Having exorcised some demons in Norwood last week, the Kent Ramblas found themselves on the other side of south-east London as they faced new opponents in the shape of Shooters Hill.
Skipper Stocks – still nursing a slight hand injury – made minor tweaks to last week’s winning side, with Howard Hardy-King and Chris Thomas coming in for the absent Steve Fitch and Ian Dacre. Whether or not that hand injury impacted his COIN tossing ability, we just don’t know, but Stocks was again defeated at the toss, as the Ramblas were put into bat on a searingly hot day.
Opening up were the two pacemen, Alex Danks and Mark Loughlin, with the batsmen being kept quiet in the fairly cagey embryonic stages of the match – and a few aerial shots giving encouragement to the visitors. Alas, chances were at a premium until an almighty mix-up between the Shooters Hill openers led to one of the most laissez-faire run-outs seen in this part of the world, as Doug Danks took his time coming in from mid-wicket to eye up his target at the bowler’s end and strike with a direct hit. Ever the showman, the open-armed, Liam Gallagher-esque celebration topped it off nicely.
Despite some extremely sharp fielding, there were no more breakthroughs at this stage, with the big-hitting remaining opener starting to race away as Thomas and Hardy-King were brought on; the pair potentially wishing they’d had other plans this particular Sunday. A couple of tough chances went begging and the opener powered onto a 50 and then his century as Peter Ford and D. Danks joined the attack to also receive some ‘treatment’ from the batsmen – the former particularly unfortunate not to get a wicket following a stumping attempt by Sam Ford that saw the bails dislodged but fall back into the grooves. When your luck’s out, your luck’s out…
Justice was done an over later, though, when P. Ford got his man, bowling him through the gate. This – finally – gave the Ramblas an end to attack and with that, Skipper Stocks turned back to his opening pair, who didn’t let him down. First, A. Danks really got his legs pumping and tore one through the batsman’s hapless defence, before repeating the trick in his last over. At the other end, Loughlin deservedly got in on the act, and in the process claimed his 100th (official) Ramblas wicket – the first to that milestone. Well done, that man!
At the other end, the Ramblas were still being caused great consternation by the well-set opener who went onto 150 and then 200 before a Danks double-act finally did for him, bowled Tom, caught Alex. T. Danks got his second by sending the stumps and the hosts ended their 40 overs on 316.
A decent enough tea, some much-needed shade and watching poor ol’ Andy Murray lose another Grand Slam final gave the Ramblas a chance to rest up and get themselves mentally prepared for what would be their largest total ever.
With the Skipper’s hand injury still causing him some discomfort – and a quick start very much of the essence – it was the Ford brothers – Sam and Pete who headed out in an attempt to get the chase underway. A productive first over saw S. Ford rack up 14 and things were looking good. Alas, a ball that stuck in the pitch at the start of the second over saw P. Ford chipping a catch to mid-on.
That brought in T. Danks who was busy and ran well with S. Ford as the pair pushed hard on a big pitch that made boundaries hard. The two besties put on another 50-run partnership before T. Danks was bowled for a solid 26.
Michael Cooper – strong in the field, particularly in the shin area – was next man in, but he perished the same way as P. Ford for nought. Skipper Stocks stepped up to the plate and sneaked a couple of runs before chipping back to the bowler to bring in Rich Ford for his first appearance of the summer. In conjunction with son Sam, there was hope for a partnership that could at least add a modicum of respectability to the score.
Alas, a busy 13-run partnership was ended by a run out, to bring in Thomas (“Here comes John Lennon,” was the unorthodox greeting from one fielder). By this point, S. Ford had notched up his own half-century – his third of what is turning out to be a stellar year with the bat. The partnership, though, lasted a solitary ball as S. Ford scooped one up to the mid-wicket fielder.
Loughlin was next up the plank and he and Thomas put on 10 before the latter was bowled by one that skidded into foot of the stumps. A. Danks joined his opening bowling partner for another 10-run partnership before Loughlin departed for five after being given what he felt was a dubious LBW decision. A. Danks also got to five before being bowled, leaving D. Danks and Hardy-King the last men in, with the latter getting on the board before the former was caught to close the Ramblas innings on 116 and leaving them nursing a 200-run defeat. Scorecard misery can be found here.
In a fine example of what a cruel mistress cricket can be, the Ramblas fielded quite well and on another day, some of those chances could have stuck and it could have been a different story. But when one batsman gets a double century at almost two runs a ball, there’s little room for expectation when it comes to chasing down such a big total, and as soon as that improbability became an impossibility, the Ramblas did the only sensible thing and looked for quick runs to put themselves out of their misery.
Ramblas MVP: A fine half-century by Sam Ford was the best of a measly looking batting scorecard, but for racking up some serious pace and deservedly ending a mini-drought, this week’s accolade goes to the bowling efforts of Alex Danks.