|Another Top Team Performance|
For the second successive year Devon made the long trek down to the Buckinghamshire Hotel in High Wycombe. Devon were playing the side of the same name, the team that cost them the Isle of Wight title in 2007 as they were the only side to beat Devon on the Island. It was a horrendous journey when the mini bus seemed to remain below the clouds that were producing persistent misty rain and it only stopped when the M4 was left. One advantage of the rain had been that it had enabled the scorer to pick up Chris Metters early from the full county game at Salisbury that had been called off on the third day without any play. It was déja vu in the front of the mini bus with Joe Smith and DJ Debenham playing a similar car journey game as James Gibson and Marc Bettiss had done in days of old. Unfortunately Debenham was experiencing some problems with colour tones, in particular blue. The Buckingham put us in a separate building, allegedly eight houses down from the main hotel but counting had never been one of the side’s strong points. It was, however, ideal despite the fact that Hickey had to break up the openers and share their accommodation at the main complex. The Cricketer had been chosen for the evening meal as it would have enabled Metter’s and the scorer to join us on their way down as it had been anticipated that they would have struggled to get to our normal hostelry, the Whip, by last orders. The location was superb, on an old village green with its own cricket ground, the meal was adequate but a shortage of burgers, dry chocolate fondues and Tuckett experiencing the taste of single cream for the first time not putting it amongst the best.
A broken down lorry on the roundabout and a section of burnt tarmacadam on the A404 resulted in a twenty-five minute journey turning into one of just under an hour as it took thirty-six minutes to amble the first four miles. Burnham Cricket Club was another impressive venue, due to host a county match in a couple of weeks. There was plenty of activity on the square, two sets of covers in use plus a separate covering of the county strip. Eternal optimist Joe Smith was confident that play would take place, despite some more overnight rain and was successful in pushing his case as play started only thirty minutes late. Sam Smith won again! Being a positive captain he batted when others might have dithered, totally the right decision. Bucks would have fielded. The opening partnership is often critical as it sets the tone, not the writers words but SKY’s Mike Atherton and a big one was now due from this year’s current combination. It did not materialise in either innings at Burnham and maybe a rethink on the order might be appropriate as neither played their natural game. Peter Randleson’s success to date has been based on playing to his own strengths and Matt Thompson’s role is to bat the innings. It is essential that the former reverts to the successful formula that brought him 292 runs in his first five games but only 45 in two innings at Burnham. Thompson should be looking at a hundred every innings, in balls alone, again at Burnham he only faced 133 in his two knocks and even worse admitted he had trouble concentrating, no real excuse as he had not batted for at least the previous four days. There was a chance that a wicket would fall at any time and it was no real surprise when on 35 Randerson was caught behind. The pair had only batted 39 minutes facing 62 balls, mission not accomplished. Thompson’s time was up twenty-one runs later when he gave Myatt simple catching practice at gulley – catch this. Five runs later Lewis Gregory followed suit to give Goss an easy catch off Alex Walker, who does not normally bowl, hence the Tuckett like celebrations. Devon was now 61-3 with twenty-four minutes to the lunch interval. Smith and Metter’s negotiated to lunch with their side not so well placed at 93-3. The chosen menus were devoured and after lunch Smith scored his fourth and final four off the post interval’s second ball and on the fourth ball became Myatt’s first victim bowled. The Imodium had arrived too late, the obvious pun avoided. The second