DEVON can sniff a first Minor Counties win for a season and a half after getting on top on day two of the game against Wiltshire at Sandford.
Wiltshire go into the third and final day on 40 for three and need 262 to win the game in a maximum of 107.5 overs.
A busy day two started with Wiltshire on 105 for five – and 18 overs plus a rain-break later they were all out for 163.
Devon, who were 88 ahead on first innings, were bowled out second time round for 213 – Wiltshire’s left-arm spinner Jake Lintott taking six for 81 from a marathon 22.5-over spell.
Wiltshire’s target was 302 to win in 68 minutes batting time last night and three sessions today, which doesn’t look too tall an order in time terms.
To win the game they have to score more than any side has in the match so far, and that may not be straightforward – especially with both openers out already.
“It is not about the time but how well the two sides bat or bowl,” said Devon’s director of cricket Keith Donohue.
“The batting side can have all day to get the runs, but once they start losing wickets the game can change very quickly.”
One thing Devon won’t lack is motivation as last season’s Western Division wooden-spoonists are overdue a win.
Devon’s last victory in the competition was on the final day of the 2014 season when they beat Berkshire by four wickets at Exmouth. Skipper Matt Thompson, all-rounder Matt Golding and batter Max Curtis are the only survivors from that game playing in the current one.
Spinners Golding and Jamie Stephens finished what they started on Sunday night by taking three of the five wickets needed to wrap up the Wiltshire innings. Both finished with four each.
Devon’s second innings was a triumph for stickability and a bit more thinking cricket than has been the case in recent games.
Devon were 108 for six at one stage with opener Reid Mawdsley’s 27 the best of an average set of scores. Max Curtis (23) and Liam Lewis (20) had both weighed in.
The last four pairs contributed a further 108 runs between them, building a lead that would properly challenge Wiltshire.
King-pin of the lower-order effort with a lively 41 off 34 balls was Zak Bess.
Bess went in at six down and stayed almost to the end. He ninth man out, stumped giving Lintott the charge.
Along the way Bess was involved in stands of 24 with Matt Golding (22), 36 with Josh King (22) and 16 with Tom Pedel.
Last pair Pedel (13) and Stephens (19no) entered into the spirit of things by putting on 29.
Spinners continued to dominate in the final session last night with Golding striking twice and Stephens taking the third.
Devon 251 (M H Curtis 59, D R Pyle 39, M W Thompson 30, T A Lammonby 32, J V King 31; J P Roberts 3-77, J M King 5-55) & 213 (Z G G Bess 41, R A Mawdsley 27; J B Lintott 6-81, J M King 3-71), Wiltshire 163 (L J De Souza 40, P J Greishaber 47; M C Golding 4-38, J A Stephens 4-26) & 40-3 (MC Golding 2-14). Today 10.40am-6.30pm