Devon captain Jamie Stephens – three wickets in four balls in his first over<br>credit: Conrad Sutcliffe - no re-use without copyright owner's consent



DEVON saw the initiative snatched from their grasp by the end of an eventful first day of the Durant Cricket National Counties Championship final against Buckinghamshire at West Bromwich Dartmouth.

Buckinghamshire slumped from 121 for two in the final over before lunch to 185 all out in their first innings, a total that would have been more meagre had Conner Haddow (13) and Tom Weymes (16no) not added 33 for the last wicket. 

Devon then laboured to 99 for seven in 51 overs by the close against a demanding combination of pace and spin. 

A greenish pitch kept the bowlers interested throughout but it did not entirely explain how 17 wickets went down for 284 runs after Buckinghamshire captain Tom Hampton had opted to bat first on it. 

There was no hint of the batting travails to come when Alexei Kervezee (31) and Aadi Sharma (35) added 57 for Buckinghamshire’s third wicket with former Worcestershire and Netherlands batter Kervezee striking six fours and a six with a one-handed pull off Ben Privett. 

But the innings unravelled in the space of 12 balls either side of lunch. Kervezee survived an lbw appeal from paceman Kaz Syzmanski only to be given out caught at second slip when Devon followed up with a second appeal. Devon pacer Kazi Szymanski – three for 42 and two bites of the cherry to remove Alexi Kervezee

Ross Richardson followed six balls later, lbw to Szymanski, and Sharma, fresh from a century for Northamptonshire 2nd XI, fell to the sixth ball after lunch when he was caught behind fanning down leg-side to Matt Skeemer. 

When George Harvey edged Szymanski to first slip, Buckinghamshire had lost four wickets for nine runs but the collapse continued in spectacular fashion when Devon captain Jamie Stephens took three wickets in four balls in his first over of off-spin. 

Ed Bragg popped a catch to short-leg, Cameron Parsons was bowled for 16 and Hampton gave a bat-pad catch to short-leg next ball. 

Stephens added a fourth wicket when Haddow was stumped giving him the charge that ended the frustrating last-wicket stand. But Devon soon ran into trouble. 

Privett went to the first ball of the innings, when he glanced a leg-side loosener from Parsons to wicketkeeper Richardson, and Max Finzel’s first Championship innings lasted 12 balls before Ed Bragg undid him with one that bounced. 

James Horler and Somerset Academy prospect Fin Hill repaired the damage, but Horler then slashed Parsons to gully and Hill edged slow left-armer Haddow to slip. 

Haddow, who took nine wickets in the match when Buckinghamshire beat Staffordshire in an Eastern Division One match on the samer ground six weeks ago, added another wicket when he had Ben Beaumont lbw in his next over. 

Devon got bogged down and found themselves further in the mire when Haggett nibbled a catch behind after Bragg switched ends and Elliot Hamilton, who had battled 145 balls for 30, was lbw just before the close, sweeping Alexei Kervezee’s off-spin. 

Dave Tall, Devon’s director of cricket, said the pitch was a factor in runs and wickets ratio on day one, but not the only one.

“Perhaps it is not the pitch you would expect on the first day of a Championship final, but it is certainly not a 17-wicket pitch either,” said Tall.

“I think it is fair to say there have been some average, perhaps tentative shots played, which has something to do with it, as has the tennis-ball bounce.

“It was damp at the start and beginning to spin before the end of the first session.

“And when Jamie Stephens came on to bowl it looked like he was bowling on a different wicket to everyone else. Had he come on sooner, they would not have got as many as they did.”

Devon go into day two 86 runs behind with just three wickets left, which would seem to be an invidious position. Tall remains upbeat.

“There is still a lot of cricket left in this game and our target now has to be to get as close to Buckinghamshire as we can,” said Tall.