The 2009 Under 21 Season
 

The Under 21 2009 Season

Joint Southern Counties Champions

Played

7

Won

6

Lost

0

Abandoned

1

 

Friendly

v Somerset IIs at Exmouth C.C. – Devon won by 8 wickets

SOMERSET

91

(J.Porter 3-11; R.Acton 4-26)

DEVON

192-2

(D.Hardy 43*; D.Bowser 37*)

 

 

 

Southern Counties Competition

v Isle of Wight at Axminster C.C. – Devon won by 5 wickets

ISLE OF WIGHT

160

 

DEVON

164-5

(S.Smith 52*)

 

 

 

v Dorset at Dorchester C.C. – Devon won on faster run rate

DEVON

260-6

(G.Chappell 67;  J.Smith 40)

DORSET

81-5 (35.5 overs)

(G.Chappell 3-21)

 

 

 

v Isle of Wight at Ventnor C.C. – Devon won by 10 wickets

ISLE OF WIGHT

103

(J.Porter 6-32)

DEVON

107-0

(D.Hardy 55*)

 

 

 

v Cornwall at Torquay C.C. – Devon won by 7 wickets

CORNWALL

201

(G.Chappell 3-33)

DEVON

204-3

(D.Hardy 71; L.Gregory 87*)

 

 

 

v Wiltshire at Tidworth Barracks – Match Abandoned

DEVON

139-3

(G.Chappell 43*)

 

 

 

v Wiltshire at Axminster C.C. – Devon won by 6 wickets

WILTSHIRE

108

(G.Chappell 5-15)

DEVON

109-4

(D.Hefford 40, D.Hardy 30)

The 2009 Squad

J.Porter (captain); J.Yau (vice captain); E.Acton; R.Acton; J.Burke; D.Bowser; G.Chappell; W.Gater; L.Gregory; D.Hardy; D.Hefford, A.Kingdon; C.Metters; S.Richardson; J.Seward; J.Smith; S.Smith; M.Thompson; J.Thompson.

 The final day of the under twenty-one 2009 programme was a sad one as it marked the culmination of one of Devon’s most talented youth squads. Moving on were captain, Jack Porter, his able vice captain, Justin Yau, Ross Acton and Matt Cooke, who came back in the final game for a farewell performance. They had been the nucleus of an exceptional squad, one of the best ever produced in Devon. These four players had shown outstanding loyalty to Devon youth cricket and their reputations as outstanding cricketers and young men will last in the annuls of Devon youth cricket. They, of course, won the game, with not a little help from their younger assistants, and retained the Southern Counties title. Despite being the only unbeaten side in the competition, due to two straight cancellations and an abandonment Devon had to share the title with its neighbours across the Tamar. It should be recorded that the Cornish had a more than useful squad, many of them regular full county players, thus making Devon’s feat even more impressive.

The season started with a truly memorable win against Somerset IIs. The Devon under 21s took just 67 overs to beat them at Exmouth. Devon put on an encouraging performance in all the important departments. On winning the toss Jack Porter elected to field on a track that had been well protected from the heavy weekend rain but was part of a square that had been flooded by the deluge. Plympton’s Lewis Gregory set Somerset back when fourth ball he bowled Cornwall’s Neil Edwards who has scored nearly 3000 first class runs and was to join Nottingham at the end of the summer. Gregory took his second wicket in his third over when he had Barlow leg before. The visitor’s captain, Carl Gazzard, and the second Cornishman to the crease was next to fall as his opposite number, Jack Porter, trapped him leg before on 16. The Devon attack was making the most of the good overcast bowling conditions and it was 23-4 when Porter, in his next over, had the outstanding schoolboy prospect, Meschade, well caught by Matt Thompson at slip. Walker and Davies put on the highest partnership of the innings as they dug in and scored 20 in six overs before Walker was Ross Acton’s first victim. Acton’s first spell of 7 overs (1-25) was only marred by an expensive first over that went for 11. The captain was bowling his full quota of ten overs in one spell and he took his third wicket when he had Lintott the third leg before victim with the score on 46. He finished with the very impressive figures of 3-11 off ten. Gary Chappell, one of Devon’s two most promising left arm spinners, took over at the sea end and in his third over, and the innings twenty-sixth, bowled Davies for a sixty-two ball 14.  Lewis Gregory completed his spell from the pavilion end and much to the consternation of his top order had tried to rough up former Durham and England under 19 paceman Mark Turner. Ross Action took over again from Gregory and took the final three wickets in 2.2 overs. First he had Thompson caught by Dan Bowser at slip, then Turner well caught by Matt Thompson at mid off for a top score of 28 and then the diving captain caught the third Cornishman, Tom Turner. No balls (2 runs) were expensive and Devon contributed twenty-seven extras in the final total of 91. The fielding had been up to standard with just one misfield which was put down to a dislocation the previous week.

