DOES Devon League cricket prepare players for the rigours of the three-day Minor Counties game?
Devon CCC team chief Dave Tall believes not after looking at the stats for the season just ended in the Unicorns Championship.
An 86-run defeat by Cornwall at Exeter condemned Devon to finishing seventh in the final season of a one-division West region competition.
Devon had to finish fifth or higher in the final table to qualify for Division One cricket next summer in a ten-team, two-division competition with promotion and relegation brought in for the first time.
Although Devon’s bowling figures stacked up reasonably well, batting returns fell short of the standard required at Minor Counties level. Only three players totalled more than 170 runs – Peter Trego, Alex Barrow and Matt Thompson.
Tall, who has just completed his first season as Devon CCC’s director of cricket, said what work in 50-over cricket on a Saturday afternoon does not transfer well to longer forms of the game.
“An interesting statistic would be how many pretty little scores of 20-30 there are in Premier cricket,” said Tall.
“That’s fine on a Saturday afternoon, but of little value in a three-day game.
“I would like to see players challenging themselves to turn 30s into 50s and 50s into 80s, 90s and even hundreds in the league.
“The current format does not encourage batsmen to do that, or bowlers to try to find ways of getting batsmen out. As long as you score more runs than the opposition you win in the league, but as you go up the cricket ladder the only way you win games is to bowl the other side out.
“If batsmen had to think about occupying the crease, and bowlers had to work out ways of dismissing batsmen, their understanding of the game would improve.
“Trying to bring players into the Devon set-up from the league is difficult because many don’t understand the type of cricket being played.
“It would help Devon CCC if league cricket in the county was played in a mixture of formats, not just win-lose, but win-lose-draw as we had up to 2011.”
Nick Rogers, the chairman of the Tolchards Devon League, questioned whether Tall was looking in the right place to find ways of improving the county side.
“My counter point would be what is the point of the Devon Lions, which is supposed to play two or three two-day games a season as part of player development?” said Rogers.
On the benefits of win-lose-draw cricket or 60-over games, which Devon have suggested before, Rogers was unconvinced by the relevance or achievability.
“Between 130-140 players appear in the Premier Division on a Saturday afternoon, but fewer than five per cent of them are ever in the county frame,” said Rogers.
“I have no problem looking at alternative formats, but if we are going for longer games they there will be a need for good pitches to play on.
“An interesting statistic I unearthed doing some research is how often sides batting first are bowled out in 40 overs or fewer of a 50-over game. It is a staggering amount.”
Half of Premier Division games in the Birmingham Premier League are win-lose-draw format and the winning-draw, losing-draw is alive and well in the Middlesex Championship and the Southern Premier League, which has a 50-50 split.