As the occupant of Number 10 and the Devon Under 17s now appreciate in seven days much can change! For the Devon Under 17s it was a very disappointing performance in the Cup Group Match against Worcestershire at Stourport on Severn. It was a rush up from Devon after a curtailed league and school programme on Saturday night. Three pick up's but a full complement reached the Holiday Inn just the right side of midnight and an early start was the order of the day for Sunday. The side left on time and reached Stourport ahead of schedule to play on a ground last visited in 2012 when current county players Dart, Popham, Stephens, and Dominic Bess were playing. Harry Ward reported a back stain in the warm up and it did not improve over the day which seriously affected this fine cricketer. Gibbs won the toss and batted, although without Sandy's white board the days objectives were considered and Sargent and Causey opened. Unlike the outstanding victory against Hampshire Devon fell short on almost all their goals. Phillips third successive fifty being the sole exception. It started well but after thirty-two minutes Causey hung his bat out to dry and Hassan found the edge and keeper Fitzmaurice took the catch. Thirty-six for one in the ninth over. Harry Ward joined Harvey Sargent and again the pair seemed in little difficulty as Ward brought out his drive and sweep to great effect. However Sargent unexpectedly chipped spinner Ahmed back for a caught and bowled. The opener was out in the twelfth over and Devon were 50-2. Jamie Khan and Ward added just thirteen when Khan tried to cut Marshall to fall in the same way as Causey. It got worse for Devon as Ward chipped Ahmed to short mid wicket after looking totally at ease. Devon were now in some real difficulty on 69-4 in the eighteenth over. Jamie Lathwell joined Phillips who was in a typical pugnacious mood taking the battle to the home side and the recovery was underway. There was hope that the first fifty partnership of the innings was to be achieved but the first run out of the summer ended Devon's hopes. It was a quality piece of fielding by the oppositions captain, Haynes, but Lathwell should have not got stranded. Again a self inflicted blow had put Devon under pressure. This fifth wicket fell on Nelson in the thirty-second over. The pair had added forty-two runs and Phillips had unselfishly curtained his natural instincts for the benefit of his side. It would now be a struggle to get a potentially defendable score but Devon had one hundred and twelve balls to try. In fact sixty-seven runs were scored for the loss of two more wickets. Ben Abrahams and Phillips continued the sensible approach adding thirty-six when Hassan took his second wicket bowling Abrahams. Devon were now on 147 and this rearguard effort was bearing fruit but six wickets were now down. It was shortly seven down with Hassan now going through his repertoire of slower balls and a back of a hand delivery bowled Phillips who was trying his scoop. He had just passed his fifty, his third successive under 17 one, he had faced seventy-nine balls batting for eighty-seven minutes hitting six fours and a six. He had held his side together and given them impetus throughout his stay at the crease. Horn and Szymanski added twenty-six taking Devon to 178-7. From the outset coach Sandy Allen had emphasised the importance of playing proper cricket shots which the white ball always gave good value. It often pays not to try too hard and always return to the basics of rotation and running. Devon in all faced two hundred and five dot balls (68%) and the benefit of utilising half of them would clearly indicate the difference between a defendable total and today's final product. This is still a key lesson as is putting the opposition under pressure when fielding.
Tea style interval but of the superior nature and now this group had to show they had learnt from 2016 and were able to put the home side under some real pressure. Worcestershire reached 182 at seven minutes past five with fifty-six balls to spare. Devon took three wickets two caught behind by Phillips off Horn and Lathwell both of the interesting variety. Another was not given and Harry Ward took a third catch off Hancock who was unlucky not to pick up a couple more as it was for the captain. The weather had covered virtually every season but a strong wind from the pavilion end was prevalent all game. Devon fielded OK but at this level it is simply not good enough. It is accepted that this is not the most talented group of fielders that have represented Devon but an improvement has now been sought for nearly twelve months. Anticipation is a vital ingredient in the top fielder along with concentration and this shortage is something that makes life incredibly difficult when defending. Realistically to be a competitive side this summer this vital element has to improve and it will play an increasingly important part in selection now that the sixteens and fifteens will shortly be available for much of the remainder of our programme. Having been attacked from ball one at Heathcoat last year this year Worcestershire had a more measured approach to reaching their target which perhaps reflected their batting potential. They were able to milk the bowling which is something a side that can pressurise would not have allowed. Jamie Lathwell went for less than four an over, Hancock bowled his ten for less than five and Gibbs who, despite bowling into a gale, was the sides most economical bowler. Devon now have two home games to try and recover the standard set at Basingstoke before they embark on their three day programme.