Kent Ramblas in Exmouth

Having ended their (ir)regular season with a record nine wins to come out with a 50% success rate, the Kent Ramblas left the bright lights of West Wickham to head off on an exotic tour. Sorry, an Exmouth tour…

With board members Michael Cooper, Geoff Parrett, Jonny Stocks and Laurie Stocks developing their contacts on a Barmy Army tour to South Africa, the 13 Ramblas headed to delightful Devon to play Budleigh Salterton and Lympstone. Alas, in true Ramblas style (and somewhat reminiscent of their previous tour), the second game was in jeopardy a week out due to the lack of a pitch (not something the Ramblas bowlers always use, to be fair…) and it eventually became a non-starter.

However, the Ramblas are a resourceful and resolute bunch, so the Thursday evening saw an impromptu display of their cricketing skills on the beach…

Getting in some catching practice
Getting in some catching practice

With four of their number still to arrive, it was time for the Ramblas to get started on the drinking. This, after all, is the moral of their story…

Some stomach-lining grub and checking-in shenanigans were comfortably completed and it was then onto the delights of Exmouth’s nightlife. The memo that some of south-east London and Kent’s finest athletes were in town must not have reached the town’s masses, as ravenous seagulls outnumbered punters almost three to one. Talking of ravenous, once Lucy B heard there was a chance of spotting some marines at Fever, the local nightclub, there was no containing her excitement.

Thursday nights, the Ramblas learned, are not the most exciting, with Fever only likely to live up to its name by catching some disease from the plastic glasses. Still, drinks were had, laughs were shared and, by virtue of his name being picked out of a hat, Geoff Parrett was nominated as captain for the game against Budleigh Salterton on a successful first night.

With excitement brewing on the first morning, the Ramblas achieved an expectation-busting 92% attendance record at breakfast, with only Skipper Stocks letting the side down as he opted to get some rest ahead of the day’s game. Numbers at breakfast would not maintain such lofty heights, however.

In anticipation of the afternoon game, some short cricket on the promenade masqueraded as pre-match warming up for the Ramblas, before cabs were taken to the rarefied surroundings of Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club.

IMG_2529

Being so close to the coast, the sharp breeze ensured there’d be no standing around, with skipper-for-the-day Parrett winning the toss and opting to bowl against a team full of hardened cricketers (and, as we found out later, hardened drinkers).

In a sure sign that with great power comes great responsibility, Parrett chose himself to open the bowling and a chastening first over left him scratching his head and wondering if it was really worth all the glamour that comes with being the Ramblas captain.

However, from the other end, Mark Loughlin recovered from a shaky start to crash a quicker one into the opener’s stumps to ensure the hosts’ early progress was kept in check. That breakthrough livened up a weary-looking rabble of Ramblas and certainly inspired Parrett and Cooper, who combined fantastically to claim the next wicket; the left-handed batsman swiping a fierce hook off Parrett’s bowling towards square leg where Cooper took a belting catch that probably prevented him getting the ball square in the face.

That put a spring in the captain’s step and Parrett claimed his second wicket with a peach of a delivery that cut back in off the surface to dislodge the bails. After a rapid first couple of overs, the hosts were now 42-3 and faced with a Ramblas team with their collective tail up.

Showing that he was indeed a team player, Parrett replaced himself with Chris Thomas. It was certainly a big pair of shoes to fill and the mixed platter the new bowler served up suggested they were too big. However, with Ian Dacre taking over from Loughlin at the Pavilion End, the new pair began to find their feet. Alas, Dacre decided not to make use of the pitch and saw one delivery slip out on the full and into the face of the well-set batsman. Thankfully, there were no lasting effects, but as a precaution the batsman was sent to get checked out on the sidelines… and it at least provided a modicum of respite for the ragged Ramblas.

Some choice fielding – in the face of some fiercely hit shots, it has to be said – saw the Ramblas usually high fielding standards drop, but where there’s a Rambla, there’s usually a laugh not far away and one of many was produced when a double relay involving two shouts of “Go halfway!” for Dacre and J. Stocks saw the ball – eventually – reach the wicketkeeper.

Back to the serious business of taking wickets, the Ramblas contrived to take one in farcical means, with Thomas throwing down some leg-side dirt which the batsman tried to sweep but somehow pirouetted and found himself out hit wicket. Still, they all count…

From the other end, Dacre snaffled a wicket of his own, as an ugly swipe elicited a top edge that was caught – at the second attempt – by a back-tracking Peter Ford at slip.

Although the previously injured batsman returned, he was joined by some pretty ominous looking clouds, and time was called temporarily as the covers came on.

Nothing to see here
Nothing to see here

With the rain getting heavier, the captains agreed to reduce the game from 40 overs to 30 and after around a 30-minute break, the teams returned as they sought the requisite wickets and runs that would give them the edge at the halfway stage.

Coming into the attack were Chris Hackett and Steve Fitch, the former consistently asking the batsman to play (by any chance…) and seeing a catch put down at square-leg, while Fitch got in on the act courtesy of a good take on the run by Thomas from the Cow Corner boundary. However, that momentum was halted by the appearance of more clouds and as the rain came tumbling down, the hosts declared on 220 and a truly splendid tea was devoured in the comfort of the clubhouse.

