Just grand! Can Faizan Riaz make it to a thousand league runs this season?

FAIZAN Riaz thumped his third Premier Division ton of the season to put Plymouth on course for a 37-run win over North Devon at Mount Wise.

After James Toms fell cheaply to Devon paceman Jack Popham, Dan Robotham (42) and Riaz put on 121 for the second wicket.

Joe Hagan-Burt came and went cheaply, but Riaz found a willing running mate in Hal Kerton to take the score up to 201 for four.

When Popham returned for a second spell he had Riaz caught behind for 16, which came off 92 balls and included 12 fours and two sixes.

Riaz now has 849 league runs at an average of 70.75 and four games left to become the first batsman to score a thousand Premier runs in an 18-game season. It was down a handful of times in the 22-game summers prior to 1999, but never since.

Kerton made 44, falling in the dash for runs with wickets in hand at the end.

Popham and Josh King had two wickets each for North Devon.

North Devon’s depth of batting got them to 225 all out in reply, which was more than looked likely when they slumped from 162 for four to 167 for seven.

Adrian Isherwood – in at 59 for two, out of 166 for six – anchored the middle order until Adam Talbott (32) bowled him for 54.

Josh King (23) and Jack Popham kept North Devon in the hunt with a stand of 48 for the eighth wicket. Both are county players and both have scored Premier Division 50s either this season or last.

Once Talbott accounted for King it was downhill all the way to 225 all out. Popham (46) was last to go, bowled by Hagan-Burt (2-2) in the mopping up exercise.

Winning captain Jon Varcoe said Plymouth had a script for the game and largely stuck to it.

“Robo and Faz set a great platform to allow the middle and lower order to come in and play positively,” said Varcoe.

“Talbott again bowled well at a crucial time and all the bowlers stuck to their plans to take out the rest.”

North Devon skipper Matt Westaway didn’t see it quite the same way.

“Plymouth got a competitive score, although I thought we could chase it down,” said Westaway.

“Faz batted extremely well and his innings was chanceless. 

“We lost wickets at regular intervals and were always a little behind the rate. 

“There were good individual batting performances by Isherwood and Jack Popham but all in all it was a disappointing day.”

Plymouth stay fourth in the table, 22 points behind leaders Exeter with four games to go.

North Devon are 43 points clear of the relegation places, which isn’t enough for skipper Westaway to feel entirely comfortable.

“ We need to now step up or else we will be looking over our shoulders on the run in,” said Westaway.