Desperately scrambling around for players until the eleventh hour and driving hungover teammates as they contemplate throwing up into a carrier bag wasn’t the glamour that Michael Cooper signed up for when he was appointed captain. But, you’ve got to play with the cards you’re dealt and that was Cap’n Cooper’s hand as Kent Ramblas headed to Pluckley.
There were changes galore in the Ramblas line-up, with Dave Green making the jaunt from Putney to Pluckley and Tony Jimenez (no, not that one) popping up via Facebook to make their debuts and the familiar faces of Peter Ford, Sam Ford, Tom Danks and Chris Thomas returning to the side following last week’s resounding victory against Bardhill.
The hosts were experiencing similar issues with their side, forcing them to opt to bat first when they won the toss, in the hope that they could bat out some overs as the rest of their players drifted in.
Ramblas’ leading wicket-taker Mark Loughlin opened the bowling and was operating at a fair lick, as well as keeping the batsmen on their toes with some good variations. From the other end, Doug Danks, fresh from a Saturday four-fer, continued to weave his own brand of beard-powered magic.
Deadly Doug, as is becoming a habit, made the breakthrough as he captured the opener LBW in the eighth over before doubling his tally with one that deceived the new batsman as he played around one that crashed into the stumps. The Pluckley batsmen had taken their score to 50… and it stayed there for a few overs as the Ramblas made inroads.
S. Ford replaced Loughlin and was soon reaping the benefits of his new technique, claiming his first wicket courtesy of a sharp stumping by Alex Danks. The new batsman lasted just the one ball, scooping it up to Jonny Stocks at mid-off, before, in a Ramblas first, the chino-and-belt-adorned next man in managed to see off the hat-trick ball.
Meanwhile, D. Danks was maintaining a good line and length as he bowled his eight overs off the reel, claiming another wicket by bowling the smartest batsman in the south east and snaffling his fourth victim of the day as P. Ford endeavoured to make the easiest catch in the world look a lot more difficult than it needed to be.
In the midst of all this, some strange scenes even for a Ramblas game occurred as it was agreed that new boy Jimenez would switch sides, with the home team still struggling for numbers. This unconventional turn of events at least made the sides level at 10 apiece.
Tasked with replacing the mercurial D. Danks was the returning Thomas, who was contending with a mammoth-sized hangover as he looked to fill his teammate’s illustrious Doc Martin’s. Despite a few loose deliveries, the new bowler kept things uncharacteristically steady – barring one almighty six – and nabbed his first wicket of the season courtesy of a catch by T. Danks.
From the other end, P. Ford came into the attack and finished off proceedings, Loughlin and T. Danks providing the safe hands as the hosts closed on 140.
With the sun peeking through and a cracking tea to chow down on, it was turning into a fine day for the Ramblas. But they knew their experienced opponents would not be rolling over in the field and the chase – inkeeping with plenty of previous – was not guaranteed to be straightforward.
Leading the charge was a Danks double, with brothers Alex and Tom opening up for the Ramblas. As predicted, the hosts’ bowlers proved to be hard to get away; however, the pair started to pierce the infield and get the scoreboard ticking over.
Alas, with the score on 26, A. Danks became the first man to go as he was bowled. Three overs later, he was joined on the sidelines by his brother who was caught for 11.
That left Stocks and a slightly nervous new guy Green at the crease; the former was studious as he looked to steady the ship, while the latter displayed an interesting technique to avoid the ball before striking a gorgeous four. That proved to be as good as it got, though, with Green departing for a solid six on his first game of cricket for a decade or so.
Captain Cooper was next man in and, in unison with Stocks, battled some stingy bowling as the run rate dried up. However, the pair battled through to the 25th over for a 29-run partnership that saw the Ramblas at 68/4 as Cooper’s luck ran out to be caught at mid-wicket.
New man P. Ford’s stay was a blink-and-you-miss-it affair, departing without troubling the scorers to bring in Loughlin. A 17-run, Loughlin-dominated partnership came to an end with the all-rounder caught and bowled, while Stocks lasted just a couple more balls before being bowled.
The score was now on 85, leaving the Ramblas just over 10 overs to chalk off the remaining 56 runs required for victory. Given there were just two wickets remaining, but one in the shape of S. Ford, the visitors knew it could still go either way.
S. Ford’s game management came to the fore, going big when he could and consolidating where necessary as the pair combined to ease the Ramblas close to their target. Their cause was aided by the home bowlers falling by the wayside due to injury and a case of the yips, with D. Danks watchful in defence, yet still willing – and able – to puncture the ring of fielders on the off-side with the odd pressure-releasing boundary.
While last man Thomas started to get a bit of a squeaky bum (insert own gag…), the nerves never seemingly permeated the incumbent batsmen as they surpassed their target thanks to a final, fine four in S. Ford’s match-winning knock of 31. His partner, having bowled so beautifully, ending 16 not out as the Ramblas claimed a cracking win in a closely-fought contest.
Given the way the bowlers and fielders performed, the batsmen knew they had a hard act to follow, but across the board there were contributions in each discipline, with a fine 56-run partnership to see the Ramblas over the line.
Next week it’s back to HQ against familiar foes in the shape of Petts Wood.
Ramblas MVP: I know my esteemed colleague did the lesser-spotted/cop out (delete as appropriate) double award last week, but I’m following suit as there’s so little to pick between the two and their integral contributions this week. Yes, Doug Danks and Sam Ford share the spoils as both bowled brilliantly and shared the match-clinching partnership of a game that went to the wire.