The Ramblas were still stinging from last week’s defeat to Horton Kirby as they made their way to deepest Croydon to take on Norwood Exiles. With memories of a shellacking against another Norwood side at the same venue, there might have been fears that the Ramblas could be looking at back-to-back defeats. However, a combination of pre-match ice creams, early season form and some good old-fashioned confidence, saw the Ramblas ready to exorcise some demons. Chris Thomas and Howard Hardy-King were unavailable for selection, so skipper Johnny Stocks recalled the father/son duo of Alex and Doug Danks.
Defying the laws of probability, Stocks lost the toss yet again and the Ramblas were asked to bowl, with A. Danks and Ian Dacre given the task of opening the bowling. A. Danks was his usual express self, and Dacre was as probing as ever. Sadly for Dacre, his opening spell only lasted two overs after being carted for 20 off one over, despite not bowling a bad ball in the over. Loughlin was brought into the attack as he and A. Danks had the opening pair all at sea with some fine fast bowling. Loughlin made the breakthrough, clean bowling O’Mahoney for 30. Danks finished his eight-over spell with figures of 8-1-18-0, an amazing performance that somehow went wicketless.
Geoff Parrett entered the attack for a brief one-over cameo that included two maximums and two dropped catches. Emotionally drained after such an exciting over, Steve Fitch quickly replaced Parrett and was his usual wily self, complementing Loughlin’s pace with guile. Loughlin made another breakthrough before drinks, trapping Safiq LBW for two. Loughlin was denied his 100th wicket for the Ramblas, when Fitch dropped a chance at mid-off and the bowler himself shelled a caught and bowled opportunity. The hosts avoided any more setbacks and reached drinks at 80-2 and looked ready to kick on.
With the remaining opener, Wilson, on 45 and looking dangerous, Fitch drifted a tempter outside off stump. Unable to help himself, Wilson went for a big slash only to see the ball fizz into the hands of Cooper, whose cry of ‘YES!’ gives an indication of how key the wicket was. Peter Ford replaced the bowled out Loughlin and picked up another key wicket, making Dunn-Hipp play the ball onto his stumps for an excellent 39. Norwood Exiles were now 131-4 and the Ramblas sensed that the tide was turning.
Parrett returned with the ball and only had to wait three deliveries before taking his first wicket of the day. Dropping his delivery slightly too short (accidentally or on purpose, we’ll never know), Najmi’s eyes lit up and he gave the ball a mighty heave. As the ball sailed high in the air, A. Danks and Loughlin converged for the catch, and thanks to some fast bowler telepathy, A. Danks checked his run and let his teammate claim the catch.
Parrett struck again two balls later, as Rana attempted to drill the bowl back down the ground, but instead found Fitch, who caught the batsman with his uninjured right hand for two. Not happy with just two wickets, Parrett claimed his third wicket in the very next over. Norwood Exiles number seven, Young, chipped the ball back to the bowler who took a diving/tumbling (delete as appropriate) catch to dismiss the batsman for one.
The Ramblas were now deep into the Exile’s tail and sensing blood. In Ford’s final over, B. Ahmed hit the ball and raced off for a single. Sadly for S. Ahmed, the ball went straight to Cooper, who, ahem, expertly rolled the ball to ‘keeper Sam Ford who whipped the bails off and S. Ahmed had to head back to the pavilion. Doug Danks and the returning Dacre were tasked with knocking off the last two wickets. D. Danks clean bowled B. Ahmed for one to complete his only over of the game with a wicket and a maiden. Dacre got his wicket, when Loughlin caught Haque in the deep for a duck. It was some measure of revenge for Dacre after his tough start to the game.
From 131-4, Norwood Exiles fell to 146 all out thanks to the Ramblas’ excellent efforts in the field, giving them a great chance for a bank holiday victory.
Bank holiday brilliance
A Ramblas friendly tea (Battenberg for Geoff, quiche for Stitch) was scoffed before everyone got themselves ready to chase down the target. Following on from their successful opening partnership last week, combined with Johnny Stocks’s hand injury sustained the day before, Peter and Sam Ford rocked up to the crease ready for action. Both brothers took a cautious approach at the start of the innings, wary of giving the opposition an early wicket.
Once the pair had got their eye in, the boundaries started flowing, S. Ford dispatching the bowlers over their head on several occasions and P. Ford tonking the ball to all parts. The first maximum of the innings was recorded in true P. Ford style, smacking the ball over the Cow Corner boundary. Sadly, he departed five balls later for 17 off 20 balls, caught in the deep by Rana off the bowling of Ahmed. An opening stand of 42 had set up a strong platform for the Ramblas to build their run chase on.
Tom Danks came in at three, and quickly found his rhythm, nicely rotating the strike and keeping the scoreboard ticking over. In combination with S. Ford, the Ramblas were looking comfortable – barring one scare when S. Ford was dropped after offering up a simple catching opportunity, as the Ramblas reached drinks at 75-1.
Clearly refreshed after drinks (and energised by the promise of bank holiday beers), T. Danks and S. Ford ramped up the scoring, picking the gaps and running up more singles than Tinder. S. Ford was the first of the pair to reach 50 with a wonderful pull shot for four. As the Ramblas got closer and closer to the target, T. Danks was next to reach the half-century mark, drilling the ball to Cow Corner for a boundary. With the required run rate now in the decimals, the duo quickly knocked off the remaining three runs to set up a comfortable win for the away side.
In what has to be the most consummate performance in Ramblas history, everyone contributed towards an emphatic nine-wicket victory. The bowling was excellent, backed up by some great fielding. And the few who were required to bat did so with aplomb.
Ramblas MVP: Hats off to Mark Loughlin and Alex Danks for some brilliant pace bowling, props to Pete Ford for his efforts with both bat and ball and a massive apology to Tom Danks, whose 56* would normally be an MVP-winning knock. But the MVP award goes to Sam Ford for carrying his bat with a match winning innings of 65*.