Rocks Field – home of North Molton CC<br>credit: Contributed

Harry Everett reports on the cricket revival taking place at North Molton CC

NORTH Molton are clearly enjoying life back in the Tolchards DCL after an absence of more than a quarter of a century.

Molton were previously members of the competition between 1995-1998, but switched to the more localised North Devon League instead in 1999.

The Exmoor club has been semi-dormant for a couple of seasons after pulling out of the North Devon League in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020. The appetite for Sunday afternoon cricket had declined during the crisis.

Now, under the guidance of senior players Rob Ayre and James Tapp, North Molton are back in the DCL and enjoying their Saturday afternoon cricket.

Ayre, who skippered North Devon to the DCL Premier Division title in 2007, started his cricket career with North Molton in his teens and always hoped to return to the club full-time. Even when he was with North Devon CC he continued playing in the NDL for North Molton.

“A Twenty20 pub/club side was formed last year, which went well and led to people being keen to play on Saturdays,” said Ayre.

“North Molton decided to re-enter the DCL and I had promised to play for the club if they did."

Tapp is the captain of the team. Molton may be on the bottom rung of the league ladder in the H Division Central, but Tapp said there is no shortage of ambition.

“With Sunday cricket becoming a nightmare to get players and squads out week in and week out, getting back into the DCL and working our way up is the ultimate challenge,” said Tapp, who has been turning out for Winsford just over the border in the West Somerset League. 

“Getting local talent and the buzz back at the club is the main focus. Positive performances and a sniff of promotion would be the cherry on the top.”

Ayre, who doubles up as player and groundsman at North Molton, prepared a quality pitch for Saturday’s game against St Marychurch Old Boys.

After a mixed bag of recent results, Molton were keen to get going and Tapp chose to bat first after winning the toss.A birds'-eye view of Rocks Field during the game against St Marychurch

Brothers-in-law, Alex Wilson-North (66 off 72 balls) and Tapp (154 off 106 balls) didn’t hang around, putting together a huge first-wicket stand of 236.

There was no let up from the home side as Ayre, batting at three, smashed a quickfire 53 off 29 balls to take NMCC up to 346 for five. 

St Marychurch went out to bat with a Dunkery Beacon-sized challenge to climb. Although they started steadily – Gary Ibbotson made 53, Chris Mabbut 38 – wickets started to tumble.

Youngsters Henry Ayre (2-33) and Max Symms (1-23) kept things very tight at both ends as St Marychurch declined from 129 for four to 150 for six.

Kyran Jones mopped-up the tail by taking four wickets in two overs for no runs scored as St Marychurch slumped to 157 all-out.

North Molton’s 189-run win leapfrogged them above St Marychurch into fifth place.

Reflecting on the game, Tapp said: “A dominant performance on a belter of a home track. 

“Our away form needs to improve if we are hoping to climb out of the division and get near our local rivals Filleigh. This is something we all feel is achievable, especially with the unbelievable facilities at the club and the youth we have coming through.”