It sounds like something Sherlock Holmes might have fun trying to solve, but if a cricket team arranges three games yet those three games never take place… does that cricket team really exist?
That’s the question the Kent Ramblas were left contemplating as they had to find a last-minute replacement for their initially intended opponents (for the third time in an as many years). Thanks, though, to the hard work of Jonny Stocks, Royal Challengers CC were sourced, who travelled over from Sidcup for their first game of the season.
In the second game of his temporary captaincy, Chris Thomas again lost the toss and saw the Ramblas put into bat in slightly muggy, but warm conditions.
Opening up for the hosts were the returning Alex Danks and Stocks, with both immediately into their stride, pushing the fielders and finding the boundary to move the scoreboard along at a fair lick, with the sunshine breaking through the clouds to turn up the heat further on the visiting side.
Having agreed a 35-over game, there was still time for a balanced approach to run accumulation, with A. Danks hitting two big sixes and an array of fours, while his partner remained watchful, but also unleashing some gorgeously-timed back-foot drives.
Although the aggressor of the partnership, A. Danks also proved the more fortunate, seeing a chance go down in the field having reached his half-century. With an ever-changing cast of bowlers, the batsmen had to remain vigilant, as some deliveries misbehaved; Stocks wearing one on his chest as proof.
The pair continued their fine work to the drinks break at the end of the 15th over, pushing the score to 100 and getting their sunbaked colleagues’ calls to keep on strutting their stuff as they keenly took on some fluids.
They certainly carried on where they left off, taking the score to 109 before Stocks was bowled for a fine 37 in an opening century stand that had set a great base for the Ramblas. Replacing the former Ramblas captain was Richard Pleydell, in for his second successive appearance and joining his old pal A. Danks in the middle. The duo didn’t hang around, amassing 13 runs from just nine balls – including a maximum from Pleydell – before the newest cricketing comrade of the Ramblas collective was undone by one that popped up off a length and was caught superbly one-handed on the run. Sometimes, your luck’s just not in…
That brought in Pete Ford for just his second appearance of the season, with his own brand of stand and deliver none the rustier for a long gap between showings. It soon became an array of boundaries and quick singles – including one, called for by A. Danks, getting a less than grateful reception from his partner at the other end. This masterclass in the middle overs continued until the 27th over, when A. Danks found himself bowled for 93 as he came down the pitch. The 63-ball innings had gotten his team off to a flier and helped the Ramblas surpass 200 as he returned to the sidelines to bountiful applause.
Not-so-new boy Matt Rudgyard was next man in, maintaining his predatory instinct for quick singles and sharp boundaries, but unable to forge a partnership of note with Ford who was caught on the mid-on boundary for an agonising 49. The batsman, in polite terms, was a little miffed, particularly having seen a couple of chances go begging earlier in the innings.
Dave Green joined Rudgyard and, although the pair enjoyed some interesting running, they maintained the fine work of their predecessors to take the score to 230, before Green departed for a run-a-ball 14.
Green’s dismissal brought in Ben Butcher, who was returning to Ramblas colours a year after his first appearance. A smart boundary was immediately followed by one that bowled him around his legs, bringing in Mark Loughlin who, with Rudgyard, struck well and ran hard as both ended not out having helped the Ramblas post 252 from their 35 overs.
The quick start never really tailed off and it was with great anticipation that the sides headed for the shade – and grub on offer – in the clubhouse. Indeed, as is custom in these parts, a fine spread was put on by the ever-generous Mrs C. Could she fuel a strong performance in the field from the Ramblas?
Looking to utilise his whole team, Thomas opted for twin spin to begin proceedings with the ball. The refreshed and clearly revitalised Geoff Parrett didn’t waste any time justifying that decision, as his third ball was chopped onto the stumps by the unlucky batsman. In truth, it was the least the bowler deserved from a fine opening over.
From the other end, the Beard to be Feared – Doug Danks, to his nearest and dearest – found things harder in his first over, but as he turned to his captain and said “I’ll get him next time”, Thomas knew there would be a wicket coming soon.
While Parrett continued a fine spell that was unfortunate to not garner further reward, his partner in crime delivered on his promise – and then some. First, the wily bowler had his wicketkeeper to thank for a smart take off an inside edge (with a stumping for double measure).
Then, having seen a relatively straightforward chance slip out of the hands of Green at Cow Corner, D. Danks’s heart had already started to sink when, two balls later, another chance headed towards Green… however, this time, the fielder took a superlative one-handed catch as he leapt in the air to claim his first pouch for the Ramblas.
Resetting the field, it seemed clear to all that it would take some beating as catch of the season. Alas, the very next ball saw something potentially even more special, this time Butcher claiming a nonchalant one-handed catch on the mid-on boundary when it looked to be a certain six.
The back looked to have been broken of the visitors’ batting line-up, but it’s never over until that last wicket has been safely snaffled, so the Ramblas continued to work hard in the field to back up their bowlers, as Loughlin took another good catch on the run off the bowling of D. Danks.
With five down, but D. Danks on for a five-fer, Thomas decided to mix things up and brought himself on to replace Parrett, while Butcher came on from the Gardens End.
Starting with a wicket maiden, that decision looked to have been the right one from Thomas, as he had Butcher to thank for a good take at point. Butcher, meanwhile, was bowling well with little reward, unable to really tempt the batsmen into risking a shot against the sharply delivered balls.
Thomas then tried to give D. Danks a run for his money, as wickets started to tumble; Loughlin, Ford and Parrett – with his now customary ‘crotch catch’ – helping him to four wickets of his own, despite his bowling not reaching the standards of recent weeks.
He’s nothing if not a sentimental fool, is the stand-in skipper, and he brought back D. Danks in the hope he could get his five-fer. For a brief second, the stars looked to have aligned, with D. Danks’s second ball hit straight back down the ground and into the catching area of Thomas at mid-off. Alas, he couldn’t put the gloss on a good day for the Ramblas, completely messing up the chance of a simple take, with D. Danks unable to take that final wicket, despite two successive maidens and had to take solace in being the fastest Rambla to 20 wickets in a season.
Sheepishly, but not without hope, Thomas strived for his own five-fer, but – perhaps justly – was also unable to hit the landmark, with Butcher taking the final scalp to bowl the visitors out for 89 and getting his just desserts following a fine spell.
The emphatic nature of the 163-run win was thanks to a mixture of fine batting, astute bowling and sharp catching, while the impact of Mrs C’s tea cannot be underestimated. The visitors looked a little ring-rusty, but still made a decent fist of it and will definitely be welcomed back to West Wickham if the occasion arises.
Ramblas MVP: Knocks from Pete Ford and Jonny Stocks, along with Doug Danks four-(but-should-have-been-five)-fer, were all noteworthy performances, but for the sheer effortlessness and, at times, brutality of his 63-ball 93, this week’s award goes to Alex Danks.