Rain had been forecasted to arrive at the Maer anytime after 2.00pm and was in the air as Devon lost two quick wickets. James Burke, who had been sitting an A level at Plymouth College in the morning, could have been forgiven for thinking that the journey up might not have been his most profitable when he was bowled by Meschede fourth ball. Devon’s second academy player, Lewis Gregory, fell five runs later when Turner exerted some revenge. From 5-2 Dan Hardy, who had been undefeated on 95 in the corresponding fixture in 2008, and Dan Bowser took Devon home in the twenty-ninth over. Their partnership of 87 showed all the characteristics needed in far from ideal climatic conditions. Hardy took his aggregate in two knocks against the cider men to 138 without being dismissed and Bowser reached 37 hitting six fours. This had been a useful warm up for the 2009 Southern Counties campaign, with Porter pulling most of the strings. Exmouth were their normal outstanding hosts

The Isle of Wight under 21s had brought forward their annual trip to play Cornwall and Devon by two weeks and was confronted with above average selection problems; the fact that they raised a side is a credit to their academy system. At Axminster in Mid June the Island won the toss and batted and at 41-4 their worries about which ferry to catch appeared insignificant. However their later batsmen applied themselves and, with some generous extras from the home side, they were finally all out in the forty-fifth over for 160. With the captain, Jack Porter, unavailable due to a Durham University commitment, it was vice captain, Justin Yau, who led his side and did so by setting an exceptional example with four catches behind the stumps and a run out. Eliot Acton, who had replaced his injured cousin, Ross, and had sent his loyal supporters to Seaton, took the first wicket, giving the keeper his first catch with the score on six. Four runs later a fine piece of fielding by the senior Smith, Joe, and good glove work ran out Barton. The Isle of Wight got their heads down until the thirteenth over when Acton's replacement, the elder Thompson, Joe, gave his club captain his second catch. The under 15s had recently had three sets of twins in a match against Cornwall but this must have been the first time that two sets of non twin brothers have played in the same Devon youth side, the Thompsons and Smiths, with their parents showing more originality when naming their second born. Chris Metters, fresh from his eight wicket haul with the minor county side, removed Miller, who also played for Hampshire under 17s against Devon in July, giving the captain his third catch. The Island’s captain, Pongolo, who has been playing for Ventnor first team for the last three summers and had always made us most welcome, steadied his ship with the highest partnership of the innings. The 54 he put on with Mitchell took the visitors five short of the hundred. Last year’s under 17 captain Sam Smith was now in the attack and found the edge of Pongolo’s bat to give Yau his final involvement in dismissals, he was obviously satisfied with the top five. Smith was in a generous extras mood, although he more than made up for it later. Mitchell was batting sensibly but had to watch Cheek being bowled by Chappell on 115 and Turpin following in identical fashion on 122. Twenty-nine were added for the eighth wicket when Mitchell sacrificed a ton and decided to go after Bowser, who bought this important wicket - dot, four, six, wicket - with Mitchell failing to clear the lanky Chappell at long off. He had batted for 101 balls scoring an outstanding 63 in 80 minutes. From 151- 8 the Island accumulated another nine runs for the last two wickets, with Bowser taking his second with another catch from long off and the returning Acton his second wicket thanks to a fine diving catch from Joe Smith. Devon’s over rate had been exceptional 44 in130 minutes and they had also beaten the preparation of the tea. They therefore had to bat with a split innings with fifty minutes available before tea.

