Batsmen blast ball at benign Salston

The visit of high flying Dartington and Totnes to Salston Field saw Ottery St Mary 1st XI involved in yet another run scoring extravaganza.

The visit of high flying Dartington and Totnes to Salston Field saw Ottery St Mary 1st XI involved in yet another run scoring extravaganza as the combination of a 'shirtfront' wicket and some pretty mediocre bowling saw batsmen on both sides enjoy a field day. After the visitors posted a massive 289-4, courtesy of fine centuries from Aussie opener Dave Sharpe and hugely impressive youngster Matt Hickey, the Otters' reply featured a blistering innings of 93 from just 52 balls by skipper John Tierney. His team produced a spirited attempt to chase down such an imposing total in a contest which ended in a highly entertaining draw.Having been asked to bat first, the visitors set the tone of the contest as openers Sharpe and powerful South African Bertus Loots tucked into the bowling of Ottery seamers Jody Clements and Rob Crabb. Ottery could ill afford the slip catch which Rob Johns grounded off Clements to give Loots a life in just the third over. The benign nature of the pitch allowed both men to hit through the line of the ball with confidence, and Loots, in particular, dispatched a number of powerful boundaries including a big six onto the roof of the pavilion as the score passed 50 in the 12th over. The introduction of change bowlers Brian Burns and Johns did little to suppress the scoring, and it came as something of a surprise when, with the total on 79, Loots (37) departed, bowled by Burns attempting to heave a well flighted off-break over midwicket. This brought 16-year-old West of England player Hickey to the wicket and saw the onset of a tremendous 188 run partnership with Sharpe. The latter reached his 50 (10 x 4s) as he dispatched a Burns long hop in the 20th over and the total passed 100 shortly afterwards. All bowlers came alike to the Dartington pair and Hickey, in particular, proceeded to unfurl a delightful array of effortless shots all around the wicket. The score raced past 150 in the 28th over, Sharpe depositing left arm spinner Martin Miller into the adjoining caravan park before the opener was given another life as Sam Lynch downed a catch at long off. Hickey's half century (6 x 4s) arrived at a run a ball and, when the total passed 200 in the 35th over, a score of over 300 looked on the cards. Sharpe reached a fine century from just 108 balls (16 x 4s, 1 x 6) before Hickey produced the shot of the day, effortlessly depositing the normally miserly Rob Bradshaw-Smith for a magnificent six over wide long-on.Sharpe's fine knock ended at 120 in unlucky fashion as Burns deflected a searing straight drive from Hickey onto the stumps with the opener out of his ground, and the visitors' scoring rate finally dropped as youngster Sam Tennant gave the more senior home bowlers a lesson in line and length. Bowling full and straight, he removed Ryan Stevenson, for two, and, when Burns had James Palmer (0) stumped by Charl Axsel, the Otters had claimed a welcome second bowling point. Hickey completed a richly deserved century from the final ball of the innings, and his was by some distance the best knock seen at Salston Field this season.A sound foundation was essential if the Otters' powerful batting line up was to threaten the visitors' large but gettable total. This was provided by the reliable combination of Miller and Burns, the former, in particular, unleashing some delightfully timed shots against opening bowlers Hickey and Stevenson. The introduction of off spinner Kalon Veal broke the opening stand at 45 as Miller (24) was bowled attempting to sweep a fullish delivery. This was the cue for a quite sensational innings by incoming skipper Tierney. The former Devon all-rounder's season had hitherto been characterised by innings in which, having rapidly established himself, he gave away his wicket via rash shots whilst trying to force the pace. But this was the day when it all came together in spectacular style! The scoring rate rocketed as the visitors committed the cardinal sin of bowling too short as Tierney - in his own words "seeing it like football" - hammered the ball to all parts (and in some cases out of the ground. This was an awesome display of hitting from an immensely powerful batsman at the top of his game. The total raced past 100 in the 24th over as Tierney, with Burns as a virtual spectator, clipped Veal through the leg side, after which a Sharpe full toss was deposited over midwicket to bring up his 50 from just 37 balls (7 x 4s, 2 x 6s). Tierney took 17 from Veal's seventh over including a huge six into the caravan park. With his score on 93, he mis-hit an attempted pull to Palmer off Loots to leave Ottery on 153-2. The Ottery captain had spent just 56 minutes at the crease hitting 10 fours and four sixes and there now appeared to be a chance of a famous home victory. Tennant (3) soon departed, caught and bowled off a leading edge by Stevenson, but Burns, who had struggled to find his timing, now began to open up, reaching his 50 (4 x 4s, 1 x 6) and bringing up the 200 in the 37th over. However, the Aussie's departure soon afterwards, controversially adjudged lbw to Stevenson when he appeared to get a large inside edge, effectively ended the Otters' victory charge. Johns (2) and Matt Kirk (1), in his first 1st XI innings for almost three years, soon perished and, with the score on 212-6, discretion became the better part of valour. There was still time, however, for a typically elegant cameo from Bradshaw-Smith (40 not out) who fashioned an unbroken seventh wicket stand of 39 with Crabb (14 not out) as Ottery finished on 251-6. D & T's star bowler was also a youngster, Devon U-17 Ryan Stevenson who returned 2-47 in 12 steady overs.Overall, this was a hugely enjoyable contest played in an excellent spirit, but in order to be truly competitive in the restructured and undeniably stronger D Division, the Otters' bowlers must find the secret of performing as a more penetrative, accurate and cohesive unit.Otters' Man of the Match - John Tierney.l Dartington and Totnes 289-4 (D Sharpe 120, M Hickey 101*, B Loots 37; B Burns 2-53), Ottery St Mary 251-6 (J Tierney 93, B Burns 50, R Bradshaw-Smith 40*, M Miller 24, R Stevenson 2-47, Ottery (9pts) drew with Dartington & Totnes (14pts).

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