Words: Simon Travers
Photos: Ivor Thomas
Week 6 of the season arrived with rumours of thunderstorms and rain for the first time in over a month. Those rumours stayed unfounded and a full slate of play was possible. Oak Park buzzed as the Ones looked to defend their undefeated record against Exmouth. The atmosphere was helped by the return of the hospitality team’s signature stacker burger to the Oak Park menu and another new addition to the tea making massive, 16 year old Maddie Verron.
Having smashed their way through A Division last season, Exmouth represent a kind of mid-table barometer of strength. Sat in sixth before play, they’ve lost to strong teams like Heathcoat, Bradninch and Sandford, while beating strugglers North Devon and Paignton.
To borrow a phrase from Natalie and Katherine Sciver-Brunt’s CBeebies Bedtime story on the IPlayer this week, Max Finzel and Jay Bista ‘found their happy’. Max’s first fifty of the season, 54 from 102 balls, coincided with the pair’s first hundred partnership of 2023. Max and Jay started to rekindle last season’s batting bromance for 32 overs, scoring 150 before Max was caught off Alvin Pollard. Jay Bista almost reached three figures for the second time this year with 96 from 99 balls. With 14 overs remaining, the middle order needed to click into gear quickly. Ben Beaumont (46 from 40) hit 21 runs off Cameron Kidd in the 43rd over, including successive sixes, before giving a catch on the final ball. Matt Skeemer was bowled by George Greenway first ball of the next over and that opened the door for a late innings fightback by Exmouth. Cameron Kidd battled to figures of 10-1-68-4 as the visitors bowled the Firsts out for 270.
Cornwood’s total meant that Exmouth would need to set an Oak Park record for highest successful chase. However, with South African run machine Jason Niemand and Devon CCC mainstay James Horler, Exmouth had the tools for the job. It was not to be Niemand’s day as James Richardson found his edge early. Middle overs pressure from the Cornwood bowlers made a real difference to the game’s outcome. Jack Ormsby made an impact by conceding 24 runs in 10 overs and bowling the key wicket of James Horler for 43. Exmouth found both Matt Skeemer and Elliott Staddon difficult to get away. When Matt Skeemer removed Cameron Kidd, the score was 151/4 with 15 overs remaining.
The Ones kept their cool. Finlay Marks (50 from 60) was run out by Staddon from a sharp bit of fielding off his own bowling and Lee Baker removed George Greeenway for 12. That wicket brought Louis Adey, on his first team debut, to the crease. Adey nearly turned the match with a pummelling 40 from 19 balls including 24 in one over. With two overs remaining and 24 needed to win, Adey hit a skier from Lee Baker. Max Finzel, facing directly into the falling sunlight, held firm to take the difficult catch. That was enough to secure a 9 run victory for the Ones. The experience of Jay Bista and Lee Baker was enough to ward off Exmouth’s rising tide. Baker finished with the best figures of 7-1-36-3.
In the other key Premier Division match of the afternoon, Sidmouth took apart Bovey Tracey’s batting to win by 135 runs. That means that the Ones are now 13 points clear of second place Heathcoat, who thrashed Paignton by 169 runs.
Ben Beaumont’s weekend was far from over as after the Exmouth game. He hit the road to Luton to play for Devon CCC in Sunday’s 50 over game against Bedfordshire. It was as special day for Ben as he made his first adult century, scoring 104* from 128 balls as Devon reached 258/6. That total proved to be chaseable for Bedfordshire but Ben also picked up a wicket late in their innings.
On an eventually balmy Brixham afternoon, The Twos put together an impressive team performance to go top of C Division West. With grey skies overhead and a pitch that required application and patience, the Two’s openers did well to see off the new ball. Ben Griffiths got his drive working on the way towards a second 50 of the season. Ben finished on 77 from 110 balls with 13 fours. Chris Parker hit his third fifty in a row with some hefty bombs launched against Brixham’s spinner. Brixham’s seamers returned and were able to shake Cornwood’s middle order. Wicketkeeper Euan Bridger made two excellent diving grabs to remove Harry Woolway and Josh Goodliffe as 166-1 became 187-6. Matt Puttock and Finn Torley put on a useful 37 for the 7th wicket before another flurry ended the Cornwood innings on 240.