under the weather player entered the arena, this years curse of the 17s continued, as Matt Hickey, like the captain was decidedly unwell. From 97-4 Devon deteriorated to 112-6 as Metters was well caught behind to be Myatt’s second victim and Hickey’s brave vigil ended when he was also caught behind. Devon had dug in after lunch and had taken eighteen overs to score 19 runs loosing in the process three wickets. There was a need to change the tempo and Tuckett, playing the anchor role, and Gater did just that. They put on 43 in 32 minutes off 62 balls. Gater had nearly done his job although another half an hour would have probably gained the final batting point. Tuckett had played his role to perfection and was on his way to a very deserved half century when tea intervened. The second bonus point had just been taken as Devon were 201-7 with Gilmour playing the attacking role although there was some confusion prior to tea as to how to get him to play for tea, the letter T which was gesticulated could have been construed in two ways, fortunately the liquid meaning was taken as opposed to the off. Tea kyboshed Tuckett’s personal milestone as perhaps he believed all the plaudits, as first ball post tea went for four byes, dot second and the Wales shot came out of the locker third and he was caught with a nothing effort trying to hit over the top – awful. Again as it transpired some more of pre tea Tuckett and post tea Gilmour would have ensured Devon reached three hundred. Tuckett had batted for the longest in the innings – 92 minutes facing 103 balls and until he played it wrong had done a great job in seeing 101 runs added, of which he had scored 38, putting on 50 with Gilmour. Debenham in a twenty-nine minute innings helped Gilmour pass his maiden county half century, a somewhat surprising statistic in view of his natural batting talent but perhaps we saw second dig why he had not scored more. Debenham departed at 246 contributing 15 towards another important partnership, this one of 42. Alex Carr then devised one of the more unusual solutions to gaining the third batting bonus point. He cleverly glanced opening bowler Crick on to the stationery fielder’s helmet via the sawdust pile for five penalty runs. It was an unselfish act as his run did not count as he had not crossed by the time the ball struck. Two balls later he was the last Devonian out bowled. Gilmour was in his element as he returned to the pavilion to a magnificent reception; his 52 had come off only 49 balls as he had batted nine minutes over the hour. He would be allowed to mention his career best until the next morning, an offer he maximised to the full. His innings along with the contributions from Tuckett, Gater and Debenham had at least given Devon a chance. There were twenty-three overs left in the day and they bowled twenty-four. With Hickey laid low on the bench with pads acting as pillows it was Toby Ingham who opened with Gregory. It was Ingham who gave the much vaunted Alex Walker, (168 v Berkshire, 151 v Wales) who has the rare gift of being able to score regularly big hundreds, a thorough going over and he was unlucky not to dismiss as an lbw decision did not go his way and an extra coat of paint would have resulted in a bowled. Walker’s partner Goss faced 38 balls and contributed two runs to the opening partnership when Tuckett held a reflex catch off Metter’s at gulley. Close of play came at 51-1 with the game evenly poised. The Whip was the evening venue, they were catering for a group from a medical centre of young female receptionists and nurses and us. Again burgers were short with this time lasagne but another most acceptable meal was enjoyed, sadly the last for this group. They have done Devon proud whilst on the road. An electric show was enjoyed on the horizon as lightning was striking and that most attractive village of Wycombe was viewed twice as the wrong blue car with bar break light was followed. It was uncertain who was more concerned as both car and mini-bus came to a stop in the middle of the Buckinghamshire countryside. Somehow without the navigator or TOMTOM the Buckinghamshire was found with both invalids feeling better.