Tucking in
Tucking in

Despite the bountiful tea and shelter on offer in the clubhouse, the sides managed to rouse themselves to return to action, as Tom Danks and Ford made their way out to the middle to lead the Ramblas’ reply.

Having witnessed the hosts’ batting efforts, the touring side were confident they’d face equally impressive bowling – and that was indeed the case, with the openers having to be ever-watchful against a good line and length. That thing of beauty, a Ford cover-drive, relieved some of the pressure, before the batter’s natural attacking game brought about his demise as he was bowled.

That brought in Cooper who let T. Danks do most of the talking with his bat, as the opener got up and running. The new batsman, however, was looking in good nick, shaping some fine drives, but only managing to pick out the fielders. A change in the attack brought with it more pace and a wicked delivery caught the edge of Cooper’s bat to be well snaffled at second slip, who deserved more than the solitary run he returned to the sidelines with.

Club captain Stocks was next in and he looked busy, getting off the mark early and supporting T. Danks as some of the more, ahem, interesting bowling came into the attack. While Danks was beginning to look at home against such esteemed opposition and form a partnership that could drag the Ramblas back into contention, another wicked delivery elicited an edge that was taken smartly down low in the slips. Not much you can do about that, Skip…

Making it a family affair, Alex Danks joined brother Tom in taking the fight to Budleigh, and quickly pushed through for ones and twos to keep the scorers busy with their fancy new toy – an electrical scoreboard. Exciting times, for sure.

The pair’s partnership took the visitors towards 100, with T. Danks notching up a fantastic half-century in the face of some top-rate bowling. Alas, it was 50 and out, with the batsman seeing his stumps flayed the very next ball. Still, it was a fine knock and one that helped the Ramblas grab a pinch of respectability.

Fitch, moved up the order having only bowled two overs, looked to dig in and support the well-set A. Danks, with the latter continuing to pierce the in-field and take the Ramblas ever closer to the collective century mark. However, a flurry of wickets – and runs – made for a frantic last 10 overs.

First, A. Danks departed after another good knock, before Parrett came and went for a quick-fire 10 and Fitch followed suit for a not-as-quick duck. That made it a case of Chris Squared at the crease, with Messrs Hackett and Thomas looking to help get the Ramblas over the psychologically important 120 mark; no-one likes to be left nursing a triple-digit defeat, after all.

Hackett struck some fine shots, including a lovely straightish four on the on-side, before lashing out at one and getting caught. At the other end, Thomas was in decent nick, with a dab to third man for four giving him the confidence to charge down the pitch to the bowler… who didn’t appreciate it and mixed up his length with a short ball that whizzed past at chest height with the batsman getting a nick off the gloves for four. Waiting back on the next ball and seeing it off, Thomas charged again, this time the bowler dropping his length even further and hitting the batsman on the shoulder. Four byes, though, made it worthwhile.

With Loughlin at the other end, a partnership was beginning to take shape, as the Ramblas reached 120. Shortly after, on 10, Loughlin became the second batsman of the day to depart hit wicket and, with Dacre lasting three balls and dicing with death on the first two before succumbing on the last one, the Ramblas ended up all out for 126.

The effects of a long day (and night) contributed to some sloppiness on the field, while the hosts’ clear superiority with bat and ball always meant it was going to be a tough task. However, Tom and Alex Danks were stand-outs with the bat, while Geoff Parrett and Mark Loughlin did similarly well with the ball.

After all that, though it was time for a drink with our hosts…

Pink parade
Pink parade
Ramblas Tour 2016 XI
Ramblas Tour 2016 XI

Having sunk a few post-match beers, it was back to the hotel to freshen up and then hit the town. While some of the party opted for a fancy dinner and a gallon of red wine, others headed to Exmouth town centre, sampling many a drink on a pub crawl that ended up with some of the fiercest concentration seen over the weekend.

... he missed
… he missed

Despite plenty of beers being sunk, no-one managed to end up in a state as bad as this guy we found upon our return to the hotel. He was gone by morning, though…

Big night, fella?
Big night, fella?

With a free day to sample the Devonshire delights, the Ramblas divided up; some enjoying a round of golf before the rain came down, others enduring two frames of ludicrous 10-pin bowling and a final sub-sect seeking salvation in one of Exmouth’s many watering holes.

From there, it was a case of staying dry and wetting the whistle as mammoth games of pool and darts were undertaken to stave off the disappointment of not being able to pull on the famous Ramblas whites again. And, in the case of some, there was genuine glee about a recent clothing purchase:

Pullover pride from Jonny Stocks
Pullover pride from Jonny Stocks

From there, the night was a mixture of mind-boggling sports and geography trivia busting, drinks downing and bumping into new friends…

Captain Parrett makes friends with the opposition
Captain Parrett makes friends with the opposition

…and following mysterious directions…

Any idea what's down here?
Any idea what’s down here?

With that – and a miserly 60% appearance rate at breakfast – the sun set on another successful Kent Ramblas tour.

Sunset on Exmouth beach (credit: J. Stocks)
Sunset on Exmouth beach (credit: J. Stocks)

Thanks for the memories, Exmouth, it’s been emotional. We won’t forget you, and hopefully, you won’t forget us…

Yeah, we were.
Yeah, we were.
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