After a reasonable trip up to Worcestershire Devon returned to the Stourport Manor, now under new management, for the first time since 2013. A short drive to the nearby Bay Horse provided nourishment and entertainment was provided in the form of the final of Love Island viewed with Kem and Amber triumphant. It had been a long seven weeks. We returned to the excellent Stourport upon Seven ground for the second time this year and the third at under seventeens. Under the covers a proverbial road was found and it was hoped, at least that the Devon batsmen would fill their boots as this would be the perfect opportunity. The end result followed an amazing game of cricket. Gibbs called correctly and batted. Jack’s contribution on an off the field in what has been one of the most difficult seasons in twenty-six has been truly exceptional and he has been up amongst the very best. He has not only led from the front but added sanity when needed most. Of upmost importance is his understanding of the Devon ethos. Harvey Sargent opened with Ashley Causey but the pair only put on sixteen when Sargent was caught behind in the tenth over. Devon could have been two down when James Bovey was missed behind before he had scored. The second wicket pairing added twenty-two when Bovey was bowled by Hassaan. This dismissal took place in the twenty-first over and Devon had again not made the ideal start. However the third wicket pairing of Causey and Jamie Khan put on one hundred and seventy off two hundred and fourteen balls, boots were being filled. Lunch was taken after thirty-seven overs with the score on one short of Nelson. A great response following the loss of two top order batsmen. Post lunch it got better and better as the two batsman demonstrated a clear and effective approach to batting. After a discussion at Exeter Jamie Khan was now back to his brilliant best. He simply destroys opposition with his simply but incredibly effective approach to batting see ball hit ball for miles! It was particularly pleasing that this outstanding contribution was being viewed by two of his biggest fans who later rectified his packing shortcomings. Jamie’s hundred came up in the fifty-third over with surprise surprise a huge six, showman to the end. The contribution from Causey cannot be forgotten, he was out to prove a point which undoubtedly he did on the field. Jamie Khan was leg before to Davis in the fifty-seventh over but this partnership had shifted the momentum. The stand was the highest of the 2017 season and the second highest third wicket partnership behind Fletcher’s and Chappell’s 303 at Basingstoke in 2006. It had been a fantastic performance with Khan contributing 105 and Causey 64. It had taken six minutes under two hours. It was now up the remaining batsman to maintain the initiative. Fortunately Ward and Max Hancock ensured the ground work had not been wasted. Only two were added before Causey's contribution ended which was annoying as he was well set. In reality this was a real opportunity to reach three figures but when a little stability was needed he went for the unorthodox overbalanced and was stumped. He is unlikely to bat on a similar surface again this summer and he now had only one more opportunity, if the weather forecast is right, to really prove a point and make up lost ground.. Harry Ward took over the responsibility of maintaining the impetus as he and Taylor put on forty-five. Ward had contributed 30. However Taylor having hit the third ball of the sixty-seventh over for a sweet four next ball he was over ambitious and he was caught on the drive. His contribution had been just nine but a third batting point obtained. He did annoy with if it is a half volley I hit it whatever the circumstance, the coach confirmed it had not been a half volley! Gibbs snicked off in the sixty-ninth over 261-6. Tea was taken after seventy-five overs with no further loss, Devon eight short of a final batting point, Ward (59) in total command and Onley-Gregson (12) continuing his important contributions. Unfortunately the Heathcoat all rounder only lasted four post tea balls. Ward and the returning Max Hancock secured the fourth batting point and the think tank was again in operation. Devon had faced seventy-nine overs and there were twenty-five overs left in the day. The concern was the forecast for the middle day that indicated potential interruptions some substantial. We had been fortunate on the first day as the clouds went around the ground and thunder was heard in the distance. The decision was made to bat on and another forty runs were added. It was also hoped that Ward might also reach three figures. He was next out twenty-five short. His partnership with Hancock yielded twenty-eight. Harry has again been an integral member of the side and his unassuming approach, which is also a very professional one, clearly shows that actions indeed speak louder than words. Hancock was another out to prove he was a batter and he nearly achieved it in another partnership.This time a partnership of twenty with Elliott Adams. Adams was leg before in the eighty-ninth over and eight balls later Hancock’s fine innings ended when he was caught behind for a very bright and breezy but most useful twenty-five with five fours. He had appeared to enjoy the surface but had yet to bowl on it. Devon’s final product was a seasons best 341. There were fifteen overs before close of play to make inroads.
