Devon spinner Max Shepherd – bowled 38 overs in the match without success<br>credit: Conrad Sutcliffe - no re-use without copyright owner's consent



DEVON crashed to a record defeat in the Durant Cricket National Counties play-off game when Buckinghamshire humiliated them by 550 runs with a day to spare.

It’s only two seasons ago that Devon finished bottom of Western Division Two. Reaching the four-day final at West Bromwich Dartmouth CC on the outskirts of Birmingham was an achievement in its own right.

The game was effectively won and lost early on the second day when Devon were bowled out for 118 in response to Bucks’ total of 185. Play-off game rules say the team ahead on first innings will be declared the winners if the match fails to produce a result. Devon had to win outright to take the title. 

Bucks batted on and on during day three with Ross Richardson’s career-best 166 the centrepiece of a ruthless batting display. Aadi Sharma made 155.

Bucks were eventually dismissed for 567 in the 140th over of their second innings. There were two wickets each for Matt Skeemer, Ben Beaumont and very occasional left-armer Max Finzell, who picked off the last two in four balls. 

Devon were set 635 to win in four-and-a-half sessions. They were dismissed for 84 inside 37 overs and were beaten before the end of the third day. No one made more than opener James Horler (16).

Slow left-armer Conner Haddow made light work of Devon returning figures of 10.1-7-6-5 to finish with match figures of eight for 37.

Devon’s only realistic prospect was to bat out the remainder of the match for a draw but their innings unravelled in the space of ten overs before tea. 

From 50 for two they slumped to 60 for seven with Elliot Hamilton bowled by Bragg and Finzel driving Parsons low to extra cover in successive balls. 

Haddow swiftly accounted for Ben Beaumont, who edged to slip, and Hill, stumped giving him the charge, and Parsons had Matt Skeemer taken at point. 

Calum Haggett fired off a couple of defiant shots before he picked out long-on, Jamie Stephens was lbs sweeping Haddow who then wrapped up victory when Max Shepherd was bowled around his legs. 

Bucks' victory was the largest by a run margin in the history of the Championship, which began in 1895, although the previous record of 411 runs was set by Bedfordshire against Hertfordshire just two weeks ago. 

Dave Tall, Devon’s director of cricket, questioned the usefulness of the first-innings rule, but added he and the team were well aware of its significance going into the match.

“The one opportunity we had to get our noses in front, we didn't take,” said Tall.

“It is a ridiculous rule and it came back to bite us badly as it enabled Bucks to bat and bat which killed the game

“Personally, I think it ruined what could have been a cracking game of cricket.

“I have no issue with Bucks’ tactics: had we been in the same position we would have done exactly the same.”

Tall said the loss of skipper Jamie Stephens and match-pro Calum Haggett from the attack for periods in the match due to injury and illness respectively was a mitigating factor as far as he was concerned.

Reflecting on the positives, Tall said just getting to the final was something to celebrate.

“There would not have been many people who would have given us a prayer of winning Western Division One, which shows how far we have come in such a short space of time,” said Tall. 

“I have to say I am tremendously proud of the lads for making it there and, although the scores will not suggest this, they all acquitted themselves extremely well, conducted themselves impeccably and played the game in the right spirit. 

“We are still improving and I am sure this group of players will be back again in the near future.”

Buckinghamshire 185 (Jamie Stephens 4-29) & 567 (Ross Richardson 166, Aadi Sharma 115, George Harvey 61), Devon 118 & 84 (Conner Haddow 5-6). Buckinghamshire beat Devon by 550 runs.