The last matchday of the season took the boys on a road trip to play Gwent at the idyllic Llanarth Cricket Club. The previous meeting of these two teams back in June had seen a thrilling 1 wicket win for Devon, so would this game prove to be equally exciting between evenly matched teams.
Given the disasters of the last matchday against Somerset the decision by Devon to bat first seemed a ultra-positive decision, but this team seem to feel the pressures less by taking first dig.
The Devon opening partnership of Jack Martin and Henry Squire started well and picked up a number of quick singles to get the scoreboard moving. Martin (4) was bowled in the third over by a 'jaffa' by Chitnis to leave Devon 6-1 after 3 overs. Skipper Tobias Alsop joined Squire and they continued a steady start to take the score to 24-1 after 10 overs.
The 11th over brought the second wicket as Squire (11) was run out smartly from cover when backing-up too far. Rory Oram-Evennett (16), one of Devon busiest batters, upped the intensity and 39 runs were added in 9 overs. With the score at 69, Oram-Evennett misread the legspinner and was bowled. Alsop's fine innings of 28 was brought to end when another misjudgment left his stumps in a mess. Matt Whalley (3) went the same way and Devon were now teetering at 78-5 in the 23rd over. Time for a regroup from the batting unit.
Ed Wilson and Alfie Mason showed grit, determination and good shot selection to build a partnership of 74 in the remaining 16 overs. The mix of Wilson's dabs and sweeps and Mason's powerful punches through the offside was a perfect combination. The partnership was only broken on the last ball of the innings when Mason on 49 was looking for a single to take him to his first ever half century. Unfortunately a decent delivery restricted his options and he was unluckily run out by the bowler trying to scamper a quick single. Wilson finished unbeaten on 20. Devon posted 152-6 which is there highest score of the season - would this be enough?
With Heardy's insightful briefing the game plan was to mix our Medium pacers with slow/spin bowlers on a pitch was proving much harder to score on when the pace was off.
Gwent started in similar fashion to Devon and had got to 21 before Elijah Pyne trapped Krige in front in the 8th over. A second success was achieved next over as a smart catch by Martin off the bowling of Basil Crosthwaite-Eyre started to get Devon on top. Legspinner James Pugsley struck in his first over to leave Gwent 33-3 in the 12th over. A quickfire treble by Crosthwaite-Eyre (44-4 in the 15th), Pugsley (46-5 in the 16th) and Joel Kopparambil (47-6 in the 17th) looked to be setting up a big win. But as the previous game between these teams this thinking proved crazy. The turning point was when Kopparambil spilled a simple chance at mid on from Mahoney off Pugsley.
With 106 runs needed off 23 overs, Mahoney set off on a one-man mission to win the game. Partnerships of 32 (7th), 25 (8th), 26 (9th) built the nerves and excitement in both teams and in the crowd. With the last pair together Gwent needed 23 in 6 overs. Devon turned to Whalley to blast a wicket out but they held strong, so it was left to Mason and Squire to give it a go. Mason's first over (the 37th) only went for 2 which left 20 off 3 overs. The third ball of Squire's first over led to a mix-up between the batters and a good throw by Crosthwaite-Eyre at midwicket and a safe take by Wilson completed the dismissal of Mahoney (61). Queue wild celebrations by Devon and why not as it had been 13 games since the last victory - relief all round!!
Devon's bowling successes came from Pyne (7-1-19-2), Crosthwaite-Eyre (8-2-24-3) and Pugsley (6-1-25-2).
Compliments must go to all concerned with Gwent as the two matches played this season have been played in excellent spirit and showed the benefits of playing the long format game at this age-group level.
The boys may not have had the most successful season results wise, but they certainly will have learnt a lot more in the losses about consistency of performance and the value of doing the basics well. Hopefully they can take all the positives into winter training and challenge for more wins in 2020!