When you learn that the cancellation of tea on the second day is being contemplated you know you are in a bit of a hole. But when analysing this most unusual game in the cold light of day you understand that Devon won virtually fifty per cent of the six sessions. However the acute embarrassment felt at both lunch intervals still remains a prominent emotion. We reached the attractive Collingham and District Cricket Ground in under fifteen minutes. The ground is situated on the edge of a thriving community whose labour force built an attractive new pavilion on their recently acquired adjacent second ground. Collingham had beaten off an interesting counter bidder. Such a facility makes you fully appreciate the benefits of two grounds at the same complex. Unfortunately too far away from Devon for the Board's visionary latest recruit. Before the toss Abraham Kopperambil reported unfit with a shoulder injury so the injury jinx continued. It simply reinforced the need for our players to fully understand their priorities before a county game. The need to give County Age Group Cricket precedence is clearly spelt out in a pre season newsletter and Devon are only interested in those who treat CAG as their main concern over the county season. The under 17s had lost some players this year who had not done so. In overcast and slightly damp conditions, it was universally agreed that Devon would bat and Elliott Adams called correctly and set his side up for two of the more eventful days in CAG cricket. Devon lost both pre lunch sessions by the preverbal mile as on day one they reached the interval on ninety-three for seven. The coach ensured that the scoreboard was not in sight behind the team for Nottinghamshire's professional photographer who had kindly offered to take our tour photograph. It was an unfortunate early procession. In the third over Max Mejzner was bowled by Callum Metcalf. He has also played successfully for Norfolk Under 17s this year and seemed to have cast a spell over Devon's top order, taking five for fifteen off his ten overs. Sam Read joined James Horler but Devon lost their second wicket on the same score of six as Read was caught behind off the same bowler. In the eighth over he took out the under fifteen captain in an identical manner - 13-3, ten balls later he had Horler caught by Porter - 16-4. Elliot Hamilton and Louis Morison had doubled the score when Hamilton was bowled by Batterham after being the first batter to reach double figures. Twelve balls on Devon were five down as young Ahmed caught Morison. Devon had scored forty-one off nineteen overs. Under sixteens’ Elliott Adams and Daley Holmes tried to steady the ship as they batted nearly another ten overs in putting on twenty-six vital runs. Holmes, who was to become a hero on the second day, was trapped in front by Ramzan and Devon were still thirty-three runs short of three figures. The captain and senior pro took Devon up to lunch and baked potatoes with chilli plus an excellent crumble. Unfortunately Adams and Onley-Gregson only lasted twenty-four post interval balls before Metcalf took his fifth wicket and Onley-Gregson's rear guard action finished. The pair had added thirty-nine essential runs. Devon now lost two more wickets in reaching one hundred and ten off forty-seven overs. Sam Woodcock enjoying a rare outing with the bat was trapped in front and Ed Middleton demonstrated a fantastic leave only to watch a stump bent backwards. Extras had contributed a vital twenty-one.
With the Nottinghamshire fifteens contesting the ECB Under 15 finals down the road the home county fielded a side with seven members of their under seventeen squad and a Norfolk star, so Devon were really in a contest having so far totally under achieved. By close some ground had been recovered as Nottinghamshire were dismissed for 200 in sixty-one and a half overs. Fortunately standards in the field improved immensely and it was not necessary to create fifteen plus chances. Ed Middleton, in only his fourth game, bowled fourteen overs taking three more wickets and shooting up the wicket takers’ charts, four bowlers took a wicket and Hamilton confirmed what an asset he could be by taking two more off his five overs. Nottinghamshire's openers put on over half their side’s initial target in just thirteen overs before Towers gave Middleton the charge first ball to be importantly stumped by Morison. Devon's performance in the field had not been perfect, as Towers gave chances on the third ball of the first and second overs and Stokes in the eighth. Then Chaudry, coming in at number three, should have been stumped first ball and tea was taken with just one wicket down and Nottinghamshire eleven ahead. However in the third session Devon regained some real credibility by taking nine wickets while conceding just seventy-nine runs so perhaps it put our own batting earlier in the day into perspective. Although it had still been terrible! In the fortieth over Woodcock bowled Chaudry - 133-2 - and five balls later Sam Read trapped the dangerous Stokes in front; he had scored the highest individual score of the game - 66. Hamilton bowled the opposition’s strike bowler for a single and, with Daley Holmes help, he removed Nott’s captain, Bhabra, leaving Notts fifty-three ahead with five wickets remaining. Keeper Moore was caught by Adams to give Middleton his second and his third was caught by Daley Holmes. As last year mothers were walking miles around the boundaries as their sons were batting - they must be the fittest group in the country. In the fifty-ninth over Onley-Gregson picked up a deserved wicket with Horler taking his first catch and Middleton held another good catch to keep the captain amongst the wickets. Adams had done really well with his bowling changes to keep Devon involved in the game and he then added to his Fantasy Points with a run out. Devon would face at least three overs. The openers became reluctant openers but a night watchman was not contemplated by the coach. Horler and Mejzner survived the eighteen delivers and reduced the lead by four.
