By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
FORMER Devon captain Barrie Matthews has been quick off the mark with his submission for an All Time XI to represent the county.
Devon under Matthews won the Minor Counties title for the first time in 1978 and it is that group of players he has put forward en-bloc as his side in the Devon CCC pick-a-team competition.
“In my opinion the best team that has represented Devon was in 1978,” said Matthews.
“Not only did we win the Minor Counties Championship, but we were unbeaten during that season, winning six of the ten games.
“The team spirit and camaraderie was what made us a great team. Apart from Doug Yeabsley we were all Devon club players and we had no professionals.
“I would have only added one or two players to that squad, mainly a top-class off-spinner.”
The title-winning side of 1978 was Matthews, Ray Tolchard, Gary Wallen, Bob Harriott, Eddie Picton, Martyn Goulding, Geoff Evans, Ian Roberts, John Tolliday, Doug Yeabsley and Keith Benton. 12th man: John Gerrard.
Tony Allin and Hiley Edwards played in seven and five of the regular season games, but were unable to take time off for the final.”
Matthews own Devon career stretched from 1965-1984 and he continued to play league cricket for Torquay 1st XI until 1987, when he moved to Spain to run a business.
That longevity gave Matthews first-hand experience of other players worth consideration for any all-time Devon XI.
“Going back an era there are a few candidates starting with Jack Kelly, a brilliant batsman and top-class left-arm spinner,” said Matthews.
“John Swinburne and Bill Jordan were off-spinners and there was John Childs, the left-arm spinner who went to Gloucestershire then Essex and eventually played for England.
“David Post was a fast bowler and there was Derek Cole, an all-rounder and Devon captain
“Jackie Fox, who played for Warwickshire, would be a wicket-keeping candidate.
“Later in my career two young batsmen who made their mark and would be difficult to leave out would be Nick Folland and Nick Gaywood.”
Matthews took over as captain from Gerald Trump in 1973 and led the side until the end of the 1984 season when he handed over to Edwards.
Until 1983 there was no geographical split between the East and West counties, just one merit table of 21 teams.
If the top two counties had not met during the season, they played-off in mid-September to determine which would be crowned the champion county? Devon, who topped the division with six wins and no losses faced second-placed Durham at Exeter in a three-day decider.
Durham had to win to deny Devon their first title but could only manage a draw, which meant a long trip home empty handed. Tolchard made a patient century for Devon in their first innings, which effectively batted Durham out of the game.
Devon had been runners up twice before – 1954 and 1968 – but never top dogs before Matthews led them to the title.
Matthews was out for a duck on his Devon debut, which was against Somerset 2ndXI at Torquay in 1965, but he more than made up for that over the next two decades.
By the time Matthews signed-off in 1984 he had scored exactly 5,000 Minor Counties runs in 136 appearances. His final outing for Devon was in a drawn game against Somerset 2ndXI at Bovey Tracey.
Fancy yourself as a Devon selector? Pick your team and a 12thman and send it email@example.com for inclusion in the competition. Remember you can pick a team from ANY player who has represented Devon since 1946.