Devon's Matt Skeemer – three wickets and a run-out on day two<br>credit: Conrad Sutcliffe - no re-use without copyright owner's consent



DEVON go into the final day of the game against Herefordshire at Sidmouth with the prospect of winning the Western Division title a possibility – and relegation still a danger!

The Durant Cricket NCA Championship remains wide open with three of the five Western Division teams in with the chance of winning in the West – and Devon with a foot in both camps.

Current leaders Berkshire have finished their programme of matches and will stay top if Devon and Oxfordshire lose to Herefordshire and Cheshire respectively.

Devon will be the best in the West if they beat Herefordshire and Oxfordshire lose to Cheshire at Banbury.

Oxfordshire need a win over Cheshire and nothing else if they are going to claim the title.

The fly in the ointment for Devon is if they lose to Herefordshire and Cheshire win at Banbury. Devon and Herefordshire would both finish on 43 points, meaning the rule book would have to come out.

The rules say the team with fewer loses would finish higher in a level-points situation. As Devon (2) would have one more defeat that Wales (1), they would be in jeopardy. However, Herefordshire could be fined points for a slow over rate as they have not managed the 17-an-hour dictated by competition rules.

It’s going to be an intense day at Sidmouth and Banbury.

In Devon’s perfect world they will extend their overnight lead from 285 to circa 350 in a hurry – and leave 80-plus overs to bowl Herefordshire out for a second time and win the match. 

Herefordshire, 43 for none overnight, were finally dismissed for 271 in their first innings. Herefordshire opener Ben Chapman-Lilley grafted and crafted 118 in fractionally less than four and a half hours in the middle and by the time he was fifth out had been involved in stands worth 118.James Horler – off the mark with a six against Herefordshire in Devon's second innings

Devon had to work hard for wickets while Chapman-Lilley was in residence, but after he departed to a deflection run-out the second half of the order was largely a routine mopping-up job.

Rohan Venkatarama detained Devon longer than they would have liked for his 30 not out. The maths was five out for 52 runs scored in 16 overs.

Calum Haggett (3-35) took three in a row this morning and Matt Skeemer, whose finger-tip deflection did for Chapman-Lilley, finished with three wickets for 43.

Devon got to 179 for four in 41 overs batting time after tea with first-day centurion Elliot Hamilton 37 not out and Ben Beamont unbeaten on 21.

There were fireworks in the opening overs with Ben Privett and James Horler assaulting the Herefordshire bowling in an almost indecent way.

Privett got off the mark with four boundaries in the first over from James Rudge – positively pedestrian compared to Horler’s activity at the other end.

Devon’s captain got off the mark by pulling Venkatarama for six and was on 22 not out in a running total of 38 for none at the end of the over.

Dave Tall, Devon’s director of cricket, said it was hard to find more than a few brief spells during the day when the side were not in control.

“Perhaps we could have given away fewer runs, but we stuck to our task well to bowl them out,” said Tall.

“Had we been told at the start of the day we would be 106 runs ahead on first innings, or 285 in front at the end of the day, we would have been more than happy. But you always look for things you could have done better.

“We started our second innings rapidly – I thought there was a contest between the two openers to see who could score the most – and that put Herefordshire under a bit more pressure.

“The way Ben and James set off so positively made it easier for the batsmen who followed.

“The challenge for our batters on day three is to get the lead we want quickly enough to leave the time we need to have a chance of bowling them out again.”