A suspicion that the Twos total was probably worth about 30-40 more because of the pitch was emphasised by Brixham’s early response. The hosts looked to attack but lacked control. Key wicket Tom Hopper arguably helped his own demise when he walked down the pitch to Matt Puttock for the fourth time in an over. At the other end, Andy Bees was squeezing the Brixham order tighter than a boa constrictor. Andy produced a 30 ball dot-ball streak at one point in his spell of 9-4-16-3. Bees was assisted by Josh Goodliffe’s entry for the unofficial catch of the year competition. Euan Bridger crushed a cover drive that Josh pouched mid air with a low dive to his right. Imagine a goalkeeper making a penalty shoot out save. Harry Woolway picked up from where Andy Bees left off with 8.4-2-28-4. With 28 overs gone in the Brixham innings, they were 89-7 and the contest was over. Craig Eaves stuck around to hit a defiant 60 for the hosts, but there was time for the tail to be mopped up, resulting in a 60 run, 20 point win.
On Sunday, the Women’s Ones were able to make a quick retort to North Devon beating them the week before. Evie Privett and Becky Harris established a daunting platform with a second wicket partnership of 182. In fierce heat, Privett and Harris posed complimentary threats that stretched the Tarka Ladies to breaking. Evie, left-handed, punished off the back foot, while Becky, right-handed, more often utilised the drive. Privett was first to depart LBW sweeping having made 73 from 72. Harris picked up an upper leg injury reaching for a wide ball. She scored the last 19 runs of her innings with a runner before hitting out to long on having made 93 from 84. Credit to Olivia Kingdom who caused trouble in the later stages taking 7-0-39-4. Kingdom has an extraordinary action where the speed of her bowling arm turning over bears no relationship to the speed of the delivery bowled.
North Devon could not be counted out chasing 245-9 as batting is their strength. Still limping, Becky Harris picked up an early wicket and made a tumbling catch off Gemma Lancaster’s bowling. From there the Tarka Ladies’ Gee Lilli took centre stage with 91 from 74. Although it was tough for the Women’s Ones to take wickets, tight bowling kept the run rate climbing. A double wicket maiden from Kat Frost (7-1-33-2) helped swing momentum Cornwood’s way as the visitors fell 17 runs short.
Back at Delamore Park, The Fours celebrated their first win of the season besting Whitchurch 2XI by 40 runs. Plenty of Fours legends put their hand up, but Neil Lambert’s contribution stands out. Neil hit 21 with a Nighthawk-tastic strike rate of 190 before steaming in with the new ball, knees pumping, intimidating the Whitchurch batters on his way to figures of 8-0-32-3. The first of those wickets was another unofficial catch of the season contender as James Farmer dashed from Cow to Long On to take a running catch with arms fully extended. That dismissed Whitchurch’s useful opener Dave Swabey and shifted the match’s momentum. Dave Tracey also put in a shift with figures of 4-0-12-3 including an athletic caught and bowled.
The Threes travelled to Paignton for the second part of the Delamore residency at Torre Valley North. The Threes worked hard in the field and shared wickets to restrict their hosts to 178. Duncan Cumberland continued his good run of form taking 6-0-40-4. Early wickets though left the Threes at 58-5. They made a respectable recovery as Tom West made 37 and Duncan Cumberland 29 to push their total to 150 before they ran out of wickets.
It's a busy week ahead at the club. The T20 team are in action at Oak Park on Monday night against Egham. All the colts teams are in action too. Next Saturday, the Ones take the long trip to Instow to play a North Devon side yet to win in the Premier Division. The Twos host Ashburton at Oak Park, the Threes travel to Yelverton for a Dartmoor derby, while the Fours host Plympton 3XI at Delamore Park. On Sunday, the Women’s Ones make the seaside trip to Paignton.