Having last week seen their five-match winning sequence ended away to neighbours Wickham Park with a patchwork side, this week saw the Kent Ramblas head to the rarefied surrounds of Bickley Park to take on a side they’d yet to get the better of in three previous encounters.
Back in as stand-in skipper, Sam Ford again won the toss and opted to bowl, with Geoff Parrett, Rich Ford and Chris Thomas returning to the fold, Joe Stevens making his second appearance after a fine debut against Wickham Park and debutants Sam Harvey and Matt Rozey completing a – rare – full XI for a game reduced to 36 overs.
In glorious sunshine, new boy Harvey took the cherry in tandem with Thomas; the former overcoming a loose start to find some nice line and length and showing no signs of it being his first competitive (that term being used loosely with regards to the Ramblas, of course…) showing with the ball. At the other end, Thomas was getting some decent swing outside off, as the pair kept things fairly tight in the opening stages.
That promising start deserved a breakthrough and it duly came as Harvey bowled the opener with one that jagged in. Come the tenth over, the hosts had started to find the boundary and were going at five an over as Thomas snared the other opener with one that elicited a genuine edge to be caught at slip by the ever-reliable Ash Harriss.
With Harvey being given a rest after his fourth over, Thomas bowled his set of seven off the reel to finish with 1-26. Replacing Harvey, Stevens came on and bowled with lovely shape, finding increasing rhythm with every delivery and getting a deserved wicket with a catch that looped up to Mark Loughlin at point.
As drinks were gratefully imbibed at the 17th over, the hosts had gotten themselves to 82/3 – some fine work in the field by the Ramblas ensuring Bickley Park were kept under pressure.
The visitors then turned to their tandem tweakers, with Parrett and ‘Deadly’ Doug Danks strangling things even further; the latter slightly looser but in among the wickets courtesy of another smart catch by Loughlin, while Parrett belied the fact he’d been out of action for a few weeks to bowl intelligently with the odd change-up that proved difficult to get away and left the hosts on 126/4 with 10 overs to go; the target for the Ramblas now to restrict them to below 200 on what was a true track.
Seeking to get another breakthrough, S. Ford recalled Harvey to the attack, and he duly delivered with the scalp of the big-hitting all-rounder, caught by his captain at mid-off. Completing his set with figures of 2-38, Harvey could be more than content with his afternoon’s work.
R. Ford and Loughlin were then brought into the attack; the former bowling well for little reward, as the Ramblas sniffed blood. Loughlin – despite a splitting headache – then, as he so often does, delivered what would be a killer blow, getting the well-placed Brewer LBW in a three-over spell that showed him at his best.
Finishing things up from the other end, Harriss claimed two wickets himself – the first victim bowled by one that nipped through the gate, the second caught in the covers by R. Ford to see the hosts finish on 187/8.
After a tea that was given the Parrett seal of approval (no higher accolade…), the Ramblas readied themselves for a chase that looked eminently gettable, with Alex Danks – who had again been superb behind the stumps – and the Ramblas other new face Rozey leading the charge.
The pair began watchful against some sharp bowling, knowing that the required run rate sitting five meant they didn’t have to go hell for leather from the off – pushing for singles where possible and enjoying the luxury of the odd extra to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Having seen off the opening bowlers, A. Danks and Rozey then upped the ante – and the run rate – with boundaries and sharp running. Rozey had obviously rubbed his lucky rabbit’s foot in the morning, as he survived a couple of dropped catches, as he and his partner guided the Ramblas to 104 without loss at drinks.
A big 18th over signalled intent from the batters, before Rozey departed for a fine 40 from 45 balls to bring in S. Ford in the next over. The captain struck a fine drive over the covers first ball, but departed two deliveries later as he misread a full toss.
With 61 need from 15 overs and only two wickets down, the Ramblas were sitting pretty… Surely?
Next man in was Harriss, who ran well with A. Danks who notched up another half century in what is turning out to be a fine season with the bat. The pair were picking the gaps well and accelerated things to leave the Ramblas on the cusp before Harriss holed out for a fabulous 29-ball, 32-run cameo with just four runs remaining for victory.
R. Ford and A. Danks then steered the good ship Ramblas to the finishing line to seal a well-deserved, and immaculately executed seven-wicket victory – the scorecard for which can be found here.
This victory over a tough opponent who had yet to be beaten signalled a Ramblas record, as it sealed the eighth win of the season and was the result of a fine all-round performance; with bowlers delivering consistently and being well backed up by their field to restrict the hosts to a chaseable target on a good pitch that was dismissed with relative ease by the top order.
Ramblas MVP: This really was a team performance, with bowlers Sam Harvey, Geoff Parrett, Joe Stevens and Chris Thomas particularly good with the ball, while Matt Rozey and Alex Danks were the driving force behind the batting effort that sealed a comfortable victory – the latter also in sparkling form behind the stumps. However, for two wickets, excellent work in the field and an accelerated innings that ensured the loss of a couple of wickets didn’t do irreparable damage to the chase, this week’s nod goes to Ash Harriss.