The final of three successive away games brought with it an impressive victory for the Kent Ramblas, as they overcame a tough Battersea Ironsides team in a hastily arranged replacement fixture.
However, the record-equalling ninth win of the season was not a straightforward one, as the Ramblas stumbled midway through their batting and failed to live up to their high standards in the field. For the second week in a row, Cap’n Cooper was victorious at the toss, but that luck with the coin appears to be in direct contrast to his fortune when in bat, again bowled by a peach when he came it at six.
His decision to bat first initially looked like the right choice, as Jonny Stocks and Alex Danks made hay against a steady attack on a true deck. The long grass on the big boundaries, though, meant the hungover Stocks and his partner were made to work hard for each and every run, before, with the score on 40, Danks was caught for a run-a-ball 23. Stocks was soon to follow, caught for 14 four overs later with the score on 51.
That meant last-minute replacement Richard Pleydell and Dave Green were tasked with steadying the ship. Alas, the ship was starting to get as steady as the Titanic, with Pleydell departing for six, caught from a delivery that stuck in the pitch and Green bowled for five following some lusty swipes that failed to connect.
Suddenly, and in true Ramblas style, an innings that had begun with promise was starting to look shaky, with the score drifting from 40 without loss to 63/4 in less than 10 overs. At least those on the sidelines had a new toy to play with…
Cap’n Cooper and Sam Ford, though, are not the sort of souls to be waylaid by such jiggery pokery before them, and the pair combined to stabilise the innings, putting on 34 before S. Ford was caught at deep extra cover for an important 28. That effort had given the Ramblas some impetus following a spluttering lead up to drinks, but disaster struck the very next ball, with Cooper castled by a wicked delivery to leave the Ramblas’ scorecard reading 97/6 in the 26th over.
Next up to battle for the Ramblas were the effervescent attacking prowess of Peter Ford and Geoff Parrett; the former signalling his intent on his first delivery as he drove to the boundary and saw off the rest of the over without any further drama.
Between them, the pair hit big, including a few maximums, as they slowly but surely dragged the Ramblas back into contention. In just six overs, they had taken the score to a much more respectable-looking 155/6 and their teammates knew that, if they could stay in for the remaining eight overs, the Ramblas would have a chance of posting a very challenging total.
While the heat and need to run so many ones and twos began to take its toll, P. Ford and Parrett continued to impress, as they piled on the pressure. Parrett was first to his half-century from just 32 balls as the pair compiled a fantastic 117-run partnership, but his partner in crime fell agonisingly short of his own landmark, bowled for 46 as he went big to reach 50. Despite his personal disappointment, he could be pleased with his efforts in swinging the momentum back in the visitors’ favour.
Clearly missing P. Ford’s company, Parrett was soon following him to the sidelines, caught and bowled for an excellent 46-ball 61.
That left Doug Danks and Lewis Barham with just one over to add to the score (and Chris Thomas one over to contemplate whether or not to don his pads), the pair adding eight to help the Ramblas close on a tough-looking 222/8.
Having stuttered in the middle stages, that total marked an impressive turnaround, largely thanks to the efforts of P. Ford and Parrett. A disappointing tea failed to take the edge off the Ramblas’ optimism before they headed out to defend their score with Deadly Doug Danks taking the first over…
…And the Beard To Be Feared duly struck with the penultimate ball of the over, with the hosts’ skipper deciding to go out swinging and promptly playing an air shot to one that crashed into the stumps. From the other end, Thomas got in on the act in his second over, drawing the batsman to drag one onto his stumps – his third successive wicket this season by such means.
With Thomas struggling to find rhythm, Cooper called upon Barham to revive his Saturday partnership with D. Danks. This change proved fruitful, as Barham’s pace combined with the guile of D. Danks to stymie the hosts’ progress and, while the senior bowler failed to add to his wicket tally following another fine eight-over spell, Barham ensured there was cause for celebration for the Ramblas.
First, he dismantled the stumps with a ball that swung back in from the perfect length, before repeating the trick a few overs later. He then claimed his third victim thanks to a simple catch by S. Ford, as the batsman failed to spot the change of pace. That devastating spell left the hosts on 97/5 at the halfway stage and the Ramblas firmly in the ascendancy.
Barham ended his spell after drinks, finishing with fine figures of 8-2-36-3, as the skipper turned back to Thomas in the hope that he or Parrett could make a further breakthrough to extinguish any hopes of an Ironsides comeback.
Parrett overcame an unsteady start to really find his rhythm against the well-set batsman, finally claiming the prize wicket thanks to a smart catch by the back-peddling Stocks. Meanwhile, Thomas’s frustration at his own waywardness was compounded by seeing some presentable chances go begging.
As the game approached its climax, palms were getting sweatier and bums were starting to squeak, with the hosts requiring a still-gettable 80 from the last 10 overs. Although the Ramblas had broken the back of the batting line-up, the incumbent pair had compiled a decent partnership and the success of this pairing would likely hold the key to the destiny of the game.
With Thomas bowled out and Parrett withdrawn following a cracking six-over spell, Cooper called upon the Ford brothers – Peter and Sam – to finish off the innings.
The pair didn’t let their captain down, and neither did his fielders, as everyone understood the importance of each and every run. Green, particularly, was made to work hard in the final 10 overs, chasing down the ball on the long boundaries to stop ones turning into twos.
P. Ford was the first to strike, bringing and end to the stubborn 55-run partnership thanks to another smart take at mid-off by Stocks. That was an important wicket, but still not the final nail in the coffin for the hosts, who now required a round 10 an over from the last six.
The bowlers, backed up by their field, continued to squeeze the batsmen, as the Ramblas put in a near spotless final stretch to tighten their grip on the game as the required run rate increased with every ball, leaving Ironsides needing 37 from the final three overs to snatch an improbable victory.
Not to be outdone by his older sibling, S. Ford got in on the act as he offered a nice change-up to flummox the batsman. That flaying of stumps looked to bring with it the final breakthrough for the Ramblas, before P. Ford claimed his second of the day courtesy of a catch by Barham.
The final over was delivered by S. Ford who knew if he couldn’t defend the 22 runs required for victory he might never be able to pick up a ball again. Although previous experience with Ex Blues suggested it was far from a foregone conclusion…
Thankfully for those of a Ramblas persuasion, a stolen couple of singles and a brace were all the hosts could manage before a suicidal run out was called on the final ball, which saw a good pick-up and throw back to the bowler from Barham end with S. Ford whipping the bails off to complete victory by 15 runs in an absorbing encounter.
It was a game that had all kinds of drama, with momentum swinging one way and then the other, as both teams benefitted from key partnerships with the bat. In what was surely one of the longest games the Ramblas have ever competed in, it was a satisfying win against a technically sound team that showed bottle right to the end of an enthralling contest.
Next week sees a return to home comforts for the first time in over a month, as the Ramblas seek revenge on a London City side that has yet to be overcome. But there are also plenty of sub-plots to contend yourselves with, stat fans; will Doug Danks get the two wickets he needs to reach 50 for the Ramblas, and in doing so set a new season record for the club? Will Chris Thomas snaffle the three victims he needs to become just the second Rambla to have a century of wickets? Can Mark Loughlin claim the two catches he needs to set a new seasonal Ramblas fielding record? All that and much more besides to look out for next week – don’t miss out!
Ramblas MVP: It was one of those games that had a few stand-out showings, with Lewis Barham’s excellent work with the ball not going unheralded. However, for their 117-run partnership that dragged the Ramblas back into contention and the fact they both snaffled key wickets as the run chase intensified, this week we doff a cap each to Geoff Parrett and Peter Ford.