The Social Secretary provided an exceptional end of season quiz, both in its conception and operation. He was brilliant. His only errors were not ensuring the management were outright winners but possibly worse under marking them one point! This adjustment of the scores made Middleton's team joint winners, their captain having enjoyed a successful entry into age group cricket, despite leaving a straight one. We visited our first Fayre and Square pub of the year - the Lord Ted. It had been interesting to learn earlier in the week that the real Lord Ted - Ted Dexter - now lived in Wolverhampton and was a regular visitor to the Cricket Club. Appetites were satisfied and the final day of the 2017 season was now upon us.
The start time had been delayed thirty minutes, later reduced to fifteen minutes, to allow collection of GCSE results and it was hoped that the Devonians had reached their targets. There appeared to be no one totally distraught which was a relief. Unfortunately this was not so with the management at lunch! Horler was first out to give Metcalf his only wicket of the innings. Eighteen had been added by Mejzner and Read when, in the fourteenth over, the Notts’ captain, Bhabra, bowled the Budleigh batsman - 22-2. Read was out four balls later caught behind by Moore off Razam - 22-3. This was the ideal opportunity for Jack Moore to make a real impression and score a sixty or seventy. He looked at ease until he mistook a fielder for a gap and ran himself out! A totally unnecessary dismissal and a lost opportunity to make an impact with 2018 in mind. Hamilton was fighting, he has a wonderful attitude for this type of situation, as he and Morison put on thirty-four the second highest partnership of the innings. Morison played a familiar shot and was caught and bowled for nineteen off twenty-two balls. The top five partnerships in both innings had contributed three short of a hundred runs and the initial reaction was that this must have been some sort of record. It did not take long to disprove this suggestion, the record is held by the seventeens, who only managed seventy-three against Worcestershire! Against Hampshire in 2002 the top five contributed one hundred and eighteen in two innings so we have been here before! Elliot Hamilton was next out, bowled by the young leg spinner, Ahmed, after batting for four minutes under the hour. These four days must have been an entirely new experience for him and it is hoped he has learnt a lot. He has demonstrated that he has the skill set to take to the longer format. Devon were now minus six with four wickets in hand. Hamilton had scored twenty-eight the highest individual contribution to date. He was out four balls before lunch and he now understands that he should have batted through to the interval. We were fortunate to have two umpires who fully understood the laws and the players came in for the interval. Devon were on 84 with six wickets down and facing the barrel of the cancellation of another outstanding tea. Nottinghamshire had bowled thirty-three overs. A decent cottage pie and fruit flan had been saved for the absent management, who had been contemplating the morning session. Devon then started to turn the game through 180°. The captain lasted seventeen balls before being caught off the young leggy. Daley Holmes and James Onley-Gregson then batted together for one hundred and five minutes and they changed the game completely. The pair added ninety-nine match changing runs. Unfortunately, being one run short, this partnership will not appear in the Green Book. which is a great shame, but it will be remembered for years to come. It was a partnership of guts, character and not a little skill. The coach must have been delighted as they did the basics brilliantly and showed magnificent perseverance. Holmes, at last, showed he can bat, facing one hundred balls in the partnership and Onley-Gregson, confirming he is a proper all rounder, faced two more. They put Devon into a positive one hundred and ten lead. Daley Holmes was caught for a Devon best by a mile - fifty-six off one hundred and twenty-eight balls, batting for thirteen minutes over two hours and hitting seven fours. They epitomised the characteristics required by young Devon Cricketers (apologies to Dorset). Tea produced an interesting conversation and after Onley-Gregson reached his fifty, Woodcock was out for another two and Middleton defended the straight ones and scoring his first age group runs. Devon declared one hundred and twenty-three ahead with, depending