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A SIX-wicket haul for spinner Josh Farley helped the Devon Under-17 Development XI earn a 17-run win over Gloucestershire in a two-day game at Great Rissington.

In the last century, well the eighties and part of the nineties the Devon Schools Cricket Association ran the county age group programme and Schools Festivals were prevalent particularly in early July. A large percentage of county sides were then made up of players attending  Independent Schools. Much has changed since then with the Clubs introducing youngsters both male and female to the game in large numbers and developing them through their youth schemes.

The Festivals have since not played an important part in our fixtures and selection. However availability for the first development game showed a large number of crosses as two Schools were attending a Festival. It therefore says a great deal about how much the Clubs have achieved over the years as a very reasonable side was put out for the annual two day development fixture against Gloucestershire. With six squad members away at festivals and with the help of a couple of seventeens a very competitive game took place.

Devon youngsters are very fortunate in being able to compete against the best players the first class counties can produce and their CAG education provides a solid base to help them develop and progress. What is not getting any better are the travel days and it was another stuttering journey up to Chipping Norton with regular interruptions for barrier replacements. Eventually we did arrive and had the ideal ice breaker meal together where Fawlty Tower fans would have enjoyed themselves but it was still really difficult to explain that we would be eating at the Blue Boar on the second night.

Sandy Allen ramped up the pressure that we are unbeaten in two visits at the excellent Great Rissington ground where last summer we had watched England bow out of the World Cup, would the Lionesses be more successful the next day?

The weather was set fair, good time was made to the ground despite the Chipping Norton rush hour and it was obvious from the outset that one of our number was far from being fully fit. This was becoming contagious but as was explained it is totally unacceptable. Joe Du'Gay won his first toss of the summer and Devon batted and had the near perfect start.

At lunch after thirty-four overs they were on 137-2 having scored at fours. Dylan Hurst and Adam Small put on twenty-five when in the eleventh over Hurst was caught behind. It was Small and captain Joe Du Gay who put on the first century partnership of the summer. They added one hundred and twelve off one hundred and thirty-four balls but Small was out 11 balls before the interval. He will be taken aside and advised how important it is not to lose wickets before an interval. This is slightly churlish as Adam had batted quite beautifully. He is a compact batsman and knows his own strengths and plays within them. He faced one hundred balls, batted for fourteen minutes over two hours, hit five four and broke his Gray Nicolls in the twenty-ninth over. He scored precisely fifty and it is hoped when a similar opportunity arises he will bat on, in the right circumstance three figures should be well within his capabilities. Along with his captain the pair had batted exceptionally well together and Du Gay was well set when the interval arrived and Cameron Kidd had survived five balls. Decent chicken in a good sauce, new potatoes and peas plus chocolate brownie, fruit and ice cream all went down well.

The second session was all Devon and they had reached tea on 345 for the loss of three wickets in just sixty-six overs -now over fives. It was an outstanding session with the three batsmen Du Gay, Kidd and Tom Reynolds all making most important contributions. The second century partnership arrived in the fifty-third over, Sandy Allen must have been on cloud nine. First Joe Du Gay passed a personal milestone in the forty-seventh over and Kidd was unbeaten on fifty when he lost his partner. Joe Du Gay impressed in all ways - calm, calculating, skilled and a good runner. As with Adam Small the pair are perfect batsmen for the two and three day game and without putting either under any undue pressure they could offer a great deal in the second half of the summer. Joe batted for three hours faced one hundred and fifty balls hitting twenty-one fours - he had scored 131. Cameron Kidd is one of the seventeens finishers and he was joined by one of last year's national finalists finisher, Tom Reynolds. The Heathcoat batsman initially scratched around but when he lit the blue touch paper he was exhilarating. The pair added another eighty-one runs off just forty-nine deliverers both contributed thirties to the partnership Kidd 35 and Reynolds 39. It was very exciting stuff and most certainly when both strike a cricket ball it stays struck - some truly extraordinary hitting.  Kidd finished fifteen short of a maiden county hundred.

