The Under 21 2006 Season









Southern Counties Competition

v Dorset at Weymouth – Devon lost by 8 wickets


160 a/o

(M.Cooke 40; S.Barlow 34)







v Isle of Wight at Ventnor C.C. – Devon won by 9 wickets


85 a/o




(A.Williams 30)




v Isle of Wight at Exmouth C.C. – Devon won by 51 runs


132 a/o

(R.Tucker 43)


81 a/o

(A.Parker 3-20; R.Acton 3-15)




v Cornwall at Tavistock C.C. – Devon won by 6 wickets


175 a/o

(T.Allin 3-15; M.Cooke 3-34)



(J.Bess 32; R.Tucker 32; M.Cooke 34*)




v Dorset at Seaton C.C. – Devon won by 7 wickets



(A.Parker 3-50)



(N.Watkin 94*; A.Williams 36)




v Cornwall at St Austell C.C. – Devon lost by 132 runs



(T.Allin 4-48)


141 a/o



The 2006 Squad

A.Williams (captain); N.Watkin (vice captain); R.Acton; T.Allin; S.Barlow; J.Bess; M.Bettiss; D.Bowser; M.Cooke; G.Chappell; W.Grainger; A.Parker; T.Piper; J.Porter; R.Tucker; D.Wrench.


Under the stewardship of Aaron Williams the twenty-ones had a generally satisfactory season and several of last year’s successful under 17 squad were given a full opportunity to become involved. The area of concern was always going to be the batting and the side, apart from in their two defeats, compensated for any shortcomings in this department by fielding and bowling exceptionally well. The performance in the field in defending an inadequate score at Exmouth was the best at youth level ever witnessed by the writer. The Southern Counties title should have been won outright but, due to the poor performances in the first and last games of the season, it had to be shared with Cornwall.

It had been thunder and lightning in more ways than one when the twenty-ones last played Dorset on the final day of August 2005. The omens were therefore not good when the morning of the first game of the 2006 programme was interrupted by another thunder storm, indeed it rumbled on all the way to the meeting point at Exeter. The two hour journey left the inclement weather behind in Devon and unfortunately the side appeared to leave their own appetite for the game in the county! This was perhaps the most disappointing start of a season since the 17s were bowled out for 64 at Canford School in 1993, also against Dorset, when they were chasing 167. We were playing at Weymouth for the first time since 2002 and Aaron Williams, who led the seventeens there, remembered most for the overnight accommodation on the first night and some interesting warm ups. On winning the toss Aaron was in three minds but decided, perhaps against his own better instinct, to bat. It was a turgid start against a reasonable opening attack and in the seventh over vice captain Nick Watkin was caught with just 11 on the board. Next over and five runs later, the captain was bowled, leaving the side in some trouble at 16-2 and then it got worse in the following over as Will Grainger was caught, 16-3 – horrendous! David Wrench and Tim Piper then sensibly tried to take the attack to the home side, putting on 25, the third highest stand of the innings. The pair went through with their shots and the tone and initiative of the innings at last changed for the better. Wrench was lbw, repeating an old sin of trying to whip the ball through mid wicket, and 41-4 became, seven balls later, 47-5 as Piper, who felt in the best nick he had felt all season, placed a short pitched ball from spinner Summerson down Ridley’s throat. The two old campaigners, Mark Bettiss and Adam Parker, started to rebuild and the knowledge that we still had good batting to come ensured that there was not total gloom and despondency. However, after clear signs of an improvement, Marc Bettiss (27) was back on his heels for a very sharp single and beaten by a direct hit – that was annoying. The stand of 32 should have been much bigger, as neither batsman was struggling against Booth, a fine spinner. Parker became the fourth of seven batsmen to be caught, this one off the Dorset under 17 captain, Armstong. Porter and Allin came and went and at 100-9 off 35 overs Devon was in it up to their necks. However a bright and breezy record tenth wicket stand between the Sidmouth pair of Matt Cooke and Scott Barlow gave the innings some respectability and kept Dorset in the intense heat far longer than they had anticipated and encouragingly caused the dropping of some heads. The senior batsman, Cooke, who was in 2005 rather than 2006 Saturday form, batted beautifully with one straight six of the highest pedigree and wisely gave his less experienced partner his head. He obviously knew Scott’s ability better than the rest. They batted just 75 balls taking up 45 minutes until Barlow was caught for a county best 34 (4 fours and a six) in only his second county visit to the crease. Cooke was undefeated on 40 having batted 61 minutes and faced 69 balls. Despite the aspersions cast by the top order about the quality of the pitch and a nasty rap on the fingers for Matt Cooke whilst he had been batting, this was still some 60 runs short of par so it was always going to be difficult second session.

