still in the balance.
However, Fitch soon had his wicketkeeper to thank, as he took his third wicket of the day; Loughlin stumping a batsman who knew the only hope his side had was if he found the boundary – and fast. The pendulum was now swinging in favour of the hosts who knew that they would be kicking themselves if they did not see this through, as Petts Wood went into the penultimate over needing 23.
With Skipper Stocks conferring with his trusted lieutenants (and Thomas), the field was set and the Ramblas were ready for up to 12 huge deliveries. Alas, it only needed one, with Ford completing another exciting Ramblas victory courtesy of an audacious one-handed catch on the run by A.Danks. The scorecard for the 22-run win can be found here, on Play Cricket.
It was another memorably tense encounter with the likeable lads from Willett Way and the Ramblas look forward to making the short trip to Petts Wood later in the year.
Ramblas MVP: Where to begin? To a man (and woman, kudos Mrs C and Lucy B), the Ramblas all stepped up to the plate. Jonny Stocks and Tom Danks set a solid platform with the bat, while Michael Cooper scored important runs in the middle stages. Peter Ford showcased his all-round skills with three wickets and a vital knock, with Mark Loughlin superb with bat and gloves, too. While the fielding – and captaining – was top notch, the bowlers all made key contributions too. Alex Danks and Doug Danks can count themselves unlucky not to have claimed a wicket with their differing styles of bowling, while Geoff Parrett and Chris Thomas strangled the visitors in the middle overs. The opening spell of Ian Dacre got the ball rolling and Steve Fitch was nerveless at the end with his three-fer. That’s as close to a complete team performance as the Ramblas have come, and victory was well-earned.
(That might be a cop-out, but what are you going to do; sue me?!)