They were confronted by one of the quicker attacks seen at Axminster and indeed by Devon at this level, Ventnor’s former overseas import, Pongolo, and under 17 Barton. Barton’s initial balls sparked some mirth from the home side but he later gave all of the batsman a wake up call as there was real hostility and bounce at both ends. Whereas Hardy had seen off Somerset’s Turner, Jones and Caddick he found Barton’s final ball of his first over too quick for him as Devon was reduced to 14-1. It was then the Island’s generosity that enabled Devon to keep up a reasonable run rate as at tea after 11 overs they were 44-1 with only ten runs coming from the bat. The two left handers, Matt Thompson and Dan Bowser, were in contrition mode. The wait for tea was worthwhile as it was devoured, as a local put it if you cannot eat at twenty-one…………. Post tea another 35 were added in eight overs before North Devon’s Dan Bowser was leg before for 21 in 76 minutes off 57 balls. It was leg spin at both ends as the in form Andy Kingdom came to terms with the pitch. After 89 minutes at the crease Miller kept one lower and Thompson (19 off 65) departed leg before to a bowler who had less success against him playing for Hampshire later in the summer at Totton and Eling. The two left handers had seen off the menacing openers but had not capitalised on the change bowlers. Devon was now just over half way at 81-3 when Sam Smith entered the arena. He simply batted at a different level to anyone else in the game. He was imperious giving Barton the charge, although narrowly failing to follow Mark Gilmour's example of last summer by being dropped slashing at third man. His timing and shot selection were up another level but his limited appearances at this level restricted his opportunity of finally coming fully of age. Perhaps that will happen in 2010. He faced just 29 balls hitting 8 fours and a six in his undefeated 52. With the score on 119 he saw Kingdom caught at cover off Barton for 16. This was a shock as he had been striking seamers all season with consummate ease and had seen off one of the leg break bowlers. It was then the Smith brothers for 26 runs when, as could have been anticipated, the running was telepathic. Barton took his third wicket as Joe Smith played a textbook forward defensive to miss the ball and be adjudged leg before. Gary Chappell, who had earlier contributed two wickets and two catches, watched Sam Smith finish it off with three fours. It had taken thirty-one overs and one hundred and thirty four minutes to pick up the two points. Justin Yau demonstrated how fortunate his club, Torquay, are to have him in charge and unfortunately they were ultimately just one point short of staying up. This game was played on Axminster’s quickly maturing new ground and their subsequent colt’s night was a demonstration of what an ambitious ClubMarked Focus club can achieve.

The week taking in Dorchester, Ventnor and then Cardiff for the seventeen’s did not have the best of starts. After asking to revert to the trusted Ford Transit the only one in the contractor’s yard had a sliding door that would not open. The mechanics positive comment that the bus was dangerous set the alarm bells ringing and generated more heat between part of the management team than normal. It was past noon on a Saturday. How were we going to get out of this one? Cars at very short notice? Fortunately a bus with a sound door was found at the Plymouth depot that was closing at 2.00pm so the A38 was quickly revisited with TOM TOM wanting to take us home rather than the city centre. Once this was resolved and the heavy city traffic survived, we were on our way home to store the bus in a friendly farmer’s yard and although the rain clouds were still prevalent some others had at least lifted. A standard ninety minute exercise had taken four hours. Dorchester had been played on for a full game on Saturday, overnight it dried up further and there was no dreaded early call from Dorset. Young deer frolicked on the A38 at Halden Hill and the eleven were present on time. We were playing both Dorset and the Isle of Wight in the holiday season for the first time but at least the journey to Dorchester was a reasonable one. On arrival the scorer determined that her vital black bag, the one that is ALWAYS left in the car had been removed the previous night to deal with an over rate dispute so more heat was generated! Anna Thompson came to the rescue, which was unfortunate as it resulted in having to speak to her, and she provided her pens and visited nearby stationers – a saviour.