Dorset reached 21 before their promising opener House was caught behind in Allin’s fifth over. It was downhill from then on as Dyson (52*) and Park (76) put on 135 in 106 balls. Hands did not get to a difficult over the shoulder effort and Dyson hit Parker straight to short mid-wicket only for the ball to nearly rebound from the fielder’s hands back to the batsmen! It is impossible to know what difference the acceptance of these two chances would have made but the batsman found any gap in the field with positive committed batting in the air. Devon kept to the task which always looked beyond them. Nick Watkin trapped the impressive Park in front and keeper Tweedle then hit his fourth ball straight to take the scores level. Overall a most inauspicious start to the season - a bad day for everyone at the office.

An overnight stop in sub tropical temperatures would have been far more appealing in an air conditioned rondeville on a Maldivian Island in the Indian Ocean than in an airless New Forest Hotel. It was hoped that this would not cause additional tiredness for the players who had seriously under performed the previous day. An early start, an excellent breakfast and another delightful morning crossing to Yarmouth and we were back on the Island with only Scott Barlow making his first visit. This was the third day of a fully accredited Met Office heat wave and the temperature rose steadily during the short journey to Lymington, on the ferry to Yarmouth and the half hour trip up the coastal road to Ventnor. The faculties at the ground improve with each visit and new nets and a plasma screen TV were the latest additions. Bettiss’s back went in warm up and the Island generously allowed a replacement, as Williams continued his fine form with the coin and, without a second thought, bowled. From ball one the side’s attitude had changed, it was back to the more typical Devon approach, with more aggression, the ball in to the keeper at pace and a general air of meaning business. Tom Allin looked what he was all summer, one of the quickest bowlers in Devon cricket, but he was still not coming to terms with the Ventnor slope and was overstepping. It was his opening partner, Adam Parker, who struck first in the sixth over on 17, trapping last year’s keeper, Lloyd, leg before then having this year’s, Wilson, caught extremely smartly at slip by Tim Piper. In the next over Allin caught and bowled Snell and 19-3 was the required start. Fourteen were added for the fourth wicket when a direct hit from Scott Barlow ran out Whitfield. One run later Piper took an easier catch at slip off Porter to send back Morris - 34-5, shades of the day before but in reverse! Beven, last year’s half centurion, added 38 with Baldwin when Cooke had him caught behind by Nick Watkin. At the same score Cooke took his second wicket with the help of a catch from Dan Bowser and, still on 72, Baldwin’s 34 minute resistance ended, when David Wrench held him at long on for a top score of 28 to give Porter his second victim.  Six runs later West of England spinner, Briggs, was run out when cover Jack Porter and Nick Watkin combined. The captain Holmes was then trapped in front by Allin to give all the wicket takers two apiece. We knew how the Isle of Wight felt as they were dismissed for 85 in 32.5, we had nearly been there the day before. Parker finished with figures of 2-4 off seven overs and Cooke 2-5 off six, extras totalled 24.  

Watkin was bowled trying to cart Beven, Briggs bowled well, Bowser (20*) walked a single in an effort to give the Island a second wicket and failed and Williams (30*) fancied the short leg side Pavilion boundary. After 19.4 overs it was time for a swim. The key was that the side again looked like a side! This was Tim Piper’s last appearance of the season, as a toe injury ruled him out of the next game and like Dan Bowser, later, could not get back in. Marc Bettiss, due to his back, did not appear on a cricket field for the remainder of the summer. It is hoped that his back improves and he revives his enthusiasm for the game, as he will be sorely missed in 2007.

