DEVON are on their way to the last four of the Unicorns KO Trophy after beating holders Berkshire by 22 runs in a pulsating semi-final.
Berkshire may be the undisputed top dogs in Minor Counties cricket – double winners in 2017, three-day champions in 2016 – but it was the under dogs who put the bite on them at Sidmouth.
Devon recovered from losing two wickets in the first over to reach 273 for eight – Ben Green, Matt Thompson and Zak Bess all making half centuries of different tones and tempos.
Green (66) and Thompson (53) put on 98 for the fourth wicket, getting the score up to 126 for four.
Zak Bess went in at 167 for five and his 77 off 45 balls, which included a stand of 58 with brother and captain Josh (39), had a lot to do with Devon scoring exactly 100 in the last 10 overs.
Berkshire were all out for 251 with 13 balls to go, Zak Bess (2-44) finishing what Jack Popham (3-39) and Toby Codd (3-31) had started.
It’s Suffolk at Sidmouth in the semi-final next for Devon on Sunday, July 1. Cheshire play Shropshire in the other semi.
Keith Donohue, Devon’s director of cricket, said to win the game after an indifferent start with bat and ball was quite an achievement.
“There was nothing to it apart hard work, guts and determination,” said Donohue.
“We were none for two after balls and 28 for three not long after.
“Ben Green and Matt Thompson batted superbly to put us on an even keel and allow Zak to chance his arm a bit in the last 10 overs.
“After a poor start with the ball – they were 100-odd for one and we hadn’t got to 20 overs – we started taking wickets at the right times.
“Jack Popham made an impact first game back after a long time out injured, the spinners played their part and Zak finished them off at the end.
“Although they started slipping behind the rate in the last 10 overs, you never felt the game was safe until we had them nine down. It only takes a couple of big overs to go for nine or ten and everything changes.”
Berkshire set off in hot pursuit and at 106 for one in the 18th of their 50 overs – Jamie Rishton making 50 - looked to be in the driving seat.
Once Berkshire got to 212 for five with 10 overs left, skipper James Morris (51) was stumbling block to a Devon win.
Codd and fellow spinner Gary Chappell turned the screw, the asking rate climbed into eight then nine-an-over territory and wickets fell trying to keep up.
Spinner Codd had Morris caught on the boundary and the lower-order swishing ended dramatically with three wickets going in five balls from Zak Bess.
Joe Thomas was caught behind, Tom Nugent was caught on the boundary three balls later by Green, who administered the last rites by running out last man Ali Raja next ball.
Devon 273-8 (B G F Green 66, M W Thompson 53, Z G G Bess 73no, J J Bess 39; T M Nugent 5-52, E D Woods 2-47), Berkshire 251 (A J Rishton 50, J L Davies 32, E D Woods 34, J C Morris 51; J R Popham 3-39, T J R Codd 3-31). Devon but Berkshire by 22 runs.