Devon lost the toss and was soon apparently dead and buried at 38-4, which was effectively 38-5 when Dan Bowser’s big toe was broken. Ladd–Gibbon had both openers, Thompson and Hardy, leg before, Kingdon played an injudicious shot to be caught, the younger Smith pulled and was bowled and then the bone was broken. Dorset County Hospital was not too busy on a Sunday afternoon and Dan went through the procedures which ultimately confirmed the break. Mr and Mrs Bowser were actually on a little break which unfortunately had to be cut short as they returned to Devon early, not to feature again. Bowser believed 130 might be a good score so it was some relief on returning to the ground that Devon had lost no further wickets and the scored had advanced to 128 with ten overs left. Gary Chappell and Joe Smith had led a major recovery, putting on a season’s best 89 off 22 overs. Smith scored the side’s first boundary with an improvised shot and the pair never looked back. Joe Smith hit two fours and three sixes in his 40 when he was caught behind to give Ladd-Gibbon his third wicket. The captain joined the Bradninch all rounder, who had an exceptional first season in the Premier and deservedly played for the full Minor County side, and they added 66 off only 45 balls. Porter scored at more than a run a ball and exposed his reverse sweep to Thomas Hardy country. He had hit two fours when Dunham took his second wicket and bowled him on 183. With 16 balls remaining would the double hundred be achieved? Gary Chappell’s superb performance came to an end after 118 minutes at the crease having faced 88 balls when he was caught at backward square trying his own improvisation. His 67, including  four fours and a six, had helped his side face tea with some real optimism. The tail did their best giving Dunham his third and fourth wickets but they fell one short with the last man so confident that he would not be needed that he was still in blues and utilised the full time allowed in the laws to enter the playing area.

Conversation at tea revealed that locals considered 180 to be a more than reasonable total in the 2009 Dorchester summer so the 199-8 had been an outstanding recovery. Porter removed the home side’s captain, Esson, when he bowled him third ball and some very tight bowling and fielding kept the home side on the back foot throughout the 35.5 overs bowled. Gary Chappell took the next three wickets to fall, stumped Yau on 38, caught Porter on 41 and leg before on 42. Dorset had faced 24 overs at this stage and was very similarly placed to Devon who had been 47-4 at the same stage. Porter returned to the attack to bowl the thirty-sixth over and fourth ball bowled keeper Tweedle who was looking to unleash. At 75-5 the threatening rain became persistent, there seemed a reluctance to cover and the game was eventually called off as Tom Watson lost the four hole play off. Acton’s analysis of just 1.7, senior Thompson’s 2.4, Chappell’s 2.1 and Metters’ 2.6 added to the pressure exerted by the captain (1.9) in an outstandingly united team performance which resulted in a win on faster run rate. Late in the day the second test had got away from England with a big unbroken stand but all was well with the world as Bowser’s replacement, Sam Richardson, arrived from Budleigh. The Botany Bay proved a more convenient watering hole even if the Thompson’s had to chase the bus to collect some keys from their forgetful eldest. The journey to the Travel Lodge did not go to plan as Richardson had to improvise on his tracking skills and the centre of Ringwood was viewed at least once.

Next day Sam Richardson might have wondered what he had joined as he was treated to his second tour, this time of the New Forest. Breakfast had been enlightened by a tourist well versed in the South Hams cricket fraternity. WightLink had purchased some very large new ferries which were causing some scheduling problems but the 10.25am one was caught thanks to the vocals of the Torquay keeper. Entry was delayed by an electronic brake failure on an Audi that resulted in special treatment from one of the ferries mechanics. The mini-bus party had now been joined by Sam Richardson but some failed to get back to the bus in time for disembarkation. Parked up for the missing players to embark there was an interesting who are you exchange with a mature gentleman who was putting up signs with a knife. It was most certainly holiday time on the Island’s roads although it was a forage harvester convoy that caused apoplexy as it travelled at 15 miles an hour for what appeared hours. Ventnor was reached with England having taken a critical wicket.

The Isle of Wight won the toss and batted. Jack Porter had not taken more than four wickets for Devon during the season but this was to change and in some style. He reduced the home side to 22-6 off 14 overs with Ross Acton conceding just 11 at the road end. Bowling down the hill to his friend – Friend was caught Joe Smith off his seventh ball. Next over saw a double wicket – Wilson was caught by Kingdon at square and then Joe Thompson caught Hampshire’s leg spinner, Miller. His fifth over was a wicket maiden when he caught and bowled Lloyd. The captain’s figures were now 4-8 and soon 6-10 as he bowled both keeper Woodhouse and Dye. He received a little late tap but finished his ten over spell with the impressive figures of 6-32. At the other end Acton had conceded just 17 runs off his ten. Sam Smith replaced Porter down the hill and, with the help of a magnificent diving catch from brother Joe, removed the opposition’s stubborn captain Pongolo who had batted for a minute under the hour. Barton quickly followed bowled by the Blundell’s captain, Smith. Chris Metters (2-7) cleaned up the tail as three balls into the fortieth over the Island was all out for 103. By now Flintoff had taken his five and England was one up.

