After three exceptional days at Heathcoat the final week of the summer was reached -four days in the Midlands. After last year's problems with new players now pushing for inclusion in 2018 there was improved availability for perhaps the most important week of the summer, an opportunity of really preparing for the 2018 season. There was a real concern when it was known that a T20 U19 quarter final was to be held on the morning of departure day as we have not completed a trip up to the Midlands with a full complement for a number of  years. Finding replacements a couple of hours before departure is nigh on impossible. Fortunately the three players got through unscathed but we did lose a player at 9.20am. Fortunately Sandy Allen was able to find a more than adequate replacement so we set off to Wolverhampton in a confident mood with critically twelve - although we did lose a key batter at Staffordshire and another was not perhaps 100%. Most certainly the coach was suffering from perhaps more than a heavy cold but he soldiered on brilliantly if he was a little more grumpy! That might well have been a response to how we played. We had an unplanned stop at the best services in the country and yet not a favourite with the players and there were some periods of stop starts but overall it was a reasonable trip up to the Merry Hill Complex, one of Dudley's major regeneration projects in the eighties. Despite recent expansion and  renovation this appeared not to apply at our Hotel which was generally tired and in need of refurbishment. Because of the nearby V Festival our options had been severely limited and we were ultimately fortunate to find this base thirty minutes from the ground. We were booked into a pub within five minutes walk on the Waterfront but rain had followed us throughout the journey and it was now raining in Dudley and did so for many hours. Instead we went by mini-bus. Concern was already being expressed with regard the possibility of play on the first day. However exceptional work from the Wolverhampton ground team ensured two complete days play.

(From our Bideford Correspondent)

We arrived at a wet Wolverhampton Cricket Club with high hopes for a successful two days play. After a poor warm up, Skipper Elliott Adams, after long thought, elected to bat first. Promising Under 15 batsman, Abraham Kopperambil, and debutant James Horler (also a member of the successful under fifteens) opened up. Unfortunately Horler got trapped in front and was given out much to the Exmouth batsman annoyance -3-1. Max Mejzner strolled to the crease and was welcomed with plenty of verbal's from the oppositions slip cordon. After creaming a four, he guided one to first slip - 25-2 after thirteen overs. Next in was Sam Read who with Kopp batted sensibly until a short rain break interrupted play halfway through the seventeenth over. After the rain break Kopp and Read mixed solid defence with beautiful stroke play. The two under fifteens took Devon up to lunch at 91-2 off twenty-nine overs. Lasagne and chips were followed by cheesecake or carrot cake. The home side not abiding with one of crickets fading traditions. After a stern talking to from Sandy the batsman had only one thing to do - not to get out just after lunch. This mission was almost completed as Kopp passed his fifty and raced to seventy-four before leaving a straight one that uprooted middle. He had batted beautifully for eight minutes over two hours, he faced one hundred and twenty-seven balls hitting eight fours and a six. He should not be satisfied with seventy-four but one hundred and seventy-four. The pair had put on ninety-eight and Kopp had scored over half of the one hundred and twenty-three on the board. The pair had batted three minutes short of the minimum post lunch half hour demanded by the coach. Enter debutant Plympton's Under fourteen Eliot Hamilton who was faced with a tricky half hour, however with Read's help, he managed to get through and after a couple of pull shots he looked totally at home in his new environment. Sam Read soon passed his fifty but unfortunately in the fifty-third over was caught at slip for an excellent sixty-eight. He had batted for one hundred and forty-minutes faced only one hundred and ten balls and struck seven fours. The pair had added another sixty-seven runs and taken their side up to one hundred and ninety off fifty-three overs. Both batsmen had demonstrated what is needed in this form of cricket but it will have to be more consistent throughout the side in 2018. Read's contribution meant that Sandy would tick his first box of the day. Enter Jack Moore who, after a couple of nice looking shots got an unplayable ball that cannoned into his leg stump. This was the second partnership of the day that did not reach double figures. Next in was Louis Morison, who with Horler had represented Exmouth at the National ECB Club finals, he hit two decent driven fours and then chipped to mid-wicket -208-6 in the sixtieth over. It was time for Mr Dependable JOG who again confirmed his batting talent with a thirteen ball eighteen as declarations were considered. Devon were now on two hundred and thirty-eight after sixty-four overs.  The batsmen were called in one over later as the Captain Elliott Adams came and went and Holmes was undefeated with young Hamilton. The Plympton all-rounder had batted for one hundred minutes, faced seventy-nine balls and seen one hundred and nineteen runs appear on the scoreboard. This had been a tremendous performance demonstrating both technique and character and he clearly showed his potential. He was later to display that he can also bowl decent left arm spin and can field. Perhaps the new Player Pathway Manager can spot talent! Tea was taken and Staffs would have around thirty-seven overs before close of play.

