By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
DEVON have a final chance to register a three-day win this season in the concluding NCCA Championship game against Shropshire at Sidmouth (Sunday 11am).
Herefordshire walloped Devon in game one; game two against Wales was rained-off on the final day just as it was getting interesting – and Cornwall came from behind to beat Devon at Truro last time out.
Dave Tall, Devon’s director of cricket, has stressed over and over again that the 2021 season is a development one for his largely youth full side. At times as many as seven players have been aged 20 or younger.
After the shambolic defeat by Cornwall at Truro, where Devon lost their last six wickets for 15 runs on the way to a 39-run defeat, Tall wants to see the development lessons learned this season put into practice.
“Of the six sessions over the first two days at Truro we ‘won’ four of them, one was even and Cornwall had the better of one,” said Tall.
“When you get on top in a game you have to press home your advantage and we just aren’t doing that.
“Cornwall had one good session on the final day and the game turned their way because of it. They showed us how it should be done when you get on top and we have to start doing it ourselves.
“We have to start showing intent to go for the jugular when we have opposing sides by the throat.”
Devon’s bowling unit has more competitive thanks to the arrival of Kazi Szymanski, the former Glamorgan and Wales pacer, and spinners Ed Middleton and Sam Read are improving all the time, according to Tall.
Szymanski has dropped out of the 12 for this game as he is still recovering from a bout of Covid.
“Kazi did not want to play unless he was capable of bowling at his best and did not feel he would be able to,” said Tall.
Matt Hague has been plucked from Heathcoat’s table-topping first team to come in as a seam bowling option. Hague is the latest in a long line of sportsmen to represent Devon at cricket and rugby. Among previous players to do it are Doug Yeabsley, Bob Staddon, Andy Pugh, Chris Edwards and Keith Benton.
Plymouth paceman Dan Goodey is out due to injury and his place goes to Heathcoat’s Joe Hancox, whose 17 Premier Division wickets at less than 16 runs each put him at the head of the queue for a Devon chance.
Where Devon are not delivering enough goods often enough is in the batting department.
“Our batsmen are all getting starts, but we are not turning enough of them into big scores,” said Tall.
“Our batsmen need to watch the way Matt Thompson bats. Once he gets in and settled he rarely lets the chance of scoring runs get away.”
Thompson is averaging exactly 66 for Devon in three-day cricket this season and will skipper the side in the absence of Jamie Stephens, who is dealing with Covid.
Devon: M W Thompson (Port Talbot), C J Haggett (Bridgwater), E H Hamilton (Plympton), J D Horler (Exmouth), B A Beaumont (Cornwood), S O Read (Exeter), A J Small (Sandford), M P Skeemer (Cornwood), M G Hague, J R H Hancock (both Heathcoat), E W O Middleton (Exeter). 12th: J E B Walliker (Plympton)
Shropshire: G T Hargrave (Shrewsbury), R Lockley (Oswestry), J Shaw (Sentinel), S M Gregory (Bridgnorth), G G Wagg (Biddestone), R X Clarke (Shifnal), S J C Ellis (Formby), B J Lees (Bridgnorth), M V Simmonds (Bridgnorth), S P Whitney (Bridgnorth), B S J Parker (Kidderminster), M T Stanley (Shifnal).