Bob Dawson played more than 170 games for Devon in all competitions between 1988 and 2011, either side of a nine-year professional career with Gloucestershire. Dawson won Minor Counties titles and Lord’s cup finals with Devon, and was the skipper who masterminded a memorable win over Leicestershire in the C&G Trophy. Here, in an article commissioned for the 2020 Devon CCC Souvenir Brochure, he looks back fondly at his time with Devon and the players he shared a dressing room with as team-mates and as county captain for seven seasons.
MY Devon career started as a teenager and lasted through two different periods – pre and post-Gloucestershire – for more than 20 years.
I was lucky enough in those early days at the start of my career to play with Devon legends Doug Yeabsley and Tony Allin.
Doug’s record of 733 wickets taken over 31 seasons in Minor Counties cricket will never be beaten. Tony, when his farming commitments allowed, bagged more than 300 wickets with his left-arm spin. Both were great players and men who helped shape me as a cricketer.
Before I departed for Gloucestershire the team started to evolve as players such as the two Nicks – Folland and Gaywood – and Keith Donohue came into it. They were mainstays of Peter Roebuck's multi-trophy winning side of the 1990s. Unfortunately, that was a period in which I only played the odd game.
After Nick Folland retired from Devon cricket, Peter Roebuck returned as captain for a couple of years. I learnt an awful lot from him. He calmed me down, channelled my enthusiasm and passion. My one regret is that I played for him at 30 rather than 20. Had it been the other way round my career may have been very different….
Taking on the Devon captaincy was a great honour. It was something I had always wanted to do and I was very keen to build a winning team.
I had a wonderful core group of players in Matt Hunt, Chris Mole, Andy Pugh, Neil Hancock, David Court, David Lye, Sandy Allen, Trevor Anning, Arwyn Jones, Andy Proctor and Ian Bishop. Apart from ‘Pughie’ retiring, these guys rarely missed a game over a three-four year period.
Individually they were fine cricketers, especially Andy Procter and Ian Bishop, who are two of the finest bowlers ever to play for the county. They may have been the last in the bar the night before, but it was nearly Impossible to get the ball out of their hands the next day.
The team was a group of diverse characters, but we gelled brilliantly on an off the field and were very successful. I think we got the balance just about right. We played very competitive, hard cricket, but enjoyed the time off the pitch too. It is something that has to happen in amateur sport when you are asking people to take time off work.
Inevitably you have good and bad days. The 1991 one-day final loss to Staffordshire, in Devon’s first appearance at Lord's, and against the Warwickshire Board Xl in the 2002 one-day final at Worcester, were both last-over defeats in games we were winning all along. Those hurt for a long time.
But I was very fortunate to be part of many trophy winning Devon teams. Looking back I think the proudest moments, were winning all seven Minor Counties Championship games in 2006 and the 2008 Lord’s win over Berkshire when most of us were coming towards the end.
Top of the list was beating Leicestershire at Exmouth in the C&G Cup. Only a handful of Minor County teams ever managed that in more than 40 years of trying. Leicestershire were a good side with seven internationals and went on to win the County Twenty20 that year.
I met many great Devonians during my career, both on and off the field. None though were better than the late Geoff Evans, a former player who became county secretary and then chairman. He was there from the start to the end of my career and was the driving force of the county side for an age.
I always played for my county with great pride and will cherish so many amazing memories.
This is one of a number of articles penned exclusively for the 2020 Devon CCC Souvenir Brochure. To read the rest please follow this link to a page-turner version of the brochure