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The Sweep 24 Week 1: New Faces for The Ones on an Old School Devon Cricket Weekend

Alex Shutt bowling

Words: Simon Travers

First XI Photos: Ivor Thomas


There were five fresh faces in the Firsts team this week on what otherwise felt like an old school start to the Devon Cricket Season. You have to respect the committed effort across the county that meant there were only 21 call-offs across Devon, despite further heavy rain on Thursday (and Argyle playing). Even with the effort to get the game on, what we saw on the weekend is probably the closest we’ll get to understanding what Geoff Boycott meant on TMS talking about uncovered pitches. 21 sides were skittled for under 100 runs on Saturday, including this match for the Chronicles at Alphington & Countess Weir.

Oak Park panorama as Cornwood play Bovey Tracey

The Ones began the season at Oak Park against Bovey Tracey, the team they have faced most often in the DCL in the 21st Century. Our new squad players are Devon Under 16’s speedster Alex Shutt, Ben Privett and the brothers Jacob and Josiah Caunter who all remembered to pay their library fines before moving from Plympton, and new overseas player Naveen Fernando. Naveen is a 23 year old all-rounder from Sri Lanka. In 2024, he has played List A Cricket for Kurunegala and First Class cricket for Dambulla. His professional stats are slightly stronger in List A with a batting average of 22.66 and strike rate of 86 and a bowling average of 24.17 and an economy rate under 6.

Naveen Fernando bowling

Bovey Tracey enter the season knowing they were only rescued from relegation last year by Kilmington’s failure to meet ECB rules on Premier Division youth criteria. It’s been seven years since they last ruled the roost in Devon. Having won the toss and electing to bat, it took less than 5 overs for Matt Skeemer to skittle Bovey’s new opener, Adam Kent. Naveen Fernando also came early to the party as Edward Foreman became his first victim in a Cornwood shirt. Bovey sought to fight back as Jake Pascoe and South African Musa Twala combined for a 49 run 3rd wicket partnership, but Ben Privett and Jacob Caunter combined for 2 wickets in 10 balls to put the visitors at 83/4. Alex Shutt drew a nick from Musa Twala and Fernando got a second bowling Sam Harvey. Peter Bradley marshalled the tail for a hard fought 32, but Josiah Caunter cleared the tail with figures of 3-7. Bovey Tracey closed on 161 from 41.3 overs.

Matt Skeemer Batting

That score gave the visitors a target to bowl at and Sam Harvey gave the fielding team something to whoop with a first over dismissal of Ben Privett. Harvey perhaps hoped to continue dominating like the last time he played at Oak Park on the Under 19s Final Day in September. He ran into Matt Skeemer though, who continued to develop his role of top-order firestarter. Matt’s run a ball 34 enabled the Ones to knock 50 from their target in the first 10 overs. Ben Beaumont continued the momentum with 4 boundaries in an over off Harvey before he was bowled on 30. At 92/4, Naveen Fernando stepped in and kept the foot on the pedal reaching 32 in 24 before a communication problem led to his run out. Chris Parker, Elliott Staddon and George Thompson’s experience got the Ones home with 4 wickets and 17 ½ overs spare. 20 points in the bag to start the year.

Naveen Fernando batting

Elsewhere in the Premier, there were wins for Sandford, Paignton, Bradninch & Kentisbeare and Sidmouth, as every chasing team got the victory.

With new faces arriving, one final wrap for an old face. Last year’s overseas player, Jay Bista, left the season midway and the Firsts missed his runs down the stretch. Jay departed early to pursue his dream of getting back to top level Indian cricket and he was successfully re-selected by Mumbai CC. The closest English equivalent to that is being picked for Surrey. Over the winter, Jay hit a List A century and played four First Class games with a batting average of 31.33. He batted at the Wankhede and got his wicket taken by the legendary Bhuvneshwar Kumar. In the razor-sharp world of Indian Cricket, that wasn’t enough to secure a place in Mumbai’s play-off squad. Mumbai won their 42nd Championship with a team that included Prithi Shaw, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Ayer and Shardul Thakur. Respect to Jay for living his cricket dreams and good luck for whatever is next.

