East Devon cricketers prominent in Devon Unicorns KO Trophy triumph

20:27 04 September 2014

Skipper Josh Bess said patience was the key to Devon beating Oxfordshire by seven runs in the Unicorns KO Cup final at Wormsley, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.

Devon made 203 for nine in their 50 overs – James Burke top scoring with 55 in an important stand of 78 for the third wicket with Matt Thompson (78).

Jamie Overton gave supplied some late impetus with 28 off 29 balls – and there was an absolutely critical stand of 24 unbroken for the final wicket between Sandy Allen and last man Scott Barlow.

‘Not enough’ was the view from the Oxfordshire camp – and it looked as though they were right at 77 for two in reply.

Four wickets promptly fell for 18 runs added and when Oxfordshire were 95 for six the game had see-sawed back Devon’s way… or had it?

A stand of 72 between man of the match Chad Keegan – he added 47 to his four wickets in the first innings – and Nathan Hawkes (36) got Oxfordshire back in the game.

Barlow (4-25) broke the stand when he snared Keegan lbw and, in spite of some desperate swinging from the tail-enders, 16 to win from the final over was too many and Oxfordshire fell short.

Bess said Devon had to be patient in both elements of the game and their reluctance to panic in tight spots served them well.

“It was a difficult track to bat on and we knew that if our strong batting line up struggled at times so would theirs,” said Bess.

“We got to 200 thanks to a big knock between James Burke and Matt Thompson, which put us in a position to go on.

“You couldn’t score runs quickly. You had to be patient and grind out the runs. It wasn’t a ground where boundaries were easy to come by/

“I felt at the time the stand between Sandy and Scott was going to be important in what looked then like being a tight game.

“It was vital we batted out our overs and they made sure we did that.”

Oxfordshire have never won the Unicorns Cup in any of its guises over the past 32 years, but at 77 for two felt the wait was an hour or so away.

Four wickets for 18 runs later it was a different story.

“Oxfordshire were finding it no easier than we had, but we knew it probably wasn’t over then either,” said Bess.

“Keegan and Hawkes had a good go at it before the turning point, which was Scott’s last spell.

“Scott got Keegan with his first ball back, then Ryan and Blanchard in his next over one after the other. That should have done it.

“Give Oxfordshire credit for keeping going right to the end. We had to be on our toes all the way. It was a great game of cricket.”

Devon’s one-day side is vastly different to the three-day Championship team that finished third in the Western Division table this season.

Only four players are regulars in both – Bess, Liam Lewis, Thompson and Trevor Anning – although Burke and Overton have featured infrequently in three-day cricket.

Bess said winning the cup could be a springboard to more success in the near future as the younger players come into their own.

“Third in the Championship with a young side was a very good effort from a team that can only get better,” he said.

“Over the next year or two more of the players in the Championship side will start to feature in the cup games too;

“It will be interesting to see what this group of players will achieve as they mature as cricketers.”

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