A SEVEN-wicket haul for spinner Jamie Stephens bowled Devon back into contention on day two against Herefordshire at Eastnor.
It would be hard to argue against Herefordshire having the best of it on day one as they ended it 104 runs ahead.
Juihar Johal had top scored with 82 in Herefordshire’s modest total of 193 all out, then Dan Conway and Tom Hague reduced Devon to 89 for nine at the close.
Conway only needed five balls at the start of day two to take the last Devon wicket for the third-lowest total scored by the county since three-day cricket was introduced in 2001.
The only lower, all-out totals are 73 against Cornwall at Truro in 2009 and 87 at the hands of Wales in 2016 at Pontarddulais.
Herefordshire made 237 all out second time around to build a lead of 341.
Skipper Alex Barrow was 74 not out, and Matt Thompson last man out for 52, in Devon’s close-of-play score of 146 for two.
With three full sessions available today and 196 required, Devon are in a useful position.
Dave Tall, the Devon team manager, said a disciplined batting performance is needed to win the game. And despite the first-innings disaster, he his optimistic about the likely outcome.
“The pitch has flattened out a lot since the first day and with wickets in hand and time on our side if we are patient and disciplined it’s not an ungettable target,” said Tall.
“As the pitch eased it became harder for the bowlers to take advantage, although there was some turn in it.
“We had to work hard to get Herefordshire all out and made the best of the chances that came our way.
“Jamie Stephens bowled superbly and so did Wayne White and Hugo Whitlock.
“There will be games when Hugo (2-29) does no bowl as well as he did today, yet will take four or five wickets. That’s cricket for you.
“We have had to work hard today; now it is Herefordshire’s turn. It will be interesting to explore the depth of their bowling as all we saw first innings was their four seamers.”
Herefordshire’s top five all got in, got settled and got out without going on to make a half century between them.
Skipper Matt Pardoe opened up with 44 and no one made more than that.
Stephens worked steadily through the Herefordshire batting order, equalling his previous best take of seven for 58 against Berkshire at Newbury last season.
Some lower-order swishing by Barney Morgan (35no) and last man Conway (24) put paid to any thoughts of a new career best.
Herefordshire 193 (J S Johal 82, D G Ball 32, I T Bullock 30; W A White 4-49, H M Whitlock 4-23) & 237 (M G Pardoe 44, S Ahmed 37, B E I Morgan 35no; J A Stephens 7-80), Devon 89 (Z G G Bess 32; D O Conway 4-15. B E I Morgan 2-37, T A Hage 3-13) & 147-2 (A W R Barrow 74no, M W Thompson 52).