A change is as good as a rest, the old saying goes, and the latter – courtesy of holidays and other commitments – has meant plenty of the former for the Kent Ramblas and their personnel this season.
Miraculously, Lucy B has persuaded Cap’n Cooper to tour around Europe for a couple of weeks, leaving the returning Chris Thomas to step into the skipper’s shoes as the Ramblas headed to the delightful surrounds of Chipstead to take on Chevening Amblers.
Heading into the game, Thomas was expecting to have his numbers swelled by two new faces, with Richard Pleydell and mystery man ‘Stephen’ the latest to join the cause. Alas, the latter was nowhere to be seen and his whereabouts – nay, existence – remains a source of intrigue and much rumour among the cricketing fraternity of Kent.
Sticking to a theme, the more things change, the more they stay the same and never is that more true when it comes to Kent Ramblas captains and their luck at the toss. However, Thomas was glad to be put into the field by home captain Jonny Recaldin. With both teams shy of their full complement, the game – played in glorious sunshine – was set to be an even tussle; another in the annals of great contests between these two sides.
With Alex Danks off in Amsterdam to visit Anne Frank’s house, rent a bike and generally be all cultural (that’s what people do in Amsterdam, right..?), Mark Loughlin donned the ‘keeping pads and gloves to leave Steve Fitch and Doug Danks to open the bowling. While Fitch was a little inconsistent to begin with from the Pavilion End, his distinguished partner in crime was offering unerring accuracy from the other against the initially watchful Chevening openers.
Alas, disaster struck in the first over with Dave Brewer – gamely turning out despite still not fully fit – suffering a whack to the shoulder and flaring up his existing leg injury while chasing down a ball to the boundary. A little woozy and resolute in his determination to stay on the field, the Ramblas were effectively down to 9.5 men. Which, to be fair, is a few more than we’re used to when up at Chevening…
D. Danks eventually made the breakthrough courtesy of a sharp stumping, with Loughlin taking the scalp of the more adventurous of the two incumbent batsmen. Having already seen one nick off of Fitch’s bowling get grassed behind the stumps, thoughts momentarily turned back to events last week. Thankfully, the damage was nowhere near as bad, as he departed for 28.
Having been left shy of bowling options, Thomas took Fitch out of the attack to hold him back for later in the innings and brought on Ed Gibbs in his place, while D. Danks – who finished his spell with figures of 8-1-18-1 having well and truly put the squeeze on – was replaced by new boy Pleydell for a short burst before drinks.
The two new bowlers maintained the pressure as drinks were gratefully received and the game still delicately poised, with the hosts on 71-1. Having already seen some sterling chases in the field from Matt Rudgyard and Dave Green, as well as the patented CT slide in honour of the absent Cooper, the Ramblas were ensuring there were no easy rides for the batsmen.
Again with management of his bowling options at the forefront of his mind, Thomas withdrew Gibbs from the attack after four overs, beginning with himself and Jonny Stocks immediately after the mid-innings break. While ‘inspired’ is very much pushing it (there were very few alternatives at his disposal…), the change instigated the desired effect.
First, Stocks got the reward his first couple of overs deserved, bowling Recaldin for a stoic 28, before Thomas got in on the action with another clatter of stumps. That meant two new batsmen in, faced with two bowlers in a bit of form… and that form certainly continued for Stocks who had Loughlin to thank for another sharp stumping.
Not to be outdone, Thomas also claimed a second, with the big-hitting Isaac out hit wicket for a quick-fire 24. That fortuitous scalp was the sixth different mode of dismissal for the bowler this season and helped put the brakes on an initial late-innings surge.
Stocks’s continued good work meant the captain for the day didn’t have to squeeze any overs from elsewhere, the Ramblas’ former leader putting in a fine seven-over spell in which he claimed two vital wickets.
That left Gibbs and Fitch – the latter with a change of ends – to see the visitors through to the end. Gibbs had what looked a strong LBW shout turned down and soon had wicketkeeper Mark Loughlin flying through the air in a vain attempt to prevent a full toss race away for runs.
The change of ends seemed to do the trick for Fitch who claimed three wickets in his final over, bowling one and having another stumped, before Stocks claimed a catch off the final ball of the innings, leaving Chevening on 170/8 at the close.
Having poured so much of themselves into restricting the hosts, the Ramblas were delighted to be faced with a truly scrumptious tea. One that, dare we say, the missing Geoff Parrett will be sorry he was away for.
Despite the fact Brewer (for the second time in his last two appearances) was only available to bat if up to it, there was still cause for cautious optimism from the Ramblas that the chase was achievable as Stocks and Pleydell headed out as the sun began to sink.
There was a degree of mistiming early on from both, as they snatched at the ball rather than waited for it, but they soon began to find their rhythm. Stocks was happy for Pleydell to be the aggressor and the latter more than accepted that invitation with a fine six and some further fours helping the score race along above the required run rate.
Having notched up the 50 partnership, disaster struck as Pleydell headed off for a risky-looking single before being called back by Stocks. Alas, the new boy couldn’t make his ground in time and was run out for a 31-ball 32 that had given the Ramblas a solid base to build upon.
Rudgyard was in next – making his third appearance in as many weeks to prove that the Ramblas bug is truly infectious (that, or he’d had inside knowledge on the tea…) – and having hit one boundary was unlucky to see another crawl to a standstill in the outfield. He was unluckier still as he was caught for eight while going big to become Isaac’s first victim.
Green came in next and smited his second ball for a gigantic six that took some time (and effort) to find amongst the bushes. His stay was but a brief one, though, falling to one that cut in from Isaac. “Ooh dear, he was playing across the line there,” said Loughlin as he headed out… only to be out the very next ball courtesy of, you’ve guessed it, a horrible hoick across the line.
At drinks in the 21st over, the scoreboard could still be read with optimism for the Ramblas, but they couldn’t afford to lose too many wickets too soon…
With Gibbs joining Stocks – who looked to be playing a different game to his teammates – the tide had begun to turn a little towards the visitors, as both blocked the dangerous Isaac where necessary, but also ensured the runs were still accumulated.
The pair, though, couldn’t keep out the key man Isaac, with Gibbs going for a good 13 with the score on 84, before Stocks’s vigil came to an end for 25 to leave the Ramblas 94/6.
That left the bowlers to attempt a great escape, but only D. Danks could muster anything approaching a fight, with an assured 14 not out, with Fitch (caught behind) and Thomas (caught at mid-wicket) departing without troubling the scorers, as the Ramblas closed on 108/8.
As ever between the two sides, it was a cracking encounter and one the hosts edged thanks to a well-paced first innings and the exploits of Isaac with the ball. For the Ramblas, a lack of composure with the bat belied another sterling effort in the field across the board in searing heat.
Ramblas MVP: Doug Danks and Richard Pleydell can definitely be pleased with their day’s work, while Steve Fitch manfully handled the unenviable task with the ball at the end of the Chevening innings. But, having bowled so well and rightly claimed two wickets, then backing that up with an innings that attempted to anchor the Ramblas innings, Jonny Stocks gets the collective pat on the back this week.