It had been a while, but this weekend saw the Ramblas faced with a last-minute pull out; nope, we’re not talking about the bed-ridden Geoff Parrett, but with the proposed opposition cancelling on Friday, the board moved quickly to secure wandering side The Grove as replacements down at Ex-Blues.
Mirroring the previous week against Petts Wood, the hosts were stuck on nine men due to Parrett’s illness, broken appendages and holidays. However, there was still room for three changes as stand-in skipper Sam Ford could call on Steve Fitch and Mark Loughlin once more, while Chris Hackett returned for his second Ramblas appearance. In a sure fire sign that he’s not quite got the hang of how to captain for the Ramblas, S. Ford again won the toss. With the depleted numbers (albeit boosted by a spare man The Grove had with them), the Ramblas opted to bat first in the hope of making the most of a truer pitch and again setting an imposing target.
Having wonderfully anchored the innings last week, Alex Danks was again opening the batting with erstwhile BFF Peter Ford and the pair were quickly piling on the runs, going at 10 an over for the first three, as P. Ford in particular brought out some delicious drives. However, with hopes of a quick-fire 50 partnership just starting to emerge in the minds of the Ramblas support, P. Ford departed having rapidly gotten to 18 and helped the Ramblas to 34 in just the fourth over.
A. Danks was again studiously going about his business and looked in even better form than when constructing that all-important half-century, as he was joined by brother Tom Danks.
The siblings steadied the ship to begin with, ensuring there was no further loss, before deftly rotating the strike and puncturing the field where possible. The pair had swiftly taken the Ramblas past 100 and looked to take them to drinks to refresh and regroup. Alas, in the 19th over, T. Danks was caught having made a fine knock of 38 – falling short of what would have been a fifth half-century of the season.
As the only man who didn’t get to bat last week, Chris Thomas was (generously) promoted to four and managed to see out the rest of the over. The duo – still revelling in last season’s combined efforts at Chevening – knew they had plenty of time to build a platform for some late-innings hitting. While A. Danks continued to impress, striking down the ground well and calling loudly for the singles, Thomas struggled to get the ball away, but did manage to hang around long enough to see his partner pass 50, before edging one to keeper himself for six.
With 14 overs still to go, one batsman well set and the incoming one the all-time Ramblas top scorer, in the shape of S. Ford, there was hope that another 100 could be added to the score of 149/3.
S. Ford wasted no time in imposing himself, consistently finding the boundary – including two maximums, despite being dropped twice early on. At the other end, A. Danks continued to go about his business and not looking remotely in any danger – despite some optimistic stumping appeals. The pair were taking the game away from the visitors, piling on 81 in 10 overs before S. Ford was caught on the boundary for a momentum-raising 30-ball 58.
There were just two questions remaining going into the last four overs: could the Ramblas surpass 250 and could A.Danks reach his ton? It turned out that those four overs produced those answers and much more besides, as Doug Danks looked to support his son to that impressive milestone.
Plenty of singles meant the accumulation was steady, rather than spectacular, but A. Danks did indeed manage to cross the line for a memorable century that was warmly applauded by the Ramblas support on the sidelines.
Going into the final over, the hosts were still short of the psychologically important 250 barrier and things got turned up a notch by a stumping appeal that was turned down; the keeper having claimed the ball and D. Danks, accepting that the ball was now dead, inched out of his crease to be then accused of not being a gentleman as he didn’t walk. The umpire didn’t give it, so there was little recourse for the man behind the stumps who needed to be calmed down.
Gloriously, D. Danks – incidentally, the most gentlemanly of all to take the field – pulled the next ball for four and then, on the final delivery of the innings, stroke a beautiful straight six back over the bowler’s head to take the Ramblas to 253/4 from their 40 overs. Alex Danks leaving the field having compiled a great 103 from 118 balls, and Doug Danks leaving having left every Rambla grinning from ear to ear (and the visiting keeper with steam coming out of his ears…).
Another fine tea was consumed amid confusion at England’s decision not to enforce the follow-on at Old Trafford, before the teams returned to the arena.
Taking the ball for the first overs for the Ramblas were returning pair Fitch and Loughlin – the former bowling adroitly from the start and seeing one chance fall just short of the fielder at square leg, before sneaking one through dislodge the bails. One quickly became two for team and bowler, a strong drive caught well low down by P. Ford at mid off, as Fitch temporarily became the Ramblas joint-top wicket taker for the season, with 12.
From the other end, Loughlin recovered from a shaky start – by his high standards, at least – to torment the batsmen once more; getting his reward with one that shattered the stumps having been a candidate for a plumb LBW shout if it hadn’t have made it all the way through.
Opting to rotate his bowling options, S. Ford brought himself and D. Danks on. The captain quickly aborted last week’s attempts at leg spin to return to his more tried and tested seam-up technique, which brought its reward as he bowled the opposing keeper, just as he was looking to up the ante. S. Ford doubled his own tally as he snaffled the big-hitting Hammond courtesy of a splendid catch high and on the run by Fitch at mid-off.
With five down and the score on 75, the Ramblas knew they were in the driving seat, but with wickets and overs in hand, The Grove could still not be totally written off. Behind the stumps, Hackett was showing no signs of being the novice wicketkeeper he claimed to be, producing some fine takes.
Mixing things up again, Thomas came on and was no-balled off the first delivery, for not having declared his action to the (gr)umpire; it was certainly a first for the Ramblas! While not being as clinical as recent weeks, he managed to claim two wickets, mixing it up with slower balls – the first looping up to be caught by A. Danks at slip, the second caught by P. Ford at mid-off. Those two scalps took him briefly to the top of the Ramblas wicket-taking charts for the season.
Fitch returned to finish his allocation and was again on the money, while T. Danks got in amongst the wickets with a quicker ball that sent the timber flying. That left it to Loughlin to mop up the tail off a shortened run up, bowling his last two victims to maintain his place as the Ramblas’ top wicket taker as The Grove were all out for 146, meaning a comprehensive 107-run victory for the Ramblas.
The game was played in a slightly strange, spiky atmosphere, but that shouldn’t take the sheen off a great Ramblas performance. The batting efforts really were magnificent and although the bowling and fielding was a little flat at times, there was still more than enough to clinch victory.
Ramblas MVP: As tempting as it was to give it to Doug Danks just for that glorious six, it really must go to Alex Danks this week. He’s been unlucky not to have gotten this in recent games (something of a bowlers’ union feel to the MVPs of late…), but AD was imperious with the bat, striking beautifully and running well without giving a whiff of an opportunity to the bowlers. What a century it was.