Having suffered back-to-back defeats on the road, the intrepid and indefatigable Kent Ramblas returned to the home comforts of West Wickham to take on Sherwood.
Welcoming back Doug Danks and Sam Ford, Cap’n Cooper was hit by an unfortunate last-minute withdrawal to leave the hosts facing off with 10 men. With memories flooding back from last year’s meeting between the two, as well as the fact they’re becoming more than accustomed to playing without their full quota, the Ramblas were still feeling confident as they went out to bat.
Opening the batting were Alex Danks and Cooper, the pair playing watchfully and nudging the scorecard along as the pitch proved to have a few demons. A couple of fruitful overs lifted the Ramblas’ run rate towards respectability, as both openers drove well to the boundary before, for the second successive week, the hosts’ esteemed leader got the rub o’ the green as the ball dribbled onto the stumps but somehow failed to dislodge the bails.
Alas, that lifeline only preceded a somewhat stodgy period of play, with A. Danks bowled for 11 and new man Ford and Cooper unable to make any real headway; streams of dot ball after dot ball were broken by a boundary apiece and the odd single, before the skipper departed for 10 – another start suggesting a score is just around the corner.
The newest full-time Rambla, Dave Brewer, was in next, with everyone willing him to steal a run to open his account for the club. However, a scratchy single wasn’t going to do for the big man, who thumped a gorgeous drive back down the ground for four to much delight from the sidelines. Unfortunately, he was unable to add to his tally, with the Ramblas drifting to 49/3 in the 18th over.
Tasked with rebuilding the innings were Ford and Mark Loughlin, the former performing the doughty role of anchor, while the latter set about the bowlers with some lusty blows. Having seen a gimme of a chance go down, the pair continued to work the gaps where they could, but a combination of stingy bowling and a lifeless pitch meant the game was still on a knife-edge.
With their partnership, the over-by-over text updates from Lucy Brewer began to offer more hope to the worldwide Ramblas web before Loughlin was unfortunately out to a delivery that clipped his pad and went onto the stumps. Still, it was a fantastic 32-ball 34 and the 64-run partnership had lifted the Ramblas back in with a chance of posting a challenging total.
Those hopes took something of a dent in the space of a few overs, though, with Ed Gibbs and Geoff Parrett both returning to the hutch without making the scorer work, before D. Danks and Ford wrangled some boundaries to show there was still some life left in the Ramblas. That was as good as it got for them, though, the pair departing in the same over; a quick-fire 12 from D. Danks and an excellent 47 from Ford leaving the score on 140/8 with Steve Fitch and Chris Thomas in situ for the seven and a bit overs left in the innings.
Fitch was busy and Thomas streaky as they sought to hang around for as long as they could, knowing every run would help pose a tricky-looking target. They only managed to put on 11 for that last wicket (Thomas adding to the collection of ‘bowled’ dismissals), but could those eked out runs prove vital come the climax?
With the Ramblas all out for 151, it was to the clubhouse and another glorious spread – complete with a dairy-tastic cake from Lucy B – to be devoured by both sides. Once again, Mrs C (ever the professional and not caught out by the premature ending of the innings) delivered a tea that underlined why teams are always happy to head down to Ex-Blues.
Fully refreshed and raring to go, Cap’n Cooper turned to Thomas and D. Danks to get things going for the Ramblas in the field. After last week’s array of hangover-induced lethargy in the field, the hosts knew they couldn’t afford to be so casual in the field given the fairly low total they had to defend.
As the sun beamed down (something that was only going to push the game in the visitors’ favour), the opening pair found their rhythm from the off; Thomas looked to have the left-handed opener’s number, seeing two presentable chances missed and the batsman narrowly avoiding chopping onto his stumps, while D. Danks, also on the end of some fielding mishaps, was sending down his wily twirlers to help build pressure early on in the innings.
A tight four-over spell from Thomas was followed by Parrett from the Tennis Courts End and he was immediately in the game, dismissing the left-hander thanks to a cracking catch high to his left by Fitch. At 28/1 in the ninth over, and with the other Sherwood opener looking in fine nick, the game was still delicately poised.
The game’s pendulum then began to swing in the favour of the visitors, with both batsmen hitting maximums to complement a steady flow of runs as drinks approached.
Having bowled well without reward, D. Danks finished his eight-over spell with a wicket that was well deserved, clattering the stumps with one that jagged in. Two soon became three, as the Ramblas claimed the key wicket of the big-hitting opener, Thomas pouching one high to his right on the move at mid-off off the bowling of Parrett.
After a slightly muted spell, the Ramblas’ collective pecker was up now and they headed to drinks buoyed by the dual breakthrough, but also aware the odds were stacked against them with Sherwood on 85/3. With 67 needed from the remaining 20 overs, on a pitch that was only getting truer, the Ramblas would need to dig deep in their well of resolve to win this one.
Replacing D. Danks from the Gardens End was Fitch, who offered up a steady line and length, claiming his first wicket thanks to a smart take by Loughlin at mid-off and then getting his second with one that tickled the bails off.
Despite those victims, the picture was still not looking totally rosy for the Ramblas, with the visitors requiring 40 from 12 overs with five wickets remaining. But, it’s not over until Adele starts singing, as we know…
Having come on to replace Parrett, Gibbs was looking to join his bowling partner in keeping up the pressure, intent on making the batting side work for every run. That task was made all the harder by some excellent work in the field, with Brewer and Parrett putting in some strong blocks, while Cap’n Cooper almost had the catch of the season sewn up with a brilliant effort diving to his right at mid-wicket that just wouldn’t stick.
Gibbs then snaffled what is becoming his customary wicket thanks to another fine catch by Loughlin, before Fitch nabbed his third of the day courtesy of an unorthodox catch in his crotch by Parrett.
Having looked fairly dead and buried, suddenly the Ramblas were back in the mix. At 130/7, the visitors now looked there for the taking and Cooper showed no mercy as he brought on Loughlin… who promptly splayed the stumps with his first ball to see himself on a hat-trick having tidied up last week’s innings. Alas, another hat-trick wasn’t to be, but that wicket signalled an important psychological blow and the Ramblas were firmly in the ascendancy.
Calling back Thomas, albeit with a change of ends, Cooper hoped his bowler could keep up the pressure and he duly delivered. First, a lusty drive was caught well by Loughlin (for his third catch of the day) at mid-off and then the last wicket of a fascinating match was claimed bowled, leaving the Ramblas cheering a fabulous and hard-fought 16-run win.
It was a game full of ebb and flow, with the Ramblas – by hook or by crook – amassing a tricky total, before a strong start from Sherwood was curtailed by some excellent work in the field. The atmosphere and approach from both sides also helped contribute to an absorbing game of cricket.
Ramblas MVP: This was, in true Ramblas fashion, a classic all-round performance, with everyone contributing towards the win. From the batting of Sam Ford and Mark Loughlin through to the bowling of Geoff Parrett there were strong shouts this week, but for helping add valuable runs at the end of the innings, a fine catch and a fine spell that garnered three wickets, this week we give the nod to Mr Steve Fitch.