NEWSFLASH: Cricketers disappearing at alarming rate in Bromley area. Public urged to stay as alert as a Test-level umpire.
Yes, that’s right folks, another week brings with it another spell of desperate player-wrangling to be endured by Kent Ramblas captain, Michael Cooper. However, the Auburn Assassin is a hardy soul and as resourceful as a Swiss Army Knife (though not always as sharp…) and, by hook or by crook, the Ramblas cobbled together a side – although they remained one shy of their full complement.
Coming in for their debuts were Dave Brewer and Ed Gibbs; each returning to the cricket pitch after quite a hiatus. Meanwhile, showing that once the Ramblas bug has bitten, it’s hard to shift from your system, Dave Green returned having made his bow in last week’s close-fought victory against Pluckley. Also gracing the green, green grass of home after missing the Pluckley game was the inimitable Geoff Parrett, displaying the kind of twinkle in a man’s eye that suggests he’s got something up his sleeve…
The familiar faces of Petts Wood ensured the all-too-familiar fate of a Ramblas captain losing the toss was maintained and elected to bat first, seemingly somewhat spooked by the batting prowess exhibited in the hosts’ last home game. That led to the now reassuring sight of Mark Loughlin and Doug Danks opening the bowling in the 35-over game.
The pair have been in imperious form with the new ball so far this season, with that showing no sign of abating as the combination of Loughlin’s searing pace with D. Danks’s guile stifled the Petts Wood batsmen. The former was out of luck in terms of wickets in his four-over burst from the off, but Deadly Doug continued his blistering start to the summer with a pair of wickets; the first a plumb LBW shout, the second a lovely bit of deception that led to the batsman playing around one.
Replacing Loughlin was the aforementioned Parrett, who overcame a stodgy first over to sporadically showcase his array of wicked top spinners and arm balls that bamboozled the batsmen more than once. Alas, as with his predecessor from the Tennis Courts End, a wicket remained elusive from his seven-over spell.
A smattering of tough chances went begging in the field, while the Petts Wood batsmen’s penchant for a cheeky single meant that a run-out was always a possibility, with Gibbs, Parrett, D. Danks and Chris Thomas all coming close
With D. Danks ending up on 2/14 from his seven overs, Thomas came into the attack looking markedly fresher than the previous week. Again, the batsmen were largely pinned down, as the fielders backed up their bowlers well, the Double Daves – Brewer and Green – showing no signs of their relative experience, the former particularly hurling himself about heroically as both made some vital stops. Thomas claimed a wicket with the last ball of his third over as the ball jagged into the back pad of the batsman. He doubled up with his next delivery, somehow nutmegging the new batsman to tickle the bails off. Alas, the coy “This is the hat-trick ball, isn’t it?” and subsequent field change didn’t bring with it the second ever Ramblas hat-trick.
In tandem with Thomas, new boy Gibbs blew away the cobwebs with some snarling deliveries that proved too hot for batsman and wicketkeeper alike. Despite an absence of almost two decades, Gibbs showed no signs of rustiness, leading more than one Petts Wood batsman to be thinking I Don’t Need This Pressure On. Some misfortune and difficulties caused by a temporary shower meant that return would be wicketless, but it was a fine spell nonetheless.
Finishing proceedings with the ball was Jonny Stocks, displaying a nice line and length to strengthen his cause as a genuine all-rounder, while Loughlin returned and grabbed the wicket his performance deserved, cleaning up the opposing skipper with the penultimate ball, as Petts Wood – helped by Extras as the second highest scorer – reached 146/5 in their 35 overs.
Another resplendent tea provided by the selfless trio of Ruth, Vanessa and James left both sides more than well-fed (who’s ever seen leftover pizza down at Ex-Blues?!), with the Ramblas – aware of the novices in their side – knowing a successful run chase was far from guaranteed.
Taking the fight first off were Alex Danks and Stocks, the pair starting steadily against the as-ever tidy Petts Wood bowling, before Stocks was caught near the deep cover boundary having nearly executed a lovely upper cut.
That brought in Green who, having showed some promise with the bat in his debut, was unable to make any headway. In true Ramblas style, that dismissal sparked something of a collapse, with the score going from 17/1 to 17/4 almost in the blink of an eye, as following Green to the pavilion were A. Danks, who was brilliantly caught behind, and Brewer who got a full and straight one that got the better of him.
With a relatively low total to chase, that smattering of wickets was still not terminal for the Ramblas’ chances, but some rebuilding was required for them to have a chance. Enter Cap’n Cooper and Loughlin who, in a chalk and cheese partnership, dragged the score to 56 with a mixture of good fortune, boundaries and smart singles before the former departed having helped his side stem the tide.
Joining Loughlin in the middle was Gibbs who, having impressed in the field, was also determined to make an impact with the bat. With the two closely matched in terms of speed, singles were turned into twos and the infield was pierced with regularity as the two put on 56 to double the score from when they were brought together. However, with hopes rising that they would be able to see the Ramblas home, Gibbs was bowled for an excellent 28, including a huge six for good measure. Still, with 38 balls remaining and 35 needed, the odds looked slightly in favour of the hosts… as long as Loughlin could stay in.
That dream was soon shattered, Loughlin falling LBW to the first ball of the next over for a fabulous 47 to leave the equation so simple that we didn’t even need Carol Vordermann to help out: 35 needed from 35. That numerical simplicity belied the true complexity of the situation, with two new batsmen in and only one – increasingly nervy – batsman to follow.
What wasn’t accounted for in any of that, though, were the fireworks to come from Parrett. As he and D. Danks stole a couple of sketchy singles, the Ramblas captain was becoming more edgy, urging his players to push on. What he didn’t know was that Parrett had it all planned out.
Having signalled his intent with one huge six, Parrett then did what he does second-best (demolishing all-you-can-eat buffets being the first…) and with 27 still needed going into the 32nd over and D. Danks facing, the pair ran through for a single and Parrett did the rest: 4, 6, 6, 6, 6. And, just like that, it was job done.
A remarkable 29 from the over saw the Ramblas home with three overs to spare, again coming out victors in another tight game.
Credit, as ever, goes to the resourcefulness of the visitors’ batsmen and the wiliness of their bowlers, but a sterling showing from the Ramblas’ bowling attack had set up a fine win that was finished off with aplomb by Geoff Parrett whose 35 from just 10 balls not only helped his season’s strike rate reach a barely believable 325, but also saw him become the sixth player to break the 1,000-run barrier for the Ramblas.
Ramblas MVP: The frankly stupendous innings from Geoff Parrett deserves highlighting once more, while the bowling efforts of Doug Danks again put the opposition in the mire early on. However, for anchoring the innings with two key partnerships (and snaffling a well-earned wicket to boot), this week we doff our cap to Mark Loughlin.