Devon spinner Sam Read – four for 67 in the 80-run win over Herefordshire that clinched the Division One West title<br>credit: conrad Sutcliffe - no re-use without copyright owner's consent



DEVON are on their way to the Durant Cricket National Counties Championship final after beating Herefordshire by 80 runs at Sidmouth to claim the Western Division title.

Waiting for Devon in the final are East champions Buckinghamshire, who did enough in a 115-run defeat by Suffolk to move ahead of Staffordshire at the top of their table.

The truncated nature of the new-look, five-team competition means fine margins between success and failure – as Devon knew going into their final game of the season.

A win would hand them their first Western Division title since 2011 if Oxfordshire lost to Cheshire, which they did.

Had Cheshire defeated Oxfordshire and Herefordshire triumphed at Sidmouth, the likelihood was that Devon would have been relegated back to Division Two.

Herefordshire knew at toss-up time they had to win to avoid relegation, unless Cheshire lost to Oxfordshire, which would have kept the Midlanders up. Fine margins indeed!

Devon were in the driving seat from day one when Elliot Hamilton scored an unbeaten 154 in a total of 377 for nine. Despite a century from Ben Chapman-Lilley (118), Herefordshire were bowled out 106 runs in arrears for 271.Will Christophers - two wickets and a reaction catch at short mid-wicket to help dismiss Luke Powell

Half-centuries from Hamilton (51no) and Ben Beaumont (77no) helped Devon move to 253 for four before lunch on day three. They declared 359 runs ahead and left Herefordshire the rest of the day to get one more.

Herefordshire batters Chapman-Lilley (51), Connor Smith, an unhappy lbw casualty for 56, and Rohan Venkataraman (68) gave it a go to take Herefordshire up to 184 for four.

Spin proved Herefordshire’s undoing with Sam Read (4-67) and Max Shepherd (4-84) taking four wickets each to bowl them out for 279. If Read of Shepherd didn’t get them, leg-spinner Will Christophers (2-22) did.

Venkataraman was the last man out when he took a swipe at Shepherd and was caught by Read at deep mid-wicket. It was Read's first three-day game of the season after he received a late call-up for injured skipper and off-spin bowler Jamie Stephens.

While Read bowled Stephens' overs – 31 of them in the match – one-day skipper James Horler led the side.

Dave Tall, Devon’s director of cricket, said in the space of three games Devon had gone from probable also rans at best to West champions.

“The way we came back after the bad defeat by Oxfordshire at Exeter shows a lot about the character of this group of players and the way they are getting better and better,” said Tall.

“Three years ago, when I took on this job, we had just been relegated into Division Two and had to start all over again.

“Our young players – too many too name individually – have matured both as cricketers and individuals during that time, definitely influenced by our senior players: Jamie Stephens, Matt Thompson and Calum Haggett.

“Without the input from Jamie, Matt and Calum, all of whom bought into what I was aiming to do from the start, we would not be where we are now.

“To be honest it still has not sunk in that we have won the Western Division. It has been an incredible achievement by all the players and I am immensely proud of each and every one of them.”

The four-day final between Devon and Buckinghamshire will take place at West Bromwich Dartmouth CC’s ground in Sandwell, Staffordshire between September 3-6.

Max Shepherd wheeling away from the Town End during Devon's win over Herefordshire