FORMER Devon captain Bob Dawson has brought the curtain down on his long career in Minor Counties cricket by announcing his retirement, writes Conrad Sutcliffe

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Dawson, who will be 42 when the next season starts, made was a Devon age group player from the age of 10 and graduated to Minor Counties cricket when he was 18.

As a talented batsman who could bowl a bit as well, it was inevitable Dawson would be spotted by a First Class county – and between 1990 and 1999 he was attached to Gloucestershire.

When Gloucestershire released Dawson towards the end of the 1999 season, he quickly re-committed himself to Devon for the following year.

When Peter Roebuck stood down as captain in 2002, Dawson was the obvious choice to succeed him and led the side to four finals during his eight years in charge, only losing one of them.

Such was Dawson’s loyalty to Devon he only missed one game between 2000 and the Minor Counties play-off win over Cambridgeshire earlier this month – and that was in 2010. The record books will need some scouring to confirm it, but it is hard to imagine any other player going more than 10 seasons without missing a match!

Dawson said he had been contemplating retirement for some time and felt the time was no right to go. “The win over Cambridgeshire was a natural end and it was nice to bow out not just in a final, but in one Devon won,” said Dawson. In myself I feel little different to how I was as an 18 year old first getting into the side and don’t regard fitness as a problem. I still think I am one of the best fielders in the side. What I am not doing is scoring the runs I ought to or used to get, which is probably because I just don’t play as much as I used to. I have had a great time and enjoyed every minute of my time with Devon. Playing for Devon was something I was fiercely proud to do. I never felt quite the same playing for Gloucestershire. Perhaps if I had, things may have worked out differently there? It is time for me to stand aside and let other players have a go. It would be nice now that I have finished if Devon could get Matt Wood involved. The rules say a Minor County can’t have two ex-First Class players with more than 40 games experience, which meant Matt and I could not play in the same side when Notts released him last year.

Matt is a fine player with lots to offer and, like me, is a Devon lad from Exmouth through and through. He has scored a lot of runs in league cricket in Nottinghamshire this year and it is clear he hasn’t lost his touch.”

Dawson faced the tallest of orders when he took over the Devon captaincy as he was following in the footsteps of two of the finest players and captains the team had ever known, Peter Roebuck and Nick Folland.

It is a fact that no one had scored two centuries in the same game until Dawson did it against Wales during the Western Division title-winning season of 2004.

“We got to the three-day final in my first year and lost to Lincolnshire - perhaps we overachieved that season – then the following year we were in the final again and drew in the rain with Bedfordshire at Exmouth. That was the season when I scored two hundreds in the same match, which is something I will never forget, and not just from a personal view point. That season it was us and Wales going hammer and tongs at the top of the table, whoever won that game was probably going to win the division. I got a hundred in the first innings, which finished just about even, and then in the second we were struggling at 100 for five when David Lye came in with me. Both of us scored hundreds, we ended up with 377, and then Neil Hancock, Arwyn Jones and Andy Procter bowled them out on the last day. What was nice for me was to have done something so significant towards winning a crunch game. We had a good side that year and had the final gone the distance I am sure we would have won. That’s why it was so pleasing to get to the final again two years later and beat Buckinghamshire at Exmouth. Winning the Lord’s final in 2008 was special, but the highpoint was that win over Bucks because were outstanding that season.”

Dawson’s third highlight also came in 2004 when Devon defeated Leicestershire at Exmouth in the C&G Trophy. “That was special because it was so difficult for Minor Counties to beat the First Class boys,” said Dawson. “It had only been done nine times by a Minor County before we did it, which is a competition that was 42 years old then showed how hard it actually was.”

Dawson was replaced as Devon captain at the end of the 2009 season by Hancock, but carried on playing.

Short term Dawson intends to continue playing club cricket for Budleigh Salterton and if Devon is ever in trouble they can give him a ring. Long term he has no definite plans, although Devon remain firmly in his thoughts.

“Devon has been such a huge part of my life I can’t imagine being without it,” said Dawson. Perhaps there will be an opening in a year or two on the management side and if there is I would like to be considered.”

Budleigh CC Secretary Kevin Curran says of Dawson: “We are very proud of Bobby at Budleigh. He has been a fantastic cricketer for well over 20 years and keeps himself superbly fit. To be still performing at the highest level, last season at 40 he was still the second highest run scorer in the Devon Cricket League, and he is most certainly a great example to the younger generation of what can be achieved by a dedication to ones sport. He is a good clubman, very popular and always willing to muck in. Bobby is a fierce competitor whether it is a five-a-side kick about before a game or a match; Bob will always want to win. In the twilight of his career and soon to become a father for the first time we look forward at Ottermouth to seeing Bob play for many more seasons.”

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