The Twos’ C Division West campaign began with a voyage to Kingsbridge. They are arguably the most solid-state team in the county, having spent 23 of the last 25 seasons in C division. The spiritual heart of Kingsbridge is Neal Peach. He played in both matches in Cornwood’s inaugural DCL season in 1984 and took 6-60 at Oak Park that year. Like Kate Bush, Neal’s carried on running up that hill at the South End ever since. These days, Neal’s run has slowed to a Rooster Cogburn-esque amble, like the last sheriff in the Wild West of Devon. The old passion and determination erupted though when he bowled Matt Puttock.

You don’t stay as stable as Kingsbridge without knowing how to defend your home turf. After an emergency call out for volunteers to ensure the pitch was playable on Friday night, the Twos were surprised when the home team won the toss and elected to bat. It felt like the game was tilting towards the Twos when Adriaan Maxwell mistimed a drive after drinks. Maxwell was the second of Harry Woolway’s four victims. Harry was every bit as good as his figures of 9-5-17-4 suggested, unplayable at times. Jason Hall and Matt Puttock contributed strong spells and it was good to see James Richardson deliver a full spell. Kingsbridge captain Alex Browne and youngster Finn Holmes dug deep for 44 balls at the end to nudge their score towards 97. Their innings was an old school reminder that still, on the right day and pitch, there is an art to scoring at 2.33 an over for 41.3 overs.

It was too much for the Twos on this occasion. Disappointment followed the effort in the field and 46 all out is the Twos lowest score in over 20 years. The only historical consolation is that is still 17 more than the Firsts’ lowest ever in the DCL, also made at Kingsbridge in 1984. From the moment that substitute fielder Kieran Hobbs plucked a Josh Goodliffe drive one handed like he was taking an apple from a tree, momentum shifted fast. Harry Woolway got one that stuck in the surface and Sam Griffiths got a good yorker. Captain Robin Dart provided defiance and defence for 24 before an exceptional reflex catch by Adriaan Maxwell at short midwicket saw him depart. Bhanu De Silva took 4-9. In his last 5 matches against the Twos, he has taken 13 wickets at 11.46.

Of course, there’s nothing more old school than bringing in a ringer. That’s what Chudleigh 2XI did as they beat the Threes by 10 wickets. Manroz Bhullar is an Australian in the county to play B Division cricket. With the Kate Brook Sports Centre unplayable, Chudleigh demoted him to their Twos and he capitalised with 135* from 60 to kill the match and the vibes. Earlier in the day, the Threes had fought through to a creditable 168-7, only 12 runs short of exactly splitting the difference between last year’s totals against Chudleigh of 312/4 and 48. Ewan Horner made a solid 30 and Josh Whiting hit an energetic 43.

Of course, the only thing more old school than a ringer is probably the Fours. For the past two years, the Fours have found themselves in the G Division relegation positions but not relegated. Like the NatWest Bank in the 2008 Financial Crisis, the Fours are just too big to fail. Ashburton 2XI had been relegated from F Division last season and there was clear difference between the teams. Ashburton hit 215-3 in their 40 overs with 50s for Jack Warren and Marcus West. The biggest highlight was Robbie Wooderson taking his first wicket in DCL cricket, a catch from his own bowling to remove Ashburton’s warhorse captain Phil Pascoe. The Fours batters faced similar struggles to the Twos, being ousted for 58.

3rd May Colts Trainers of the Week

No matches for the Women’s Firsts or Colts this week because of the weather and ground conditions. The colts were out in force for training on Friday night though with trainer of the week awards going to Aalee, Alex, Henry, Lucy and Ayaan. A great effort from all involved.

Next weekend, the Ones pull a hefty road double with a trek to Bradninch & Kentisbeare on Saturday followed by a drive to Helston in the ECB Club Championship on Sunday. The Twos face a challenging home opener against Brixham. The Threes travel to Stokeinteignhead while the Fours are home to Hatherleigh Threes. On Sunday, the Women’s Firsts host Plymouth at Oak Park, while, in a thoroughly applaudable old school move, the Fifths bring back social cricket against Saltash St Stephens.

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