Lye declares innings closed on 25-year Devon League career

David Lye batting for Exmouth against Exeter this season

ONE of the longest innings in Tolchards Devon Cricket League history is about to come to an end with the retirement of Exmouth’s David Lye.

Lye, who turned 40 earlier this year, has declared tomorrow’s Premier Division game against Sandford at Exmouth will be his last.

Lye played the first of what will be 358 first-team games for Exmouth, and later Sandford, way back in 1995.

He started out as a batsman and made a name for himself aged 17 by smashing an unbeaten 113 against Paignton – the first of six tons for Exmouth and eight in total between both clubs.

A youthful David Lye (right) pictured with Exmouth and Devon team-mate Andy ProcterLye’s run tally for Exmouth stands at 7,489 (ave 32.42) with a top score of 142 against Chudleigh in 2009.

During six seasons with Sandford – appearing in 93 games – Lye scored 2,871 runs that included two tons, the best 128 against Bovey in 2003. He averaged 37.29 with the bat.

Bowling was added to the repertoire in later seasons and with one game to go Lye has accumulated 259 wickets for Exmouth. His career best with the ball is two returns of six for 35: against Plymouth (2011) and Paignton (2017). The Sandford years yielded 38 wickets at 25.63 and 33 catches.

Along the way for Exmouth and Sandford there has been a fair amount of silverware stashed away. Exmouth were Premier Division winners in 1998, 1999 and 2013. There was also a Devon Cup final win over arch-rivals Sidmouth in 2013 and three wins in the final of the Servicemaster Devon T20 Cup.

Lye was a Premier winner twice with Sandford, in 2003 and 2004, and a Devon Cup winner three times in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

As a free-scoring batsman in youth cricket it was inevitable First Class counties would want a look at Lye, first Somerset then Middlesex.

Somerset kept an eye on Lye via 2ndXI appearances between 1994-96 but it was Middlesex that signed him in 1997. A knee injury that refused to clear up led to his release the following year.

Lye made his Minor Counties debut for Devon in 1998 and went on to play 73 times in two-day and three-day cricket, scoring four hundreds in a total of 2,976 runs.

Devon won two Minor Counties Championship titles and shared a third while Lye was in the side up to 2013

Lye was an automatic pick for the one-day Unicorns Cup side from 2000-2014. His was a cup winner against Berkshire at Lord’s in 2008 and retired after playing in the side that defeated Oxfordshire by seven runs in the 2014 final at Wormsley.

Lye played 10 times in C&G Trophy games and was a member of the Devon side that caused an upset in 2004 by beating Leicestershire at Exmouth. The previous season he won a gold award in the same competition for striking a century against Suffolk in a qualifying game, also at Exmouth. The award adjudicator was Conrad Sutcliffe.

David Lye (left) receiving his county cap from chairman Roger Moylan-Jones after striking 121 against Suffolk at Exmouth in the C&G TrophyLye has packed a lot into a career that started aged eight in the Yarcombe team alongside his late father Gerald. He decided at the start of this season it would be his last and nothing team-mates have said has changed his mind.

“I am getting old, I am not quite as good as I used to be, my back hurts at times and after 25 years there are other things I want to do on a Saturday afternoon, such as going shooting” said Lye.

“I won’t be burning my bat or anything like that, and I won’t be playing for anyone else at a lower level.

“I have always tried to play at the best level I can and feel I have proved this year I can still do it a the best level in Devon.

“The fact is team has moved on, I am the only one of last season’s top-six batters still playing for the club and I hardly know anyone now.”

If a statistician totted up all the 2ndXI games, Minor Counties U25 games, cup games, youth games and representative games Lye has played in, it would easily top the 600 mark.

Lye’s cricket career stats may have worked out differently had he not been injured while attached to Middlesex, but he harbours no regrets.

“My leg let me down at Middlesex and the shame is when I was 30 I recovered far more quickly from injuries than I did at 16,” said Lye.

“Just practicing in the nets helped me develop my own game. If Middlesex were playing at Lord’s I would be batting as the bowlers from both sides warmed up.

“Bowlers from both sides would bowl to me and I faced the likes of Devon Malcolm, Phil DeFreitas, Angus Fraser and Phil Tuffnell. You learn a lot that way.”

Lye may not have had the First Class career predicted for him as a teenager, but between 2004-2008 he felt like a full-time cricketer.

“At the time I was playing for Sandford on Saturdays, Devon most Sundays and also in three-day games going on until Tuesday and then for the Minor Counties in the Second Eleven Trophy and rep games,” said Lye.

“I felt like a full-time cricketer, only without the medical back-up and financial benefits.”

Having played so much cricket for such a long time it is perhaps not surprising Lye finds it hard picking out highlights. For clubs and county there have been so many.

“Playing at Lord’s and winning there was definitely one – as was playing for Devon at Exmouth against any of the First Class counties in the old C&G Cup,” said Lye.

“Being part of the side that defeated Leicestershire in 2004 at Exmouth was a phenomenal experience. It is such a shame the current Devon team no longer has that chance.”

Club statistical information courtesy of Paul Smith (Sandford) and Peter Langford (Devon, Exeter and Exmouth).