After tea Devon initially bowled poorly bowling both sides of the wicket with too many four balls. However Social Secretary, James Onley-Gregson, was unlucky when Kopperambil put down a chance at second slip. It was not until Moore entered the attack that the run rate decreased from just under five. He was assisted by leg spinner Ed Middleton who bowling in tandem created some real pressure. The Barnstable seamer was rewarded when an unplayable delivery took O'Hara's outside edge to give his bowling partner another opportunity to display his ability as a slip catcher. This was in the twentieth over with the home side on seventy-four. Over the remaining seventeen overs Devon did exceedingly well, despite not taking every opportunity in reducing the home side to one hundred and sixty-five for six  at close. In the twenty-seventh over Holmes trapped Swift in front - 107-2 four overs later Kopper ran out Barnes -122-3. Missed opportunities were becoming increasingly annoying but the home sides captain was caught by his opposite number of Onley-Gregson in the days final over -156-4. Louis Morison, standing back, smartly stumped his opposite number off the fifth ball and the bowler ran out Leese off the final ball which gave a clue to the declaration at close with Staffordshire seventy-eight behind. The five minute walk was completed to the Waterside and the forecast for the rest of the week indicated potential play every day and fortunately so it proved to right.  (JM)

The Social Secretary had now added a new role to his portfolio and followed in the footsteps of Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Cartier and Cook in being appointed official Navigator. To his credit he did not try and negotiate an increase in his fee. He got the party to Danescourt Road ahead of schedule and started planning the two hour cross county route to Newark-on-Trent. Devon now needed to set up a decent target to be able to set a sensible declaration. In fact they batted for forty-five overs and scored at just over fours. It was not seamless as Max Mejzner fell second ball of the day without a run on the board. James Horler who was not fully fit and the captain Elliott Adams added fifty-six for the second wicket but in the fifteen over the captain was run out - 56-2. Louis Morison off his third delivery was again caught - 57-3 after sixteen. However under fifteens James Horler and Jack Moore batted very sensibly taking Devon up to lunch (cottage pie and similar deserts) on one hundred and thirty-one and then after the interval completing a partnership of eighty-nine. It took up twelve and a half overs and helped set up their side to declare. Moore this time was out caught by Clarke one run past his fifty. Horler had passed his fifty two overs previously. Both were maiden fifties in this group. Moore had faced fifty-six balls with an excellent strike rate of 91.07 and he had hit five fours and a six. This is the type of contribution anticipated from this talented batsmen but much more will be expected over the next couple of seasons. Horler, despite his lack of full mobility, also set standards for the future but he was to remain undefeated as he first watched Kopperambil dismissed in the forty-first over 162-5 and then bat through with Sam Read to the call in at 187-5. He had batted for one hundred sixty-two minutes faceing one hundred and forty-five balls striking four fours in scoring his unbeaten sixty-five. A most promising performance. Staffordshire would have a minimum of fifty-nine overs to score two hundred and forty-four a rate of around fives. Devon, appeared not to understand that they were in charge of the over rate, particularly in the last hour, in fact bowled sixty-three overs but in practice again missed too many opportunities. They reduced Staffordshire to 211 with eight wickets down at close, they even missed a simple catch in the penultimate and another in the final over. The home sides eighth wicket pairing navigated fourteen overs ten of which were maidens. Had the chances been taken...........Sam Woodcock and Daley Holmes both took two wickets, Eliiott Adams one and TCS's Man of the Match Elliot Hamilton three. Louise Morison took a catch and two stumpings, Moore and Kopperambil a catch each. It was though the chances missed that really created the draw. There were many pluses particularly from the fifteens and the fourteen who had a very special debut. One of the best from such a young contributor. His performances in 2018 will be closely watched. We have played at Wolverhampton many times and again they were terrific hosts. We now handed over to the Navigator with a McDonalds pencilled in as the stop. He again completed, as he always does, his duties most efficiently it was not his problem that a rubber must have removed the planned stop but following a tour of a housing estate one was found  along with a Kentucky and all were nourished. Millgate House provided ideal  accommodation as the Newark one day system took its toll on both days. Now for the final two days of the season.