It took Hardy and Matt Thompson 23.5 overs to reach the target. Hardy’s fifty-five came off 83 balls and included nine fours and a six. Alas there now appeared some animosity as the noise level from the Ventnor balcony increased but it was still a very satisfying end to Jack Porter’s sixth and final visit to the Island. A long post mortem took place in the home dressing room as an experimental route to Yarmouth was undertaken. Always good to try new roads after fourteen visits but we were trying to catch the 6.30pm ferry! It was missed by five minutes so it was a pleasure to watch the new ferry being washed down. Sam Richardson wisely decided on his own navigation from Lymington. This was to be Richardson’s only game for the twenty-ones. The next two were washed out and a drop in form resulted in non selection. His major contribution in leaving Budleigh to catch up with the party at Dorchester will always be appreciated. There were no alarms at Dorchester with yet more new staff, the music was nostalgic and the bus parked up at MOTO for its wasted trip to the Principality the next day. It was an early start for the young Thommo and the replacement coach Justin Yau.

It was now that the outright Southern Counties title was lost. The planned trip to Truro was called off the night before and although Axminster was attended the clouds opened at a quarter to one and tea was cancelled. The previous day Cornwall had played Dorset in horrendous conditions but gained the vital two points. Thus having lost two successive games to the rain and vitally two critical points the under 21 game with table leaders Cornwall at Torquay was a must win one. Cornwall’s success in the Minor County Western Championship had been significantly helped by giving some of their very promising youngsters an opportunity in what was very nearly a record breaking year. It was therefore most reassuring that the Devon side acquitted themselves exceptionally well in ultimately winning with some comfort. This was Cornwall last game of the summer and the corresponding match last year was Devon’s only defeat. Cornwall arrived with a large number of players who had featured in their championship bid. The Torquay workforce was in overdrive to ensure the ground was in pristine condition and it looked a good toss to win as Matt Rowe called correctly and batted. The openers Williams and Hughes were very positive in their approach although they were helped by some annoying overthrows. It was therefore a surprise that after ten overs they had been scoring at less than four. Ross Acton replaced Lewis Gregory after two overs at the pavilion end and in his fifth over he bowled the keeper, Williams. In the sixteenth over and his next Acton took out the second opener thanks to a catch to the keeper Yau. From 60-2 Cornwall progressed to 93 after twenty-one overs with the visitors captain Matt Rowe in domineering mode. The left hander drove majestically hitting three fours in Acton’s last over but his figures of 2-33 off seven had helped stem the flow. It had been all Rowe in the third wicket partnership of 37. His partner, the recently capped Davis, was bowled by Gregory who was now on at the seafront end. At the halfway stage the league leaders were 120-3 with Rowe timing the ball equally well on both sides of the wicket. The match had been well supported by many well known faces, both current youth cricketers and some of an older vintage. Rowe seemed to be taking the game away from the home side, although Gary Chappell was bowling effectively from the sea end, when Jack Porter played his masterstroke by introducing part time spinner, Dan Hardy, into the attack for the first over into the second half of the innings. The estimates of many experienced heads was that Devon would be chasing 275 plus! In the Bradninch off spinner’s second over he had the normally dangerous Alex Smeeth caught with the ball leaving him and he would have been stumped without the edge, three balls later he bowled Roberts. The tide had turned at the recreation ground if not on the sea front, Cornwall was now 132-5. Nine runs later Chappell bowled a double wicket maiden. Rowe was well held by Matt Thompson on the boundary for a splendid 59 ball 64 – he had hit eleven fours and a six. Chappell’s second victim was Snell brilliantly caught by the captain diving left at slip. Eight runs later he took his third wicket when the same combination removed L.Davis with another useful catch from Porter. Cornwall was now surprisingly in real trouble at 150-9 after the Torquay combination of Matt Thompson and Justin Yau ran out Libby after a misfield. The last wicket in the shape of Crane and Hocking put on a vital 41 to take their side past two hundred. The recalled Lewis Gregory curtailed proceedings in the forty-sixth over when Crane nicked one to Yau. His 35 had given some respectability after Devon had clawed their way back into the game with another united fielding performance However it had been over a year since Porter had gone wicket less.