Devon had a near perfect final session taking three wickets for forty-seven runs – all three caught behind by an inspired Sam Taylor. Johai was Onley-Gregson’s first caught in the third over. The bowler had bowled just dots as Worcestershire were 16-1. He took out Ahmed in the eighth 38-2 and then the captain removed Hassan 40-3 – an outstanding start. Hancock and Adams had a bowl before stumps as Devon were 293 ahead at close.
Stocks of steaks were again low, perhaps this is an increasing sign of the catering times of 2017 but a convivial evening was had with rain in the air. Incredibly next day only nine overs were lost as the rain across Worcestershire skirted the ground despite monsoon conditions just two miles away being regularly reported. Devon went about their business in a most professional manner but unacceptably their over rate was under pressure not just from external influences such as wickets and breaks but because one or two were not joining in with the simplest of all exercises getting through the changes between overs in the shortest time possible. It is simply deplorable to bowl less than seventeen an hour let alone sixteen. Due to heavy overnight rain there was a delayed start until one fifteen but lunch had been taken with profiteroles and cream the highlight from an exceptional catering team. Worcestershire added another thirty before Taylor continued his one man show catching Lea, who was to score a double hundred the following week, off Adams. The home side reached three figures in the thirtieth over when Taylor showed he could also take them off the spinners by catching Clarke off Hancock. This was the end of the Bovey keeper’s wicket taking in the innings but he also did not concede a bye in the first innings in a first class performance over the two innings which totalled one hundred and sixty-eight overs. This would have been a phenomenal performance from any keeper. Devon kept up the pressure and dismissed the home side one hundred and ninety one runs behind. Gibbs bowled Hatfield and Green – 133-7; Woodcock nonchalantly caught and bowled Clark 140-8. Onley-Gregson cleaned up a misfield from one of his elders to run out Davis 146-9 and Harvey Sargent caught the opposition’s keeper off Hancock - 149 all out after forty-eight overs. The home side were all out at twenty past three with sixty-two overs left in the day. Discussions had already been held with the captain and it was agreed that the least attractive proposition for the home side would be to bat again. It was however essential that calculations were completed to show our bowlers had enough overs left in the day to attack the home side. This is the first time in years (research being undertaken shortly) that Devon have invited a side to bat again but the uncertain weather continued to feature in discussions. The fact that no further overs were lost does show that the weather radar is not always infallible! It did not initially go to plan as the Worcestershire openers put on one short of one hundred and fifty! They were successfully eating into their shortfall but this was still a road. Eight bowlers had been introduced but there was a failure to understand fully how to build pressure. However eventually a simple but proven approach brought a wicket. Causey bowled a consistent line to batsman Lea, he played the ball just backward of cover to Adams who fielded cleanly for nine balls. On the tenth delivery the batsman failed to keep the ball down and Worcestershire were 149-1. Chances were not being missed but the intensity was not high and perseverance had at last supplied a wicket. Close of play came at seven thirty with Worcestershire still four runs behind with nine wickets in hand. With such a late finish we had pre-ordered and all was ready despite an almost full house at the Horse. A Welsh member of an engineers leaving party invited us to sing but to the astonishment of all his colleagues our World Wide YouTube singing sensation declined which greatly disappointed a full house when it was made known that he was a member of our side. It was a real surprise that someone who had a over million hits was so reluctant. We got back tired but still very much in the game only a little frustrated by the regular call from one of can we go to Tesco, I can drive which started to infuriate. After a lie in had been agreed the Coach was tested to the full on the final morning with stragglers, some totally unexpected but cards were marked for 2018. Sandy expressed his views in no uncertain manner. The major problem was he was 100% right. There was a thirty minute delay but in the tenth over of the morning session Taylor again joined in catching Ahmed off the Paignton leg spinner. Sam Woodcock is a 100% cricketer and you always know what he will give. He will have good and bad days but there is always total commitment and a ready smile. He must not allow himself to be moved in the field, most certainly without the knowledge of the captain, to save another 50 yards, right fielder right place. Seventy eight overs gone two thirty scored and under 18 Johal well past his hundred – a magnificent innings. Devon needed to chip away at the other end. The Devon spinners