With apologies to Charles Dickens and his Tale of Two Cities the game against the Isle of Wight at Exmouth was the best of Devon cricket, it was the worst of Devon cricket! The worst was evident first, as the Isle of Wight, fresh from an exciting win over Dorset, won the toss and inserted the home county. Their captain, Holmes, opened from the sea end and put in three brisk overs before an existing injury took over. With his first legal ball he had Bowser caught at slip with a peach and Devon was 1 - 1 (a wide). Captain Aaron Williams and vice captain Nick Watkin put on 42 in eleven overs when, with both looking in good form, they departed off successive balls. 43-3 became 69-4 as David Wrench and Richard Tucker tried to recover the situation. Tucker, who had replaced Piper, was continuing his good club form and, at the demise of Wrench, put on another 46 with Will Grainger, who up to this stage of the summer was not having one of his better seasons, but was bravely grinding it out and at the same time regaining his touch. Annoyingly two more wickets fell in quick succession as Grainger was caught and Adam Parker went first ball. A further 17 runs were added by Tucker (43) and Jack Porter but then Devon appeared to put up the white flag as they lost their last four wickets on 132 – most certainly the worst of Devon cricket.

Aaron Williams must have given his team an inspirational pep talk, as they looked a completely different side after the interval, firing out half the Isle of Wight side for 18. Porter took a good catch off Parker to remove Woodhouse, a direct hit from Grainger cut off Dye, the dangerous Snell was trapped in front by an inspired Parker who then bowled Morris. Twenty-one were added for the sixth when Tom Allin had Russell caught by a diving Wrench at slip. The best partnership of the innings (23) took the Island up to 62, when their dogged captain Holmes was Acton’s first victim – bowled. The left armer then removed Burford caught behind by Watkin and then trapped Allen in front. On 81 Scott Barlow took his first county wicket of the season when he caught and bowled opener Lloyd, who had batted through facing 101 balls in his 136 minute stay – a great performance. The Isle of Wight was bowled out in 37.3 by an inspired bowling and fielding performance – the best of Devon cricket. The watching 17s must have been impressed as they tried, and succeeded, in repeating a similar united performance at Warminster the following day

With the older generation reliving 1976, the game against Cornwall at Tavistock was played in sapping conditions as the second official heat wave of the summer sizzled. With Aaron at his graduation, vice captain Nick Watkin needed to win the toss but Cornwall called heads and Devon was faced with 50 overs in broiling conditions. The home side was then subjected to a number of small, niggling partnerships, with two exceptions both below 5, as they toiled away to good effect in the heat. The opening bowlers, Tom Allin and Adam Parker, kept their opponents to 1.7 runs an over for the first twelve, with Allin inducing Robins to play too early to be caught at mid on by Josh Bess in the eleventh. Porter trapped the second opener leg before in the fifteenth over with 33 runs on the board. Adam Parker brilliantly caught Angove off Barlow on 56, with the visitors now scoring at 2.65. The opposition’s captain, Tunnadine, was still batting as he lost Churcher at 73, caught by Ross Acton off Matt Cooke and Cooke took his second wicket on 92, when Tom Allin took a catch to remove the injured Snell off Acton. Tunnadine finally succumbed on 114 after 39 overs, when a diving Will Grainger held another fine catch off Scott Barlow. It was considered, at this stage, that the end score would now be around 140 but Crane (39 off 42 balls in 28 minutes) and Bone took the score up to 134 after 42 when Porter gave Cooke his third victim. A further 37 were added for the eighth by Crane and Stephens, with a skier missed, but the fielder made up for the error shortly afterwards when Parker hit the stumps direct side on. Devon then tied it up, bowling Cornwall out in the 49th when Tom Allin was too quick for Fraser. All in all this had been an outstanding exercise in conditions that some would not have experienced before, even in South Africa.

