After suffering a tough month, the Ramblas headed to Chevening with the aim of starting July off with a bang. However, they were dealt a hammer blow when an already depleted squad was reduced to seven available players after skipper Johnny Stocks had to pull out with a broken thumb and his brother Laurie (looking to make his first Ramblas appearance in two years) couldn’t make the trip due to a broken car. Luckily, Chris Hollands of Locksbottom answered the distress call, and the Ramblas arrived at the ground with eight players – including Ash Harriss in for his first game of the season.
For those not in know, depleted numbers is pretty much the norm whenever the Ramblas head to Chevening…
Stand-in skipper Michael Cooper had a decision to make, bowl first and potentially get carted around; or bat first and hope to post a defendable total with eight batsmen? Fortunately, fate took the decision out of his hands as he lost the toss (another theme…) and the Ramblas found themselves bowling first. In the name of sportsmanship, the home side lent the Ramblas an extra fielder, but the visitors knew they had to be at their very best in the field.
Cooper elected for out and out pace to start the innings, opening the bowling with Alex Danks and Mark Loughlin. The decision looked a wise one, when A. Danks claimed a wicket with only the third ball of the match. Eliciting an edge from the opener Leppard, the ball bounced out of ‘keeper Harriss’s gloves, but safely into the waiting hands of Cooper at slip. The bowler then got his second wicket of the day in his next over, when the other opener – E. Isaac – slashed at one only to see the ball fly into the waiting hands of Hollands at point.
Both the opening bowlers were causing problems and Loughlin got his rewards in the fourth over when a full toss saw Bond caught at square leg by the sub fielder. By no means his best delivery, but a classic Ramblas one. Loughlin only had to wait three more balls to get his second, clean bowling Draper for a duck. The hosts were now 6-4 and looking in real trouble.
Danks and Loughlin had made the breakthrough and were replaced by Geoff Parrett and Steve Fitch. In what was an ideal wicket for Fitch, a few moon balls aside, he was as miserly as ever. Parrett took a while to warm up but was soon looking dangerous and was unlucky not to get amongst the wickets. A dropped chance early in his spell did not hinder Fitch’s rhythm and he got his rewards when Ward drove the ball straight into the hands of the sub fielder at mid-off.
Chevening reached 59-5 at drinks but the Ramblas knew there was work still to be done, Parrett and Fitch replaced by Doug Danks and debutant Chris Hollands.
D. Danks was looking more and more like the bowler that started the season, teasing the batsmen with his flight and turn and although a tough chance dropped at deep square leg meant that Danks ended his eight-over spell wicketless, it was good to see the Danks magic back.
From the other end, Hollands was proving an absolute menace to the batsmen with his pace and McGrath-esque nagging line and length. He saw two chances go down in one over, replacement ‘keeper Cooper shelling the first one, followed by A. Danks at first slip two balls later. However, with two balls left in his following over he struck, trapping skipper Recaldin LBW for an excellent 44. He then clean bowled R. Isaac the very next ball.
The Ramblas were on tenterhooks for the next over waiting for the hat-trick chance. The slip cordon was primed and ready for action. Hollands steamed in, found the edge and the ball flew into the hands of a very relieved Ash Harris at third slip. Hollands became the second Rambla to record a hat-trick but the first to do so on debut!
The hosts were now eight men down and Cooper brought back A. Danks and Loughlin to clean up the tail. A. Danks duly obliged, clean bowling Lower and Manning in successive overs and Chevening were all out for 106.
Who needs 11 men*…? (*bit harsh – Ed)
After a strong showing in the field, the Ramblas tucked into an excellent tea and got ready to chase down 107 on a tough batting wicket.
Harriss and Cooper opened the batting, knowing that with only eight players, wickets were at a premium. Sadly, the Ramblas were dealt a blow in the third over when Cooper was struck by a beamer, breaking a finger. Gamely choosing to carry on, he initially struggled to get the opening bowlers away and left Harriss to do the bulk of the work.
And Harriss was looking more comfortable, keeping the run rate ticking over with some lusty blows, treating any loose delivery with disdain. Cooper slowly found his feet and started to get in amongst the runs, drilling the ball over the bowler for his first boundary of the day. The opening pair put on 44 for the first wicket before Harriss was clean bowled by Lower for an excellent 32.
Loughlin was the next man in, but didn’t last long, being caught at gully for one off the bowling of Draper. A. Danks – with previous on this ground – followed Loughlin and announced his arrival at the crease with a huge six over cow corner. Cooper and A. Danks saw the Ramblas to 58-2 at drinks and the chances of victory seemed very much in the visiting side’s favour.
The pair carried on their good form after the drinks, with some quick running and another textbook drive down the ground by Cooper for four. Sadly that would be the last runs off the bat of Cooper, who was clean bowled by Draper for a hard fought 14. Their partnership of 24 left the Ramblas at 70-3 and on the cusp of victory.
Parrett replaced Cooper and could only manage seven before being trapped LBW by Recaldin. But as ever with Parrett, his cameo with the bat did include a trademark maximum.
With victory in sight, Hollands joined A. Danks at the crease with the duo tasked with easing the Ramblas over the finishing line. And the pair did not disappoint, finding the gaps in the field and turning ones into twos with some quick running to help the Ramblas reach their target in the 31st over for a famous three-wicket win.
Whilst victory may have been less than likely when they arrived, it was a truly heroic performance from the eight men of the Ramblas that saw them register their first win since May and their first ever win at Chevening. Everyone played their part with bat or ball and they can return to home comforts next Sunday full of confidence. Although on current form, there are genuine fears for whoever skippers the Ramblas next…
Ramblas MVP: Honourable mentions must go to Ash Harriss for his 32 and to Chris Hollands for his hat-trick, but for his figures of 4-9 and 37*, Alex Danks is the only choice for MVP.