There was more heavy overnight rain but heavy drizzle ensured that Graham Smith’s first ball drop by Cook off Harmison could be viewed with disappointingly the coach and captain struggling to get the training kit into the dry. Fifteen minutes later the team photograph was taken with three players missing but fortunately all but one heard what was expected of them. As last year a key had to be returned to the Buckinghamshire but the trip was delayed whilst another fifty runs were added, thirty-nine by Walker and then the break through. With Hickey having replaced Gregory, Toby Ingham picked up the prized wicket of Walker with his sixth ball of his eleventh and final over of the game when, now bowling back of a length, Walker spooned up a high catch that went over the slip cordon and Tuckett spun around, it is not true he spun twice and held the catch slightly away from his body – it never looked in doubt but was the turning point of the game. Bucks tend to bat around their talisman. A wrong turning was taken in getting the keys back which meant a journey of over an hour but the scoreboard was a joy to behold on returning – 108-6!! At 81 keeper Suter was bowled by Metter’s, the keepers delightful seven year old sister had loyally supported Devon throughout the two days and her education has been enhanced on what her brother’s contributions to the game of cricket were and how retrievers were originally utilised. Two short of the hundred the home sides captain was magnificently held by Gregory diving sideward's at slip of Gilmour. One run later Metter’s took his third wicket by trapping Shiel in front and on 108 Gilmour had Webster leg before. The hard hitting Myatt was the final wicket before lunch when he lobbed Metter’s to one of his inner ring – Randleson. In the morning session Devon had taken all the honours taking 87-6. Patel, who had been putting up stiff resistance, was to fall in the first over after lunch sweeping Debenham, Thompson held the simple catch. Twenty-six were added for the ninth wicket in eleven overs but Gregory took out Crick with his first ball, leg before and next over the captain caught Deal to give Metter’s another five wicket haul. Over a third of the seventy-five overs bowled by Devon were maidens. All of the bowlers had made important contributions as they bowled as a tight unit, well supported by good catching and ground fielding. There was no chance that the follow on, it had been avoided by 13 runs, would have been imposed by Sam Smith who has been an excellent captain all summer. It must be very difficult for him as amazingly in this game only he and Gilmour had played in the corresponding game last summer. Through the age groups he has been a member of an established and successful squad. For various reasons he has lost the services of players of the quality of Bess, Dibble, Burke, Cross and Evenden. This makes the achievements of his current squad even more impressive. They have put their heads above the parapet and achieved. Let us hope the momentum can be carried into the final two games at Exmouth against league leaders Wales and Dorset.
Chasing second innings bonus points has never been a major problem we have seen some memorable run chases up to 100 and above. It is always considered easier to score runs than take wickets, not on this Thursday. They had 50 overs to get to 250 plus to pick up the important four batting points, they only got one but gifted Buckinghamshire four bowling points. To put it politely it was an inept attempt that like the last session at Sussex took some of the gloss of a fine win. It all started well at tea Devon were 56-1 with Randerson leg before on 45, ten more than the first innings. Thompson was given licence to play his shots post tea, perhaps it would have been better to tell the batters to accumulate and run hard. All fingers and toes were crossed as Gregory seemed to be regaining some lost confidence as he got into double figures and hit beautifully straight and he carved savagely a full toss over cow. He was looking so much better when Myatt had him caught on 22, when he was in two minds, straight or mid wicket, in the end he chose cover – the third option. The keeper flashed again to be caught with the fielder falling forward and confused but no scope for the third umpire, he had in many ways done his job, having batted for 67 minutes but the first three batters had all fallen on 22 none had batted on and indeed no one else really got in. At 90, Smith obviously appreciating that the following day was the anniversary of his dismissal at Torquay, celebrated by getting out in an identical fashion bringing Walker forward at deep square leg to take another diving catch. Three runs later Metters was bowled, the bonus point was achieved by Hickey and Gater In hindsight that might have been the appropriate time to call them in, 187 ahead with seventeen plus overs left in the day. Hickey was bowled at 104, on 116 Gilmour chanced his arm and skied to mid off who did not have to move, on the same score Gater played an identical injudicious shot and Smith should have definitely then called it a day with Bucks needing one more wicket for a fourth bonus point and Devon needing 34 runs whilst the last eight wickets had only yielded 43. It had been truly horrible cricket and it was fortunate that all the egg sandwiches from tea had been eaten. Debenham was Wells fourth wicket, his spin had taken 4-8 off 28 balls. The previous day he had gone for 44 runs off 36 balls what a difference a day makes. Smith then did call them in. The football was eagerly contested, the threatened rain that had kindly held off since start of play returned and the services where Gareth Tidball had bought his infamous strawberries the previous summer was revisited. The pressure of the order having a rather disconcerting effect on the branch manager at the BurgerKing. All in all the players did really well but the stiffest game of the season now beckons.