Watkins message was to score at 3.52 to reach the side’s highest score to date this summer and the batters did the job in reaching 176 with nine balls to spare and losing only four wickets. Josh Bess, who had run out of excuses to avoid playing, did what he was selected for and took the initiative. It was an interesting combination, with Bess covering the 20 yards in three strides and his captain partner taking the full 20 paces! On 24 the long legs called the short ones for a decidedly risky single and Watkin came second by a long way. The captain is obviously maturing as he concealed his annoyance with great style! Richard Tucker, continuing where he had left off against the Isle of Wight, had become a key batter in the side. Bess was caught on 45 for a good 43 ball 32. Tucker and David Wrench took the score up to 104, with the highest third wicket partnership of 2006, when Wrench was bowled by Robbins. The pair had been subjected to another first class spell from left arm spinner Smeeth, who conceded just 10 runs in his ten overs and removed Tucker on 106 with the second ball of his last over. Tucker had done all the hard work and deserved to have had a chance to have a go at the other bowlers. It was plain sailing from then on as Matt Cooke and Will Grainger added the 68 necessary to win. Cooke’s shot selection was outstanding, he hit five fours in his 34, and Grainger was returning to a form he had probably given up hope of ever recovering. Their fifth wicket partnership was the leading one of the year. Another outstanding performance and one that created selection problems for the fifth game against Dorset. Watkin continued his fine reputation as an outstanding captain, also keeping and opening on the hottest day of the year – this was some individual performance but indeed the other ten also made outstanding contributions.

One of the most pleasing aspects of the comprehensive defeat of our Dorset neighbours at Seaton were the comments from the boundary – what a fine team, don’t they field well, quality bowling and batting, if only we played like this. The under 21s were the total opposite of their early performance at Weymouth in that they were a very exciting unit to watch in all departments, whereas during the first game of the season they had looked sadly disjointed. This was in spite of a number of players feeling under the weather and not feeling 50% let alone 100%. The day started badly when Jack Porter reported unwell, which was not a surprise as he had put on a brave face the previous two days with the sixteens at the same ground. This enabled Gary Chappell to make his first appearance, during the winter he had been pencilled in as one of the side’s spinners but a school trip to Barbados had ruled him out of contention. Dorset won the toss and batted, which suited the home side’s captain Aaron Williams who had already decided he wanted to bat second. Opener Dyson, who had been undefeated at Weymouth, fell in the fourth over to a ball from Parker he considered unplayable. After fine spells from Adam Parker and Tom Allin, Ross Acton and Scott Barlow entered the attack and both continued to exert the pressure, with Acton having House in all sorts of trouble playing and missing. House and Park took the score up to 53 in seventeen overs when House was held by Richard Tucker off Scott Barlow. Three runs later, Barlow with Williams help took the key wicket of Park, who had been the major hindrance in the first game. It became 84-5 after twenty-nine overs, when first Acton received some reward by bowling Watkins and Belt was caught behind by Watkin off Allin who had been brought into the attack to take wickets. Twenty-five were added for the sixth wicket, with spinners Gary Chappell and Matt Cooke bowling in tandem with their first six overs and going at just over two and a half. Cooke removed the opposition’s captain, Tweddle, with yet another fine catch, this time by Allin. Arshad, who scored a hundred the next day against Cornwall, and under 17 player Armstong had taken the score up to 137 when Armstong was well held by Luke Bess at long off of the returning Adam Parker. Dorset lost two wickets at 141, when Parker had Arshad caught behind by the now standing up Watkin and Grainger’s direct underarm ran out the younger Lawes, on his only ball, at the bowlers end. As in the Weymouth game an annoying tenth wicket partnership then took shape. Last time it had been Devon’s Cooke and Barlow, this time it was Dorset’s Park and Wilson who put on an unbeaten 35 at a run a ball. Still 176 -9 was considered acceptable with the ground in an outstanding condition and the lightening outfield.

Josh Bess and a very unwell Nick Watkin beat the highest opening partnership of the season by four when Bess was caught for a 47 ball 25. Illness is obviously an advantage to the vice captain, as he was in top form with the bat and, in the company of his captain, put on 73 off 94 balls, the best second wicket partnership of the summer. Williams was also in good shape and he looked well set for another county 50 when House bowled him on 127. Richard Tucker failed for the first time this summer, perhaps he should stick to the train rather than the bus to get to games, he had used all sorts of public transport to get to the games – real dedication. Devon was suddenly 127-3 but the imperial Watkin, with the support of a now  fully restored to batting health Will Grainger, completed the deed, with Watkin undefeated on 94 with 13 fours and taking 135 balls. This batsman, like all good ones, knows his own limitations and plays to his strengths, this was an outstanding innings. Grainger kept him company in an unbroken stand of 61 making it the third best stand in the match, this for fourth wicket. The comments were so right, as this was an exceptional performance from a talented group of young players who obviously enjoy their own company and are extremely well led by Aaron Williams, who puts into practice all the experience he has gained as the youngest Premier skipper. This made the  result of the following game at St Austell even more galling.

