Words By Simon Travers
After a miserable pre-season and the frustration of a first week wash out, there was relief mixed with celebration as the league season finally clicked into gear. Some of that relief would have come from Head Groundsman Bradley Nicholls and his amazing team. Over 4 inches of rain fell at the start of the week, making early preparation impossible. Only on Thursday were Bradley and his team able to really get out and invest the hard hours to prepare for the weekend. As you may have seen from the club’s Instagram account @cornwoodcc, the team’s efforts were rewarded as Oak Park looked glorious for the visit of newly crowned champions Bradninch & Kentisbeare.
The weather’s impact was felt on scorelines across the county. It was the type of day that would give the younger generations a small inkling of what Geoffrey Boycott meant when he talked about the challenges faced by batters in the uncovered pitches era on Test Match Special. Across the Premier, A and B divisions, eleven teams were bowled out on Saturday for 120 or less. At Oak Park, Cornwood won the toss and bowled, and their visitors became one of those eleven.
Bradninch’s opening partnership of captain Gary Chappell and keeper Tim Piper combined for over 1000 runs last season. Both fell to a sharp opening spell from James Richardson (5-0-22-3), who also got (not that) Charlie Sheen. The Ones clearly had gained the upper hand. Bradninch’s best hope was their overseas player (not that) Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj is a young all-rounder with a First Class century and 5-fer who should make an impact later in the season. On Saturday though, he fell to an athletic catch from Elliott Staddon from the bowling of Matt Skeemer with the score on 55-5.
That catch was the first of six wickets for only seven runs that left the visitors scuppered on 62 all out. Matt Skeemer finished with figures of 10-4-27-4 while Man of the Match Elliott Staddon ended with 4.3-1-12-3. Jay Bista made sure there would be no comeback for the visitors, barely out of a canter scoring 43* from 40 with the target reached in 13.1 overs.
The win continues the Firsts recent domination over Bradninch, with their eighth consecutive league victory. This was Bradninch’s second painful defeat to start the season, they find themselves bottom of the Premier Table with North Devon. After quiet seasons last year, Sidmouth and Bovey Tracey are the early pace setters in the table.
Sunday saw the Ones’ second game of the weekend, travelling to Bridgewater in round 1 of the ECB National Club Championship. Bridgewater presented stiff opposition, fielding a side with three players holding Somerset contracts, Ned Leonard, Alfie Ogborne and Will Smeed, and the Birmingham Bears wrist spinner, Jake Lintott.
Winning the toss and batting, Cornwood started brightly with a 75 partnership between Jay Bista and Ben Beaumont before Jay was trapped LBW. Beaumont kept momentum on his way to reaching 64 from 67 balls with 9 fours and 2 sixes before giving a catch to Mid Off with the score at 114-2. Lintott applied pressure for the hosts and slowed a healthy run rate. With only 40 overs to play with, the Ones needed aggression. However, after Matt Skeemer holed out to long on with the score on 135-3, Bridgewater’s captain Alex Eckland saw the moment and brought back his pacemen. It was Cornwood’s turn to collapse. Alfie Ogborne and Ned Leonard instantly made the batters look uncomfortable. Jack Ormsby’s dismissal was perhaps the classiest of the bunch, done by a classic short ball and yorker combination from Ned Leonard. After going 0-24 in his first 4 overs, Alfie Ogborne went 5-7 in his next 3 to finish on 5-31. The Ones, like Mark Selby in the snooker the week before, recorded a 147 in a losing cause.
Which is not to say they did not fight in the field. Matt Skeemer took a nice reactive caught and bowled chance as the first of his two wickets. Jack Ormsby bagged his first competitive wicket in a Cornwood shirt. Pick of the bowlers was Lee Baker with figures of 8-0-37-3, including the prize wicket of Will Smeed. Smeed may have hit the Hundred’s first century, but you don’t reverse sweep Lee Baker.
Back on Saturday, the Twos took their first step towards a concerted push for promotion out of C Division West at Plymouth 2XI. The twos fielded a side with over 500 first team appearances for Cornwood between them. The experience on paper showed on the field, as Cornwood outplayed and outworked Plymouth in virtually every department.
Put in by the hosts, Charles Finan and Ben Griffiths took advantage as Plymouth’s seamers were unable to gain any traction with the new ball. In an 11 over spell from the fourth to the fourteenth over, the Twos scored a minimum of seven runs each over to leave the score at 112-0. Finan was the main aggressor, hitting 72 from 61 balls with 11 fours and 2 sixes. Across the innings, Plymouth’s seamers joint figures were 18-0-154-0. However, John Kerridge almost literally turned the match on its head with a devastating spell of 9-0-33-5. Regularly getting the ball to turn 12 inches away from an off-stump line, Kerridge conjured edges from the Cornwood middle order like a magician pulling coins from behind their assistant’s ear. This was Kerridge’s fourth 5 wicket performance against Cornwood 2XI since 2019.
With 16 overs to go and the score at 164-5. Robin Dart capitalised on the Two’s earlier fast start with a composed but powerful 73* from 65 with 6 fours and 4 sixes. Robin even pulled the ramp shot out later in the innings as Plymouth resorted to a flat back five across the straight boundaries. A handy 42 from 27 from new player Mark Puttock put the final score at 294-8.
Cornwood’s bowling depth meant that a genuine challenge from Plymouth to that total was unlikely. Congratulations to Adam Goodliffe (9-4-14-3) as he found Plymouth keeper Jason Degg’s outside edge for his 200th senior league wicket for the club. Harry Woolway also helped cement the win with a miserly spell before Robin Dart (6-1-12-3) and Jason Hall (5.4-0-30-3) racked up the bonus points on the way to a win of 160 runs.
Over at Delamore Park, the Threes were not quite able to keep pace with Stokeinteignhead. For the second year running, the visitors scored 207 in their 40 overs, although only for the loss of 7 wickets as opposed to last year’s 9. Ewan Grewal and Harrison Hodge kept the Stoke openers in check for the first 10 overs. However, the Threes struggled to find the breakthrough. It took 26 overs before Duncan Cumberland was able to remove Anuj Tiwari for 56. Fellow opener Paul Russell ended on 70 and the Threes kept competing, limiting the visitors to 51 in the last 10 overs and claiming a team hattrick including 2 run outs from the last three balls. Stepping back into the captaincy role for the week, Josh Wood led the chase with 48. John Chacko was impressively economical with figures of 6-2-10-2. At 94-5 in 19 overs, the Threes had plenty of time but were short on chances. Mike Hodge was able to provide punch to the counter attack with 52* from 42 balls, his first 50 in league play for 7 years. However, Mike ran out of partners with the score on 158, a loss by 49 runs.
Moment of the week surely came in the Fours game away at Stover School against Ipplepen 3XI. Warm congratulations to Emma Gibson for umpiring her first Devon Cricket League match. The Fours though found themselves in a tense situation at 58-6. Emma’s husband, Phil Gibson was attempting the second coming of Mike Atherton, digging in for a dogged, determined, defiant nine runs from forty two attritional balls worth of G division fire. On the forty third ball, Emma raised the index finger, sharper than a gunshot from Dirty Harry, and gave Phil out LBW. Rumours that Phil is trying to lose a few decades off his passport so he can get a game in the Threes next week can neither be confirmed nor denied. The Fours lost by seven wickets, but in a real way, cricket was the true winner here.
Next week, the Ones travel to Paignton, the Twos host Ivybridge, the Threes are away at South Brent and the Fours host Stoke Gabriel 2XI. Sunday sees the Women’s Ones start their league campaign against Paignton. Keep an eye out during the week for a full range of colts games also.