This was not the easiest game for Plympton’s Duncan Hefford to make his debut. He was confronted by Werrington’s Sam Hockin who had made his full county debut against Devon the previous week and claimed four wickets in an important last over win for the Cornish. With the moral support of Dan Hardy and one of the bigger fan bases from the City of Plymouth, he helped add 46 runs. In the twelfth over he was caught by Davis off first change Snell’s second ball. He had contributed 22 off 40 balls in the same number of minutes. The game was won in a second wicket partnership of 124, the highest of 2009, between Hardy and Lewis Gregory. The Plympton all rounder’s appearances were limited in 2010 due to his games for Somerset IIs and he took the opportunity of showing everyone in a large crowd what we had been missing. It is a tribute to Hardy that he too looked a class act and the visitor’s body language changed visibly as the stand built. It was 61 short of the best second wicket partnership by Wright and Bettiss against Cook and Bopara in 2003 but equally important. The pairing took the score up to 170. The 124 had come off 167 balls when in the fortieth over Hardy’s superb innings came to an end. He fell caught L.Davis bowled Rowe for 71 hitting seven fours off his 109 balls. Andy Kingdon scored a run off his first ball and then was run out off the seventh ball of an over when he was over ambitious, taking six strides down and only five back. Joe Smith joined Gregory who was now playing all the shots in and out of the book but occasionally not connecting on the reverse! They ran well together putting on the 32 needed off 39 balls. Smith contributed 9 and Gregory ended on an undefeated 87. This was an innings of real pedigree. He with Hardy had been truly exceptional; they had paced the innings to perfection. Gregory hit ten fours in his two hours at the crease. This had not just been one of the top batting performances at this level but a top team performance under the pressure of having to win the game.

All chance of the outright title went when a wasted journey to Tidworth Barracks brought just one point from a third abandonment. The awful 2009 summer was now at its height. The forecast was again spot on as the players reached the attractive army ground in sunshine but the kit car followed a long bank of persistent rain cloud. The omens on arrival were not good as, being a Friday there had been a reluctance of clubs to host the game, Wiltshire had had to hire the ground. It was also due to host a prestigious game between Hong Kong and Asia the following day. These opponents were flying in to Heathrow not just travelling up the A30 and A303! The well looked after ground had an abandoned look – two sets of players, two umpires and scorers plus some brave soles that had travelled up from the South West but no evidence of ground staff or catering. Warm ups commenced amongst some showers and so did the game. Hefford, now more confident in his new surroundings, hit three fours and a six in his 29 ball 23 before he was bowled by a lord of the realm at 35. Hardy and Chappell added 48 off 76 balls when Hardy was leg before to senior Pitman. Gary Chappell, who was the outstanding under 21 player of 2009 making vital contributions in all of the games, then lost Andy Kingdon at 114, bowled Bowler in the twenty-ninth over with the score slightly below par at 114. Devon batted for another three overs allowing Chappell to reach an undefeated 43 off 65 balls and Sam Smith an eleven ball 13 when the rain became more persistent and the umpires called the players off. Devon had by now manned the covers and they were quickly in place. It further transpired that the international the next day was to be played on the same pitch and the pressure for an early abandonment was building. As the Met Office had predicted the rain stopped at 3.00pm and after some reluctance the covers were removed to allow the track to dry. Some football was played, some negotiations undertaken. The outside caterers had arrived, tea was taken. The Peer, a budding express bowler, who actually bowled at the pace of the writer, loudly expressed his opinion to the umpires, on more that one occasion, that he would be unable to keep his footholds and a blue touch paper was ignited. The manager was persuaded to stay but the umpires called Devon’s bluff with a formula that, if accepted, could possibly rebound on them. Following a visitors’ dressing room discussion the game was called off. A road closure completed one of the more unsatisfactory days in one of the most unsatisfying summers. Hopefully Hong Kong got their game in!