This final game of the season against Cornwall had been approached with great expectancy as the side, apart from the first game of the season, had been playing high quality cricket and were on target to win the Southern Counties title for the first time. Therefore the shock of a really poor all round performance was greater than normal. We should stop playing our last game of the season on the last Wednesday of August since, as had happened last summer, this game was a huge anticlimax and for the second year running the season ended in deep depression. Apart from Tom Allin’s fine bowling there really was not much else to take from Aaron Williams, Will Grainger and Richard Tucker’s final youth game. It would be a real shame for Devon cricket if this was to prove to be Aaron’s final appearance in royal, gold and black and he has to look outside the county to further his career. He has so much to offer cricket, particularly his home county, and his leadership has simply been as good as it gets. He is learning, although perhaps not yet fully accepting that there are often two points of view! Irrespective of the three early decisions that went against them, the side lost their way in all departments and it is sad to write that they were totally out performed by the Cornish. The weather forecast had put doubt on the game being concluded but, not for the first time this summer, it was wrong as light drizzle only eventually reached the St Austell ground when the game had been concluded. Williams won the toss and fielded, Allin took an early wicket but Churcher and Tunnadine put on the highest partnership of the season by an opponent – 185 off 208 balls. It would not be sour grapes to write that both batters, on another day, would have been dismissed early, both caught behind, but it was not to be and the pair batted sensibly and the local supporters were estimating a final total well in excess of 300. Indeed it did look likely, as Williams even resorted to bowling his own brand of slow bowling, but once the partnership was broken Cornwall lost five wickets for 38 runs, as their batters had rushes of blood. First Churcher (92) was well held by Parker, his first of three catches, and then it was third time unlucky for Tunnadine (86) as Barlow at last held him at long off of Cooke, who in fairness also had bowled well. This kamikaze approach continued as Devon now held most of the chances offered, although Bone restored some sanity by batting twenty-eight minutes for an undefeated 36. Allin bowled really well and with Bess, Acton, Piper and Williams will benefit from a winter down under. The final score of 273 would need a couple of large innings to even get close but sadly the best was 28 from Bess, as the side folded with little trace being dismissed for 141 in 35 overs. Cornwall missed one chance, held every half chance, took nine catches and one stumping – had it been Devon the accolades would have flowed. This was incredibly disappointing and really, apart from the lengthy gap from their last game against Dorset, there was no rhyme or reason for such an inept performance. The players were due to leave in high spirits for a night in Newquay, instead they left under a sodden sky totally depressed. On this performance alone Cornwall deserved to share the title with us.

Reviewing the season, we were justified to be concerned about the batting which, apart from Matt Cooke, who was unfortunate not to qualify for the averages being only dismissed once in his three visits to the crease, no one averaged over 30 and there was only one score over 50 – Nick Watkin’s undefeated 94. It is anticipated that being a year older the batsman will score more heavily next summer. In the field the side generally performed well: Nick Watkin kept to his normal high standards conceding just a bye a game; Adam Parker held five catches and took ten wickets at 16; Tom Allin was exceptional taking 12 wickets at 14, deserving his selection for the full county squad and being unfortunate not to play; Matt Cooke’s spin removed seven victims and all of the others chipped in. There is likely to be an increased intensity for places next summer. Aaron Williams was deservedly the Peter Atkinson Player of the Year, simply for being the best possible skipper.

Our thanks to Exmouth, Tavistock and Seaton for their first class hospitality, the umpires and scorer. Aaron was a marvellous captain and will be a hard act to follow but Nick Watkin will be up to it. The pink socks have not yet surfaced but the guide will be as invaluable as the one at sixteens, which is still in use. Wiltshire’s application to join the competition has been accepted, increasing the fixtures to eight games. Although it is hoped that it will be cooler when we re-visit the New Forest in early July.