on over rates, between twenty-seven and twenty-nine overs left in the day – a rate of between 4.3 and 4.6. Onley-Gregson was undefeated on fifty-five in one hundred and eighteen balls and the same number of minutes. Devon knew that the top three Nottinghamshire batsmen could probably accomplish this chase if wickets were not taken so they were delighted when Elliott Adams, leading from the front, bowled the first innings’ top scorer, Stokes, in the eighth over with Notts still needing ninety-three. An apparent bump ball had deprived them of an earlier wicket with another smart slip catch from Middleton. It was Middleton who helped take the second wicket off his fellow leg break bowler when Woodcock really ripped one. This took out the second opener and Devon now believed they were actually in with a chance of drawing or even possibly winning the game. Notts had faced twelve overs and still needed seventy-seven. With the home club’s adults turning up for their practice night the crowd had grown and the feeling was there could be a very close finish. No one could have anticipated how he game would end. Much to their credit Nottinghamshire kept going and were three down in the sixteenth over when their third main batter was caught by the senior pro off Middleton - 52-3. Potentially another eleven overs, sixty-six balls to score seventy-two, which, despite no fielding restrictions, certainly very gettable. Two overs later Middleton bowled another potential threat, the home side’s captain, Bhabra, and real belief was creeping into the visitors that they could spring a major surprise. The home side had not reached halfway with just sixty-one on the board and six wickets intact. Metcalf and Ahmed put on twenty-seven but it took forty balls and Jack Moore had bowled a maiden. With Devon now building up some real pressure (a delight to watch) Ahmed was run out by Hamilton and the odds were on a draw. Nottinghamshire two balls into the twenty-fourth over still needed thirty-six with half their side to score them. Moore hit nine off four but was caught behind of the first ball of the twenty-fifth over bowled by his namesake. Notts were now three short of one hundred with six down. With twelve balls left the home side needed twenty-three. Three runs were scored off the penultimate over but Towne was run out by Hamilton on the fifth ball and Metcalf was caught by Horler off the sixth ball off the captain who was directing operations well. Twenty needed off six, certainly a draw the most likely result. Not if you are James Onley-Gregson. First ball he bowled the perfect away swinger, Jack Moore held another top catch at second slip. Five balls to get the final wicket. It was dot wicket as Adams kept in an orthodox square leg when his side were going for the kill and Ramzan then clipped Onley-Gregson's not best ball of the day into square leg’s hands and Horler took it. It was as if Devon had won the county cup, supporters and players went wild!! The last four wickets had fallen on one hundred and three. A truly unusual game where there were hundreds of lessons to be learnt apart from the fact that cricket can be a strange old game. This had been a really beneficial four days and it had been disappointing to learn that Notts had lost to Yorkshire in the ECB fifteens final.
The opportunity of discussing cricket with Mike Hendrick was a real plus and his offer to talk to James Onley-Gregson most gracious and beneficial. Devon's new pathway manager also had another sounding board and did not miss this outstanding opportunity of continuing his information gathering. There was an interesting discussion on Third Men that was repeated the following day by the four most successful England pace bowlers on SKY. Nottinghamshire and Collingham had been fantastic hosts but the scorer was disappointed not to meet up with one of her favourites.
Despite the result it was essential that in the euphoria of the win our two top order batting failures and some lapses in the field were not forgotten, as next year Devon will need to vastly improve both vital elements. The players’ end of season reviews, which because of Kopperabil's injury were not unfortunately completed, hopefully provided some insight to both player and management. Strensham was visited on the way home for possibly the first time and an England Manager photo bombed a Devon picture. This had been a very eventful summer at both age groups but there was some real hope for 2018 with five under fifteens and a fourteen all learning from the week..