King of the spinners - Jamie Stephens

PATCHED-up Devon looked anything but makeshift as they dominated for long spells on day one against Oxfordshire at Banbury.

Devon were a couple of bowlers short due either to injury or availability issues – and a brace of batters light too.

Stand-in stumper Max CurtisFirst-choice keeper Matt Thompson was stuck at work, which meant Alex Barrow doubling up as stumper and top-three batter. He dropped out the night before the match due to injury.

For Devon to bowl out Oxfordshire for 219 before the end of their 90 overs was a remarkable achievement.

A fourth-wicket stand of 134 between Jordan Garrett (51) and Jonny Cater – run-out for 99 - formed the backbone of the Oxfordshire innings.

Spinner Jamie Stephens took three for 50 and there were two wickets each for Josh Bess and George Benton on his debut.

Cater probably deserved a century – anyone who bats six minutes short of four hours in 80-degree heat deserves something  - but paid for a lapse in concentration.

Cater survived a loud shout for lbw, but didn’t think to check were his feet were. Devon skipper Josh Bess was paying attention and threw the stumps down from slip.

Other highlights in the field included Zak Bess taking a fine catch low down in the cordon to dispatch Richard Kaufman, who was Benton’s first Minor Counties scalp.

Stephens shaded the wicket-taking effort, but Donohue said that was only part of the story.

“Josh Bess used the new ball effectively and Hugo Whitlock continued his development from the other end,” said Donohue.

“We had them three for five after four overs and they were the ones on the back foot.

“Once we found the right end for George Benton – he worked best coming up the hill – he was effective.

“For a debutant who has not been through the latter stages of the county age-group system, he looks a bowler with a lot of promise.

“Josh Stephens may have had the wickets, but you need to look behind that to see a lot of other good work going on.

“There were times when we found it hard to get the ball past the bat, but the scores tell you Oxfordshire found it hard getting the ball away.”

Singling players out for individual praise is always fraught with danger, but Donohue had no qualms about giving stand-in keeper Curtis a public pat on the back.

Curtis was in the side to open the batting, a task he has done before.  Keeping wicket was added to the job description when Barrow withdrew the night before the game due to a back injury.

Curtis took three catches, stumped Garrett when he came out swishing at Stephens and conceded no byes at all.

“The biggest compliment I can pay Max is to say no one noticed he wasn’t our first-choice wicketkeeper, least of all me,” said Donohue.

Devon had to bat the final 24 overs last night and made an 87-run dent in the deficit. The men out were openers Reid Mawdsley (37), the late replacement for Barrow, and Luke Bess.

Oxfordshire 219 (J A Cater 99, J L N Garrett 51, H D Ward 28; J A Stephens 3-50), Devon 87-2 (R A Mawdsley 37). Bonus points: Devon (4), Oxfordshire (1).