Nowhere near as good as our last appearance!
On the 17th August it will be twenty-four years since the under-17s last played at the Royal Grammar School, Worcester. Back then it was a broiling summer's day whilst in 2019 it was an overcast, freezing day with the prospect of prolonged persistent rain. For nearly four hours it looked as if no play would take place for light annoying rain set in as the toss was about to take place. Back in 1995 it was Matt Theedom's exceptional side taking on a very strong Hampshire side in the semi-final of the Malvern Festival. The Festival favourites batted first and in 60 overs scored 218-5, how things have changed! Devon, with one of this groups finest ever batting line ups, batted and found themselves 120-9 with just twenty overs remaining - game over. David Lye was still at the crease and he was joined by Barton's off spinner Damon Calland. What followed was one the most difficult passages of cricket to watch as no one moved and ninety-nine runs were added against a very reasonable attack. David Lye has been one of Devons most prolific batsman but this performance was something very special. In Calland he had the ideal foil, a more than useful batter, and before the expression became a cliché they both rotated the strike to an exceptional level. Lye was three short of yet another youth ton and Calland on 37 as their target was passed. Devon had twenty-one balls to spare - one of Devon's most remarkable victories. The captain ended up in hospital that night but he returned to lead his side the next day to retain the Under 17 Festival title. Unfortunately 2019 was a completely different performance.
This summer we have four of the less attractive travel days and our journey up to Worcester included a most unwelcome crawl outside Bristol and as always it took longer than anticipated. We are up to Stourbridge later in the year and our favourite trip of all, cross country to Southampton - twice. A mixture or sixteens and seventeens arrived at the Holiday Inn and a Harvester feed us. As an eternal pessimist it was concerning that we travelled with real optimism - a major error. We arrived on time, warm up one started and the persistent drizzle got harder and in really cold conditions the exceptionally warm pavilion was a welcome retreat. Devon's Performance Manager was already on edge as he believed the first pre match preparation of the season only warranted four out of ten. Lunch was taken and after a break in the rain the Umpires advised everyone a 37 over game would take place. The weather radar indicated that there was still more more rain to come - it fortunately did not materialise. Warm up two received a rating of three and even a young participant only gave it four This simply is not acceptable. Standards - Devon should set standards throughout their involvement in every game and if they are not attained, action will be taken. Simply look at the synonyms of standards - quality, level, grade, worth, calibre, merit and importantly - excellence. A drop in our standards will simply not be acceptable and they did drop throughout this game. Play started at 2.29pm in conditions that would have warranted the use of the new Taunton floodlights. Jack Moore lost the first toss of the summer. In George Marshall the home side have a very useful opening bowler and he was confronted by two very much in form batters in Sam Read and Cameron Kidd. The pair put on 13 including a four and a six but both were back in the warmth within three overs. Kidd bowled by Tulacz and Read by Marshall. The sides engine room of James White and Jack Moore (200 against this side in 2018 and an obvious target) added seventeen, two wickets fell on thirty-two one a horrendous Kamikaze run out one of two self inflicted mortal wounds. Every year the importance of good running is stressed but two totally unnecessary run outs is simply basic naivety - the first one was the result of ball watching on a certain two. Devon were now really up against it, one ball short of six overs Devon were now five down. Pre match discussions had cantered on the strength of our batting and it was now time to find out. Vice Captain Luke Medlock had been joined by Plympton's Ben Privett and both demonstrated there was nothing wrong with a decent dry track. They took Devon up to eighty-eighty, the fifty came up in the thirteenth over and the fifty partnership (sixty-eight balls, forty-four minutes) in the twentieth. Medlock gave a chance but they both batted extremely sensibly. The ability to still be positive in a crisis was expertly demonstrated, clean hitting, sound defence and excellent running which for the first time put their opponents under some pressure. Disappointingly they both fell to injudicious shots and the entire side must learn when starting to get back into any game shot selection still is a very important skill. Privett was caught in the twentieth over. Exeter City's Louis Morison came in and it was hoped he could play one of his cameo innings. It looked as if he would with some typical classical Morrison shots, scoring fifteen off seventeen and hope started to rise. It was another typical Morison dismissal caught on the charge. The visitors were now thirteen past the hundred. Debutant Will Scott-Munden joined Medlock and the pair took Devon through to the twentieth-ninth over when Josh Baker took his first wicket bowling Medlock. The Paignton all-rounder had batted for seventy-four minutes facing sixty-four balls in scoring forty-four -four fours. Devon now needed to occupy all of the remaining seventeen overs and try and post a defendable total. In fact they added only another nineteen runs for the loss of the three remaining wickets, two in one over, leaving six overs - thirty-six balls unused. Worcester would chase 132 at just over three and a half. The following day against Hampshire they totalled only one hundred and twenty off thirty-five.
There was a quick ten minute turn around, Devon did not do themselves any favours and were not all ready to start some catching and bowling - standards. The visitors needed to demonstrate they knew how to pressurise a batting side - excellent tight fielding, dot balls, no four balls, right fielders in their specialist positions, decent lengths, take wickets and everyone exert a huge squeeze. They started brightly but quickly faded. There were huge lessons for both types of format but we looked poor in the field and there really is no excuse for that. Sonny Bake bowled Roll - 10-1, Louis Morison held a superlative diving leg side catch off the captain to remove the oppositions captain and at the end of the seventeenth over they were sixty-five for two. Devon had taken a wicket off a no ball in the fifteenth over. Sandy Allen believed if we could take another two or three wickets Devon could be back in the game. There was insufficient momentum throughout the side despite Luke Medlock going at less than threes to achieve this hope. This really was poor cricket and the fact it took the home side thirty-two overs to reach their target clearly further demonstrates what some real united pressure could have achieved. Tom Simmons trapped top scorer Hinkley in the twenty-fifth over and the home side had thirty-two balls left. Hands were shaken at fifteen minutes to seven.
In comparing the two sides Devon bowled 124 dots to 115, conceded fourteen fours to the home sides ten and two, both sides bowled just one maiden but the home side took ten wickets to Devon's three. Our batting just did not perform and it has too, Going back to 1995 Devon 17s played Cornwall in a friendly in half term week - 31st May and with Matt Theedom unavailable Chris Read led the side. They lost by one hundred and fifty five runs. With some subtle changes in personnel and total commitment to the Devon cause they went on to complete a magnificent season. It was the players that turned it around, your opportunity starts on the 9th June. There simply has to be a complete turnaround in approach, committment and a demonstration that playing for Devon is an important part of your cricketing lives. As our Performance Manger explained before a ball was bowled there has never been greater competition to get into a Devon side Words were not necessary as this had been a truly awful performance and the players will be reminded of the standards required at this level and the non negotiables. They seemed to forget that this is a reasonably good standard of cricket which might be missing the experience in the Premier but our opponents will not lack ability. When anticipating this game we were confident in the ability of the side, it will be necessary from now on for it to be fully demonstrated. On the plus side we were joined by our Midland consultant.