On a high from a four-match winning streak, the Ramblas were brought back down to earth with news of a selection crisis ahead of their match with neighbours Wickham Park. With 10 regulars unavailable due to injuries or holidays, Jonny Stocks and skipper-for-the-day Alex Danks somehow managed to cobble together a rag tag bunch of misfits, invoking memories of a similar team that first turned out for the Ramblas six years ago.
Making his long awaited return to the Ramblas fold was Drew Smith, who along with the returning Ash Harriss and Jon Loughlin and debutants Martin Bleaken, Mike Yeovart and Joe Stevens helped bring the Ramblas up to nine players. Luckily, Wickham Park were also reduced to nine men so it was a level playing field.
A. Danks won the toss and opted to field first, opening the bowling with the experienced Mark Loughlin and the rookie Bleaken. The new boy took some time to find his feet but, a few loose balls aside, bowled well and was unlucky not to pick up an early wicket. M. Loughlin however was dangerous as ever, with his first 17 deliveries all dot balls. With his eighteenth delivery, M.Loughlin struck, as skipper Dave Smith edged one to ‘keeper Jon Loughlin for seven.
After eight overs, A. Danks rung the changes, replacing M. Loughlin with Stevens and Bleaken with Doug Danks. Both bowlers were cramping the batsmen for room and D. Danks made the breakthrough in his first over as a wild swing of the bat from Raja (six) could only find the top edge of the bat, and Stevens took a smart diving catch at deep first slip. Stevens got in on the wicket-taking action the very next over when opener Palanisamy drove the ball straight into the waiting mitts of Harriss at cover for 13.
With Stevens keeping it tight at one end, D. Danks was back to his brilliant best and deservedly got his second wicket of the day. A flighted ball denied Shabir the room he needed to play his shot, and he chipped the ball back to the bowler who took a simple catch. Whilst Dinesh was keeping the runs ticking over for Wickham Park, D. Danks was sending more batsmen back to the hutch. Raghu was the third victim, attempting to whack the ball out of the park, only to see the ball caught by Harriss at the cow corner boundary. The bowler’s fourth wicket came thanks to a fantastic diving catch from Bleaken at backward point that saw Sami dismissed for a duck.
Wickham Park had fallen to 66-6 by the drinks break, but they weren’t giving up without a fight. Smith and Harriss replaced D. Danks and Stevens and despite some good balls, any loose deliveries were pounced upon by Dinesh and Prabha. The gaps in the field were starting to tell as boundaries were coming thick and fast. A couple of dropped catches increased the pressure on the Ramblas as Dinesh reached his well-earned half-century.
A. Danks brought M. Loughlin and Bleaken back on in an attempt to pick up the last two wickets and restrict the hosts to a chaseable target. M. Loughlin made the breakthrough, clean bowling Dinesh for 57. Sadly that was as good as it got for the last 10 overs as both Bleaken and A. Danks were spanked to all parts by Prabha and Elanga. Good and bad balls were dispatched with equal disregard by the batsmen and when A. Danks goes for nearly 12 an over, you know things aren’t going to plan! At the end of the 40 overs, Wickham Park had recovered handsomely to finish on 212-7.
A tough task ahead
After enjoying a sumptuous tea from the hosts, all eyes turned to the difficult task ahead. Harriss opened the batting with Yeovart and the former didn’t take long to find the boundary. Yeovart was being suitably watchful in support of his more experienced batting partner. Sadly, after three delightful boundaries, a full toss did for Harriss, clean bowled by Prabha for 12. A. Danks came to the crease earlier than he’d have liked, but a glorious cover drive for four off the first ball he faced certainly settled the nerves.
Sadly, one wicket became two as Yeovart’s stay at the crease was shortlived; caught at square leg for a duck off the bowling of Prabha as he attempted to pull a full toss. A. Danks fell the next over, clean bowled by a good delivery from Elanga for five runs. Jon Loughlin came in at four but could only manage three runs before being bowled by a peach of a delivery by Shabir. The away team now found themselves 22-4 and in a whole heap of trouble.
New batsmen M. Loughlin and Smith’s first task was to take the Ramblas past 35 (the side’s lowest ever score) and kick on from there. Thankfully, with a combination of watchful batting and much needed boundaries, the pair put on an important 24-run partnership before M. Loughlin top edged one high and into the keeper’s gloves for 11. Smith departed just three runs later, going for one big shot too many and being caught at deep mid-wicket for 10.
D. Danks and Bleaken were the next pair in, with Bleaken taking inspiration from Inzamam-Ul-Haq (in batting style rather the physique, it must be said), eschewing singles and dealing only in boundaries. His partner was slightly more watchful and the duo saw the Ramblas safely to drinks on 72-6.
After drinks, Bleaken and D. Danks were in no mood to hang about and decided to up the ante. Bleaken was still finding the boundary rope at regular intervals and D. Danks was running some sharp singles, continuing his fine form with the bat this season. Alas, all good things must come to an end and D. Danks was the next man to go, trapped LBW by Khartik for 17. The pair put on a fantastic 49-run partnership and made the scorecard look all the more respectable.
Stevens then joined Bleaken at the crease, smiting his first delivery for a boundary. The pair took the Ramblas past the century mark before Bleaken was bowled by Dinesh for an excellent, and hard fought 23. The Ramblas were all out for 104 and the winning streak was at an end. The scorecard for another fine contest between these two neighbours, can be found on Play Cricket.
Whilst the size of the defeat may look big on paper, it was still a truly magnificent effort from everyone involved. From A. Danks stepping up to lead the side and old faces J. Loughlin, Harriss and Smith pulling on the whites, to Messrs Bleaken, Stevens and Yeovart not letting a little thing like a lack of cricket experience get in the way of helping the Ramblas in their hour of need. It summed up everything good about being a Rambla.
Ramblas MVP: A shout out to Martin Bleaken for his big lower order hitting and Joe Stevens for his impressive figures of 1-24, but a seasoned Ramblas vet gets the nod this week. For his sparkling bowling figures of 4-24 and impressive cameo with the bat, this week’s MVP is Doug Danks.