Bideford tail does for the Otters in thrilling Tolchards Devon League encounter

Cricket

Cricket - Credit: Archant

When your opponent is down, never take your foot off his throat, an old adage of which Ottery St Mary 1st XI sadly failed to take heed as they slipped to an agonising narrow defeat against pre-season promotion favourites, Bideford, writes Ian Townsend.

After terrific swing bowling from Will Harrison had reduced the visitors to 32-5, a combination of fine stroke play from the lower order, a number of dropped catches and some wayward late innings bowling allowed Bideford to post a challenging total.

Then, after a magnificent eighth wicket stand between Matt Reed and Joe Birch had taken the Otters to the brink of a famous triumph, veteran bowler James Ford claimed the last three wickets without conceding a run to hand his side victory by just four runs in a contest which was a credit to B Division.

Harrison (3-31) continued his fine early season form as he plunged Bideford into disarray by claiming the scalps of Ford (8), who edged behind to Billy Reed, Alex Hannam (5), brilliantly taken by skipper Rob Crabb at slip, and Matt Shepherd (0) comprehensively yorked!

Coupled with Ollie Reed’s sharp run out of Tom Brend (4) and Crabb’s second slip catch to remove Paul Heard (1) off Jody Clements (2-42), this appeared to have put the Otters firmly in the driving seat.


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However, Bideford bat deep and, after Aussie import Ji Eccles had posted an agricultural 32, the lower order rallied splendidly.

With solid support from Chris Luxton (18), Fred King (61 with seven fours and two sixes) crafted a fine half century, and, after both men fell to off-spinner Matt Reed (2-45), Mike Lemmings , with a 42-ball unbeaten 56 and Jamie Lathwell, with a run-a-ball 37, took over.

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During the tail counter attack, Ottery all-rounder Kevin Kelly (0-64 from eight overs) came in for particularly heavy punishment as Bideford closed at 245-9.

Four dropped catches did nothing to help the home cause!

After a solid 25-run start, Kelly (9) was an early Otters casualty, adjudged lbw to King, and when Billy Rudolph (19) edged a full Heard delivery behind to Eccles, Ottery stood at 41-2. Billy Reed, however, is currently in a rich vein of form and the 19-year old was straight onto the attack unleashing a series of searing drives and pulls to take the total past 100 and reach his fifty from 43 balls (nine fours).

Luxton’s nagging medium pace ended the fun as Billy Reed (60) weakly sliced to Ford at backward point before Clements (16) was pinned lbw. Crabb (27) unfurled some useful blows before being stumped off Martin Stewart (2-45) but two further quick wickets seemed to have settled the contest as Ottery stood at 161-7 with 11 overs remaining.

That reckoned without Birch and Matt Reed who wrested back the initiative with series of terrific shots.

Birch, whose batting has improved immeasurably over the last season or two, launched two big sixes as 74 were added in just seven overs to take the Otters to 235-7 with four overs remaining.

However, the introduction of Ford proved to be a master stroke as Reed (43 from 24 balls) was caught by Heard and Harrison (0) was trapped lbw. Birch (36 from 24 balls) took the home side to 241 before he was bowled attempting to despatch the winning boundary.

There are lessons for the Otters to learn from this galling defeat but they should be heartened by the fact that they clearly have nothing to fear from any side in the previously uncharted waters of B Division, facts not lost on skipper Crabb who reflected: “A disappointing result but, in many ways, a pleasing performance with a depleted side. Will (Harrison) bowled very well again up top, but we let them get 50 too many. Billy (Reed) got us ahead of the game in his typically flamboyant style but then we lost wickets too quickly – enter Matt (Reed) and Joe (Birch) who batted brilliantly to get us so close against a really good side”.

Bideford 245-9 (F King 61, M.Lemmings 56*, J Lathwell 37, J Eccles 32, W Harrison 3-31, J Clements 2-42, M Reed 2-45) Ottery St Mary 241 (B Reed 60, M Reed 43, J Birch 36, R Crabb 27, J Ford 3-0, C Luxton 2-26, M.Stewart 2-45). Bideford (20pts) bt Ottery St Mary (9pts) by 4 runs.

Otters Man of the Match – Matt Reed

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