On the way to Axminster for the deciding game of 2009 there was a similar feel to the previous Friday for the abortive game with Wiltshire. The clouds were higher but a large band of rain was evident on the A303. If Devon was to retain the title, albeit sharing with Cornwall, it was essential the game was played. Fortunately it was bright sunshine when entering the ground but the cloud cover was building up to the west. Indeed a heavy shower delayed the start and four overs were deducted so it was a 48 over game. The build up to the game had not been an easy one. Over half the side had reported flu symptoms. Vice captain, Justin Yau, who had been away in the Midlands with the 16s, took over with daily health checks, although at one stage he had 13 players! One of these players was Matt Cooke, who has not featured at twenty-ones for two years due to work commitments, but it really was a delight that his boss kindly allowed him to make one final appearance. If he had been available he would always have been one of the first names on the team sheet. Fortunately only twelve turned up with captain Porter and Sam Smith not fit enough to play. Happily the captain did attend and was able to play for his club the next day. His understudy, Justin Yau, won the toss and inserted Wiltshire. With the first ball of his second over Ross Acton bowled Wilson. Young and Miles added 26 for the second wicket taking the score up to 32 after twelve overs. Gary Chappell had now replaced William Gater to commence another really special spell of spin bowling. He took a wicket with his second ball when he bowled Miles, eleventh ball the diving Matt Thompson caught Mullen, thirteenth ball he had Phillips leg before and his twenty-third ball was edged by Kelly to the keeper. Chappell's figures were now 4-5 and Wiltshire had lost four wickets in the thirties, three of them on 39. One run later Chris Metters had Pittman caught behind. Meanwhile opener Young had been watching this demolition at the non striker’s end and had helped to add 20 with Tom Bowler when he became Chappell's final victim - leg before. Chappell bowled two more maidens to end with the amazing figures of 10-6-15-5, the second best ever return at under 21s. Wiltshire staged a major recovery thanks to Bowler’s performance. He was unbeaten on 39 after spending 72 minutes at the crease and facing 68 balls. Matt Cooke had replaced Chappell and on 71 removed the second Pitman to give Yau his third catch and then Joe Thompson had Brown brilliantly caught by the diving Chappell at slip. Twenty-eight were added for the last wicket, which from Devon's viewpoint was not good cricket, when the captain completed another very competent display behind the stumps, Cooke brought forward Maloney and Yau did the rest. Devon’s Chris Metters’ spell of 10 overs 6 maidens 1 for 16 was another important contribution in bowling out Wiltshire for 108 off 45.2 overs.

For the second game of the summer at Axminster Devon had beaten the caterers, resulting in tea not being ready so Devon batted for six overs. The two D's - Hardy and Hefford  - scored at 5.67. After the interval they took the score up to 71 when Daniel was leg before to Wilson. He had needed to score 49 to set a milestone in the 21s record book statistics, he was 19 short - hopefully he will be around next year to complete the task. Duncan should have created his own personal milestone - a maiden county fifty but, with the score now on 83, he was bowled ten short. An eight wicket win was surely the obvious target with just 26 needed. However the captain was now giving the leavers a chance, which is a fine sentiment, provided it does not affect the final result. Kingdon slashed and was caught and the captain followed suit both had batted for only three balls to be victims to Wilson, who had also removed Hardy. Fortunately Ross Acton, who had come in at three, and Matt Cooke kept their heads and the one hundred and ninth run was scored off the second ball of the twenty-fourth over. Alls well that ends.............In many ways this was a disappointing way to retain the Southern Counties title. Although Devon was the only undefeated county, due to the three rained affected abandoned games to Cornwall's one, they had to share it with our near neighbours. It is anticipated that there will be no repeat of the accusation of last year that Devon had sneaked the title.

This was the last game for Porter, Yau, Acton and Cooke. All have been very loyal and, most importantly, supportive to Devon youth cricket when others have had different priorities. What will never be lost was the comradeship of a very special group of unselfish cricketers – these four are all examples of what is good about Devon youth cricket – they will be missed but never forgotten. Hopefully they will always cherish their time with the gold lion with red tongue.
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