Du Gay declared at tea and by close of play the home side had reduced their first innings target to two hundred and sixty-two.  Du Gay employed five bowlers. The home side scored just one run off the first four overs as Devon created a good first impression in the field. Under 14 Tommy Boorman, who had opened for the seventeens at Exeter batted well before Sam Woodcock trapped him in front. The Paignton, now all-rounder, also took the second wicket to fall having Burger caught by Kidd. It had been a very good days work with some really satisfying moments. The Blue Boar proved a good choice but the Lionesses also could not progress to a World Cup final.

The home side declared overnight giving the seven first day non batters an opportunity to show their skills against a new ball and a reasonable attack. At the fall of the sixth wicket in the twenty-fifth over Joe made his second declaration in under twenty-four hours. They had scored at under threes in reaching 71. No batsman got past twenty and they will hopefully have a second chance against Haberdashers to display their wares. Gloucestershire would have a minimum of eighty-five overs to score treble nelson at just under fours.

Devon started really energetically, went a little flat and then ignited again as they came out winners by just seventeen runs in an excellent example of the longer format. At the start of the day Sandy Allen, who over the two days gave the players a true insight into the longer game, asked his players how were they going to take ten wickets in a format that they would normally need to take twenty! They gave a reasonable demonstration. Tom Boorman again held his side together scoring a one hundred and eight ball one hundred and one. He along with Gregg and Trotman had been in the Gloucester Under 17 one day team earlier in the summer and are likely to be in their three day side later in July. At lunch Gloucestershire were forty-three for one, Josh Farley having bowled Choughule with his second ball. The second wicket did not fall until the thirty-third over when Gregg was caught by the captain to give Farley his second wicket. The second wicket pairing had added one hundred and twenty-seven as Devon appeared a little robotic and during this period there was a need for a little more imagination. It is a real cricket skill to take wickets under pressure. Batsmen tend to get themselves out in the limited over format and this period will be a vital part of the sides education. It is up to the fielding side to maintain standards both bowling and in the field and never should a side appear to drift.

With around fifty-two overs to be bowled Gloucestershire required another one hundred and seventy-two - the rate now up to just over threes - still a comfortable target with eight wickets in hand. The wicket lifted Devon and Josh Farley took his third when he trapped Lewis in front. This brought Max Trotman to the crease, he had made a big impact in 2018 at Winterbourne last  August.  The pair took Gloucestershire up to seven short of two hundred when Sam Woodcock removed the promising Boorman for the second time in the match. He was bowled in the forty-second over. The game was now very nicely balanced and it was hoped that Trotman would not repeat his seventy-seven off thirty-seven. In fact Devon did exceptionally well keeping him off strike. Trotman and Lingard added the second highest partnership of the innings - 71 as Devon continued to bowl at least one four ball an over. Nearly fifty percent of the first 60 overs contained at least one four. Jack Ford had Lingard leg before in the sixtieth and for the next seven overs bowled by Ford and Farley not a single four was conceded as Devon stated to tighten up getting their angles better. Ford bowled Shepherd in the sixty-second, Charlie Ward, who had a fine all-round game, caught Collins in the sixty-fifth. Devon were now well on top as Ed Smout Cooper caught Trotman at mid-wicket as he tried to break his shackles - an important catch and Farley's fourth wicket. In the two and three-day game a captain needs to have around seventy-five overs of spin available each day and both Ford and Farley will have plenty of opportunities this summer to determine how they are going to make a major wicket taking contribution to their side. Their performance at Great Rissington bodes well for the next few years. Charlie Ward took a fine catch on the rope to remove Wood and the home side had fallen away from 156r one to 310 for nine. Not every chance was taken and the general standard of fielding has to improve tremendously but there was real pleasure when Josh Farley took his sixth and the sides final wicket in the seventy-ninth over trapping Swingwood in front. Considering the side were down a front line seamer from the outset this was a very good first game of the summer. Much will have been learnt and put into practice over the remainder of the season. The captain did well and there were most certainly more positives than negatives. The unbeaten record at Great Rissington continued, they are a very special club who look after us exceedingly well. A pleasant hassle free journey home and everyone can be satisfied with their performances.