CONRAD SUTCLIFFE AT SIDMOUTH
A BRUTAL century by Shropshire batsman Graham Wagg took the wind out of Devon’s sails during an absorbing first day’s cricket at Sidmouth.
Just when it seemed Devon had more than a toehold in the game, former Warwickshire and Glamorgan all-rounder Wagg took charge of it.
Wagg had already taken five wickets to reduce Devon from 107 for three shortly after lunch to 148 all out – and that was just an entrée for the main course.
Four wickets for Calum Haggett, Devon’s match pro, and three more for Cornwood’s Matt Skeemer, had Shropshire teetering on 92 for nine in reply.
What Devon had not done was get rid of Wagg and with nothing to lose he started to lash out in devastating fashion.
One over from Devon debutant Joe Hancock was whacked for 28 – four sixes, one four – and another from the usually miserly Haggett went for 17.
Wagg farmed the bowling effectively to keep number 11 Ben Parker away from the strike, to the extent he only dealt in boundaries for several overs and turned down easy runs to protect the tail ender.
So much time was spent recovering balls from nearby properties and the sea-front road, the game had to be stretched into an additional half an hour to get the overs in.
Having hit nine fours and 11 sixes during 68 balls at the crease, Wagg went for one more six and was caught a couple of feet inside the long-on boundary off Skeemer’s bowling. Shropshire certainly got their money’s worth!
Wagg was last man out in Shropshire’s total of 178. His stand of 86 with tail-ender Parker, who made six off 22 balls, denied Devon a substantial first-innings lead.
Devon were 22 for one at last night’s close. They go into day two eight runs behind.
While Wagg took centre stage in the post-play musings – and rightly so – Devon had their successes too.
Haggett (47) and Matt Thompson (39) rescued Devon from a disastrous start that saw them wobbling at 26 for three in the 11th over.
Parker (3-37) accounted for Thompson then Haggett one after the other and from then on Devon declined from 110 for five to 148 all out. Wagg had five for 16 from 15 overs – mostly recognised batters.
Haggett and Skeemer then bowled Devon into a strong position. Skeemer (4-25) has bowled just as well in the past for the county but without success. He finally got some reward.
Dave Tall, the Devon team chief, agreed it must have been a great day’s cricket to watch, but not if you were part of the county management.
“We have to adapt to changing circumstances in a game and don’t seem able to do it,” said Tall.
“Parker showed how it should be done. He just stayed there and let Wagg get on with it. Nothing fancy. Just taking responsibility and reacting to the situation. Wagg could not have done what he did without the number 11 sticking around.”
Tall said Devon’s although Devon’s bowlers came in for some treatment when Wagg turned it on, overall they had a good day.
“Any other time we would have been happy to bowl a side out for less than 200 on the first day, however we did have them 92 for nine and should have got them out for a lot less,” said Tall.
“Calum Haggett bowled his boots off and I bet he was glad we were not out in the field for the full 90 overs.
“It was good to see Matt Skeemer taking the wickets he deserved. He has mostly bowled in a containing role for us in the past, but when he took his first three wickets we were on the attack.
“Joe Hancock bowled well on his debut and I felt for him when Wagg took all those runs off him in one over. His opening spell with the new ball showed what he is all about.”
Devon 148 (C J Haggett 47, M W Thompson 39; G G Wagg 5-16, B Parker 3-37) & 22-1, Shropshire 178 (G G Wagg 109; M P Skeemer 4-25, C J Haggett 4-51). Bonus points: Devon (4), Shropshire (5).