15th July 2018 v Old Cranleighans

Many years ago when the Ramblers were gently subsiding to defeat at Southgate the then President, playing in his penultimate Rambler match, felt obliged to give advice to his captain Charles Robins. He was met with the rebuke of “Now now Buns we do not need two captains”. The response was firm and unforgettable – “one would be a vast improvement!”.

This came to mind at 1120 at Cranleigh on Sunday when Will Vanderspar became definitively not the first, and equally certainly will not be the last, person to underestimate the damage that the M25 can do to journey times on Sunday mornings. A substitute captain was declared primus inter pares and did his duty in winning the toss. The match started twenty minutes late due to the kind courtesy of the home team, of which more later, and after nine overs the Ramblers were 15 for 2 having lost both opening batsmen. It is worth recording that Farley and Rogers, very good players both, were unique, at least as far as Rambler batsmen are concerned. Both missed straight balls, both were given out lbw and both blamed no one but himself.

When Nico MacDonagh was caught behind at 41 for 3 Gnodde mi joined his captain and set about playing himself in until he picked up a leg stump half volley and struck it way beyond the longest boundary for 6. Next ball his captain ran him out. Tom gave himself the best chance, but third man’s throw to the unguarded bowler’s end was as straight as a die. A good throw was not even necessary when Finn O’Brien sacrificed himself in another run out next over and the Ramblers were 81 for 5.

England have shown the advantage of having a spare wicketkeeper who is also a specialist batsman at seven, and the Ramblers’ own Joss Buttler, Jack Halstead, and Will Vanderspar set about repairing the damage. The first 50 of their partnership took 67 balls, the next 50 rather less and 188 for 5 was a vast improvement. Then things fell apart; Vanderspar played on for 97, narrowly failing to be the first Rambler to make 3 Cricketer Cup centuries, Halstead holed out for 45 and, after the last five wickets had fallen for 26, a modest target of 214 was set.

Cedric Gunnery, a much appreciated supporter, who was made very welcome by the hosts, was told by the knowledgeable Cranleighans who had been watching their cricket week that the total was short by “somewhere between 100 and 150”.

 How right they were. Seren Walters the Cranleigh captain is not one who by nature plays second fiddle but when Jack Scriven his partner struck his third and fifth balls for 6, he nudged singles until with 52 on the board he had a dispute with umpire Keir Hopley as to whether he had touched a ball from Finn O’Brien and departed in high dudgeon. His poor humour did not last. Les Bedford set about a battle with his partner as to who could hit the Rambler attack further, until in the 34th over Scriven reached his 100, adjourned for drinks, and hit the first ball after the resumption straight back to Finn O’Brien.

By the 40th over Cranleigh were home by eight wickets suggesting that, indeed a total of 320 would have made a competitive match.

Despite the thrashing there are a number of positive things that must be said. It was the first time since the first match in the Vanderspar era that the Ramblers had been overwhelmed by a better side, and, although the Rambler batting and running between the wickets contributed substantially to the defeat it would be churlish not to give full credit to the Cranleigh side, led by not only one of the finest Old Boys of his generation (he took 7 for 32 the last time the Ramblers played Cranleigh, and even Ed Farley cannot touch his world Cup record!) but also a man who marshalled as delightful a bunch of players as have beaten the Ramblers for many years.

The whole day – apart from the Rambler performance – was a joy. The Cranleighan attitude to the Ramblers early predicament – the umpiring of Arvind Parmar (despite his occasional inability to respect the law as regards the number of balls in an over) and Keir Hopley – the quality of the lunch for the players and the tea for supporters – and immense professionalism of Heather Dean and her assistant Mike Chetwode in the scorebox, are all worthy of mention.

Finally for those of you unfamiliar with rivers in Kenya Tana is also a vet in Market Deeping (there is indeed such a place) whose support of the Ramblers has not gone unnoticed. O si sic omnes. In days gone by Ramblers, given proper notice, which is no longer forthcoming, and proper organisation, for which no one now volunteers, the Lomax Cricketer Cup supporters’ lunches were legendary. It would be good to see such support come again for a side, who, despite this (hopefully one off) disaster, are thoroughly deserving of better support.