After a successful pre-season Devon Ladies made the trip up to the Midlands last weekend for their first two fixtures of the 2017 County Championship against Staffordshire and Derbyshire respectively. The forecast for the weekend was bleak so after winning the toss at Milford Hall CC new skipper, Amara Carr, elected to field first against a weakened and recently relegated Staffordshire outfit.
Carr chose to open the bowling with the left-arm spin of Hazelle Garton which quickly proved effective as she trapped the Staffs opener LBW in the second over. Cait O’Keefe (Plympton) then took a smart catch at slip off the bowling of Mackenzie to reduce Staffs to 11-2 at the end of the 5th over. Staffordshire struggled to get the board moving as Devon consistently kept the run rate well below 3 an over on what was a good batting track with a quick outfield. The introduction of Milly Squire proved the difference for the Devon girls. The Filleigh bowler removed the only Staffs batters offering any resistance on her way to figures of 4-27. Squire was ably supported by Exeter University’s Becca Silk, 2-18, as Devon gave little room for error to bowl Staffordshire out for 104 from 44.3 overs.
It became quickly evident that Staffordshire had posted a target well below par as the new opening pair of Mackenzie and O’Keefe settled into the reply with confidence. Both batters hit the boundary with ease as they built an opening stand of 86 before Sophie Mackenzie (50) was caught and bowled shortly after making her first County half-century. The only question asked of the Devon batters was whether they could secure maximum batting points by scoring the required total inside of 26 overs but O’Keefe (32*) took Devon over the line in the 23rd over to round off an excellent first match for the Devon side.
On the Bank Holiday Monday the ladies had to make the short hop to Rolleston CC to play newly promoted Derbyshire who were keen to get their first win on the board after losing to Somerset the day before. The players warmed up throughout the drizzle, which then proceeded to stop just before the captain’s were due to toss. Carr lost the toss and unsurprisingly Devon were duly asked to bat first. The Derbyshire openers probed well at the beginning of the innings on a green and wet pitch that was moving around but once again O’Keefe and Mackenzie proved to much for the bowling attack. O’Keefe made her own maiden half-century in 50 over County cricket, scoring 53 from 104 balls, whilst Mackenzie struck her second in two days finishing on 89 from 142 balls. The pair built the partnership on some excellent running between the wickets brought about by a wet and slow outfield, which only conceded 14 boundaries throughout the day. After O’Keefe was caught at long on in the 36th over with the score at 136 the remaining batters went on to play cameo innings to support Mackenzie on her quest for a first county ton. The score continued to tick along despite wickets falling regularly to leave Devon with a final total of 209-5 from their 50 overs.
A brief downpour during the interval gave the Devon seamers plenty to work with at the start of the Derbyshire reply and all three made an impact early on in the innings. Squire, Edgcombe and Mackenzie took a wicket a piece to remove the Derbyshire top three reducing them to 34-3 but it was the introduction of Hazelle Garton, which quickly tied up the match. Garton went on to bowl yet another miserly spell regularly beating the outside edge on her way to match winning figures of 10-3-20-6. It was only Derbyshire’s Leah Kellogg (21) who looked to make any fightback as she looked to hit the boundary to try and wrestle back some momentum. Her attempts were in vain though as Derbyshire collapsed from 34-2 to 87 all out.
An excellent weekend for the Devon Ladies outfit as they secured maximum points from both games to leave them joint top of Division 2 in the County Championship. Next up is Somerset at Instow on Sunday 14th May.
Sunday’s Players' Player of the Match - Sophie Mackenzie
Monday’s Players’ Player of the Match - Hazelle Garton