Devon do hard work against Oxfordshire then see victory snatched away
DEVON team chief Keith Donohue had some stern words for his side after they had victory snatched from their grasp by Oxfordshire.
Chasing 245 to win in on the last day, Devon improved from 24 for three overnight to 229 for five.
Matt Golding made a patient 68, skipper Josh Bess ground out 71 and left-hander Zak Bess was on 47 not out.
A stand of 123 between Golding and captain Bess made an unlikely win look possible and while Zak Bess and Tom Lammonby (25) were chalking up another 54 a Devon victory looked probable.
The target was 16 to win with five wickets in hand and a session and a half to get the runs. It looked like a banker. Then Zak Bess was caught behind off spinner Harry Ward and Devon went into freefall.
Four wickets went for six runs added, accompanied by increasingly voluble whoops of delight from the Oxfordshire fielders.
Devon, who had needed 16 to win with five wickets left were now 10 short with tail-end charlies George Benton and Hugo Whitlock at the crease.
There was plenty of blocking and the odd prod either side of the wickets, but the scoring as binary a Ward and fellow spinner Richard Kaufman were patted back.
Seven runs short of victory Benton pushed forward to Ward and slip Lloyd Sabin pulled off a reaction catch low down in the slips to ruin Devon’s day.
Donohue said what was so tough to take was getting into a winning position then squandering all the hard work getting there by losing focus.
“We batted brilliantly to get ourselves into a position where an improbable win looked very likely – then let it get away," he said.
“When you have the opposition on the ropes – they looked on the verge of giving up – you put your foot on their throat and finish them off.
“Instead, we thought the game was as good as won and a few pretty shots would do it. Shows how wrong you can be.
“I don’t think we have played that badly during my time. I hope the players are hurting as much as I am.”
In among the wreckage of the defeat there were some positives, starting with a five-wicket performance from Hugo Whitlock.
The lofty seamer from Bovery Tracey had match figures of five for 35 from 24 overs – good stats by anyone’s standards.
Devon also bowled the opposition out twice, never the easiest proposition on pitches prepared to last for three days.
Problem areas are the batting line-up and getting square pegs in the right holes.
This Devon XI had plenty of fours, fives, sixes and sevens – more than one of each in some cases – but were light at one, two and three.
The absence through injury of Alex Barrow, the former Somerset batter, didn’t help Devon’s cause.
Changes are on the cards as and when availability issues relating to students and teachers ease as the season goes on. The difficulty will be which of the square pegs gets left out?
Oxfordshire 219 (J A Cater 99, J L N Garrett 51, H D Ward 28; J A Stephens 3-50) & 205 (L M Sabin 59, M A H Hammond 76; H M Whitlock 4-23, J J Bess 3-37), Devon 180 (Z G G Bess 40, R A Mawdsley 37; L M Bethell 4-32, H E Eltham 3-59). & 239 (M C Golding 68, J J Bess 71, Z G G Bess 47, T A Lammonby 25; H D Ward 3-15, R I Kaufman 2-20, B F D Taylor 2-32). Oxfordshire (21pts) bt Devon (5) by 6 runs.