After an excellent performance in the season opener, the Ramblas were ready for their first home game of the season. However, there were headaches aplenty for new skipper Michael Cooper, who had to not only contend with five first teamers being unavailable for selection, but also trying to find new opposition as intended visitors Locksbottom had got the date wrong in their diary.
Luckily for the Ramblas, Bardhill CC stepped up to the plate and a fixture was confirmed. And even more fortunate for the Ramblas was that the visitors were equally strapped for players. With each side only having nine players (a massive thanks goes to Jeff Brown and Howard Hardy-King for helping us to get a side out), the captains agreed on a 30-over match, if only to save people’s legs in the field.
Cooper broke the captain’s curse and won the toss, electing to bowl first. In the absence of Steve Fitch, Doug Danks was tasked with opening the bowling with Mark Loughlin and both looked in excellent form. Loughlin made the breakthrough in his second over as opener Welsh chopped onto his own stumps attempting a misguided cut shot.
His partner in crime then got in on the action in the tenth over with a superb caught and bowled to dismiss L. Benwell. The batsman drilled the ball down the ground and Danks flew off his feet to pluck the ball out of the air above his head. Danks finished a fine six-over spell with figures of 1-13.
Geoff Parrett and Hardy-King replaced Loughlin and Danks respectively and while Hardy-King was slightly erratic, the left-arm paceman certainly asked the batsmen plenty of questions. Parrett, meanwhile, was bowling beautifully, claiming two wickets in one over.
His first victim was the opener Patterson, done by the flight and turn to see his off stump dismantled. The next wicket came from a loose shot by Slonina that was easily caught by Loughlin at mid-wicket.
However, with Ramdath and Colloff at the crease, Bardhill recovered from 34-4 and were picking the gaps in the field with increasing ease.
Due to a lack of bowlers, Cooper was forced to turn to both himself and Jonny Stocks to make up the overs. And the move proved inspired as the pair made key breakthroughs. Stocks got the important wicket of danger man Ramdath thanks to a sharp stumping by Alex Danks, the Bardhill batsman departing for a powerful 55.
The following over saw Cooper get his first wicket in several years. Tempting the batsman with a full toss, Colloff went for the big hit but could only pick out Stocks at deep square leg for 48. Shortly after, Stocks claimed his second wicket in the 28th over thanks to a sharp catch by Jeff Brown at point.
After a wobbly start, Bardhill finished their 30 overs on 188-7, meaning the Ramblas had to go at just over a run a ball to claim the win.
With reduced numbers in the line ups, there was even more tea on offer for the players than usual and they were more than up to the challenge. And with everyone well fed, eyes turned towards the run chase.
Following on from the excellent, if slightly one-sided, partnership last week, Ash Harriss and A. Danks opened the batting for the hosts. Both were keen to build a strong platform for the run chase while being conscious that, with only nine players, wickets were at a premium.
Harriss put his struggles of the previous week aside and looked his old, destructive self, dispatching opening bowler Gibbon for 17 in one over and taking him out of the attack.
A. Danks was picking up where he left off last week and aside from offering a simple catch to square leg that was dropped, looked in imperious form. Any bad ball was dispatched to the boundary as the partnership gained steam.
Despite the best efforts of the visitors, the runs continued to pile up and the race was on to see who could reach their fifty first. Harriss was the man to claim that particular victory, reaching the milestone off 30 balls with a scampered single.
The crowd did not have to wait long to see A. Danks chalk up his fifth Ramblas half-century, a nonchalant driven down the ground for four bringing up the landmark. And, after 11 overs, the Ramblas were 115 without loss with victory almost inevitable.
A. Danks and Harriss continued to pile on the runs as the run rate stayed at an almost constant 10 an over. The only hiccup occurred when Harriss fell awkwardly running between the wickets, injuring his shoulder. An early drinks break was called as he sought treatment/had a fag.
After the injury, Harriss toned down the big hitting in favour of rotating the strike and ticking off the runs in singles. Danks took on the mantle of the aggressor in the partnership, smiting the bowlers for boundaries galore as the Ramblas raced towards to finishing line.
Victory was brought up with the second ball of the twentieth over as Harriss creamed the ball to deep midwicket. It was one of the most destructive pieces of batting ever witnessed at the Ramblas, with Harriss finishing on 93 off 63 balls and Danks with 89 of 51. The pair put on 191 with 25 fours and six maximums between them.
Despite the difficulties of only having nine players, the Ramblas showed their resolve as they claimed their first victory of the season. They can now head to Pluckley next week full of confidence, and – perhaps – even with 11 players…
Ramblas MVP: Honourable mentions to Doug Danks for his 1-13 off of six overs, as well as his majestic caught and bowled and to Johnny Stocks for his excellent bowling at the death. But in a record-breaking partnership of 191, there can only be two winners, Alex Danks and Ash Harriss.
Captain Cooper with his tankard to commemorate his 100th appearance.