were providing some control and the new ball delayed. An onslaught was likely to come at some time and it was important that this was delayed as long as possible. A hard new ball tends to go further, and so it proved to be,. Devon were still trying hard to take wickets but a lack of energy in some made it difficult. Chris Yabsley took his last under 17 wicket in the eighty-sixth over, so despite one belief to the contrary wickets were still coming. Lunch was taken after the ninety-eighth over with Worcestershire one hundred and twelve ahead. The new ball was immediately taken after the interval. Taylor took his seventh catch of the game in the one hundred and first over - 318-4, still only one hundred and fifty-seven ahead. Hancock ran out the main man, Johal, with a smart pick up and throw. The home side where now on the charge but Devon kept taking wickets. In over one hundred and twelve Adams bowled Hatfield 385-6. Devon were now also dropping catches some more forgivable than others. Harvey demonstrated how to hold the skier catching Green off the unlucky Onley- Gregson. The last wicket to fall was in the one hundred and eighteenth over when Davis was bowled Hancock. Four more runs were added when Worcestershire declared setting Devon two hundred and sixty-five off a minimum of forty overs. Devon had toiled away bravely but for some it had been difficult concentrating. Over two days they had been in the field for over nine and a half consecutive playing hours another record! Devon had a difficult seven overs before tea. In fact they negotiated this period with little difficulty scoring at over four. The initial instructions were just to bat. However this batting performance turned out to be a very special one and demonstrated to any doubters that there are a number of different approaches to winning a three day game where some believe all out attack is the only approach. Over the years this has been proven to be a very naïve and unsuccessful approach. The Devon batters were simply magnificent running superbly and turning all the heat onto the fielding side. Harvey Sargent looked a total professional, not allowing all those hours in the field as an excuse fror tiredness. He pushed and pushed hitting eleven fours and a six. This was perhaps his finest seventy minutes. Ashley Causey played the equally important role of junior partner running the ones and almost equalling his partners strike rate. The pair put on ninrty off one hundred and thirteen deliveries of special batting. Sargent was bowled having contributed sixty-six of the partnership with Causey providing eighteen. It was decided we could risk one pinch hitter but it should not be either Khan or Ward so the Captain was nominated. It was a poison chalice as he only lasted one ball, there was total sympathy for our exceptionally popular captain. From now on is was full steam ahead with the naturally gifted Jamie Khan carrying on from the first innings. He an Causey added thirty-five off twenty-seven, tempo increasing nicely. Causey was unnecessarily run out in the twenty-fourth when Devon were looking a very special batting unit. Devon now needed one hundred and forty off less than a hundred balls – no chance! The batters disagreed. Khan and Ward added 89 off just sixty-three balls, they made running look easy but with Jamie Khan stroking, there was no hitting one four but five sixes this was carnage but of the highest quality. Khan was caught going for another clearance in the thirty-fourth over with Devon on 214! Devon were now in the final hour of a minimum of seventeen overs. Most certainly no more would be bowled. With nine overs left and sixty-three runs still needed a fielder was heard to cry…………there are still nine overs left (and only sixty-three runs needed and a reducing run rate). Devon kept at it in without doubt one of the best chases in youth cricket. There were no fielding restrictions, the boundaries were peppered with scouts and Devon apparently stood no chance. Harry Ward kept going now aided by keeper Sam Taylor. The keeper had demonstrated at Heathcoat earlier in the season that he has an exceptional ability to improvise and he did it again. He had gained clearance from the Coach, who had been on top of this remarkable performance, and out came the reverse, the scoop, the orthodox and the brilliant. He and Ward added thirty-two off twenty-seven. Ward was out in the thirty-ninth and Devon needed nineteen off nine. Taylor kept going but Devon were seven short. Worcestershire knew they had been very lucky, Devon had been exceptional. An additional eleven points would have put Devon top of the table. The seven runs were not lost on the chase but much earlier in misfields etc. As Sandy Allen suggested all season the side have been asked to just bat. The tempo of this innings clearly demonstrated what can be achieved with positive intent. This was a truly memorable performance with a number of exceptional individual performances but actuality it proved that if only everyone pushed themselves to the maximum and not just go through the motions it is amazing what could be achieved. A real lesson should have been learnt from these three days at Stourport upon Seven