DEVON’S hopes of a place in the new West Division One of the Unicorns Championship were shattered by an 86-run defeat by Cornwall at Exeter.
The top five counties in the current 10-team East and West divisions qualify for next season’s new Division One. The others go into Division Two.
For the first time in 119 years of Minor Counties cricket, there will be promotion and relegation between the divisions.
Devon and were sixth going into the game and knew if they won and results went their way elsewhere they could finish as high as third. Cornwall only had a slender chance of making it into the top five.
Devon appeared to be in the driving seat at the end of day two as Cornwall were only 85 runs ahead with four wickets left. For the second time in the game the Duchy tail wagged and left Devon chasing 207 to win.
After reaching 95 for three on the chase, Devon’s batting collapsed. Tom Dinnis took seven wickets in a row for an eight-wicket haul as the home side crumbled to 120 all out.
Dave Tall, the director of cricket, was blunt in his assessment of what went wrong, citing game management and selection problems as his main concerns.
“Of the four games we have lost this season this was one of two we could and should have won but threw away winning positions,” said Tall.
“When we lose the same issues keep coming up. Either we can’t finish sides off when they are seven or eight wickets down, or our batting lets us down. Sometimes, like this game, it is both.
“There are times when we have played some fantastic cricket at times, and other times when we have been very average.
“Cornwall bowled and fielded well, but we did not make them work hard enough for some of the wickets that really mattered. Batters have to assess the state of the game and bat accordingly and we don’t do that well at times.”
“The number of players (24) we have used in six games shows the problems we have had getting a settled side out. It would help if we had a nucleus of seven or eight, but we don’t even have that. I hope that improves in the four-game season next year.”
Devon also used four different captains in six games due to availability issues: Alex Barrow, the appointed captain, Zac Bess, Jamie Stephens and Peter Trego in the final match.
The availability of key performers such as run-getter Barrow, wicket-taker Stephens, former captain Matt Thompson and, to a lesser extent Bess, certainly hindered Devon’s prospects.
The Devon management had hoped to avoid Division Two cricket, but with only two wins in six starts Tall felt there could be no quibbling.
“You have to be realistic and say it was not one game that cost us the top five, but the way we performed over six games,” said Tall.
“Ultimately, you end up where you deserve to be as the table seldom lies.”
Cornwall 252 (G M Smith 48, J R Turpin 42, C D Lello 43; J E Burke 3-34, D J Goodey 3-46) & 305 (M L Robins 63, C B F Purchase 57, A C Libby 34no, T J Dinnis 41; J E Burke 4-41, H M Whitlock 4-88), Devon 352-7 (M Pugh 78, P D Trego 72, J E Burke 55, M W Thompson 65no; T J Dinnis 3-122) & 120 (J E Burke 31; T J Dinnis 8-49). Cornwall (21pts) bt Devon (8) by 86 runs.