Devon edged out in nail-biting Unicorns KO Trophy final
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Devon lost by two runs to Cheshire in a nail-biting finish to the Unicorns KO Trophy final at Wormsley, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.
It seemed Devon had no likelihood of making 249 to win after a middle-order collapse left them struggling at 133 for five with 16 overs to go.
James Burke and Gary Chappell had other ideas and their stand of 70 at better than run-a-ball rate got Devon back in the game.
Cheshire thought it was all over when Burke chipped a catch to mid-wicket and was out for 95. Chappell kept going though and as long as he remained Devon had a chance.
As the overs ticked down so did the target: 35 off four overs, 23 off three with Chappell just out, 14 off two and seven off one with two wickets left.
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Former Lancs and Derbyshire all-rounder Wayne White bowled the final over and if he felt the pressure it didn’t show. Two dot balls, a leg bye and a single left Devon needing five to win off two balls.
White bowled tail-ender Dan Goodey with the penultimate ball, leaving last man George Benton to hit the final ball for six to win it. There was no fairy tale ending.
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Keith Donohue, Devon’s director of cricket, had mixed emotions at the end of the game as Cheshire captain Rick Moore collected the cup.
“You would never have imagined we would have got that close from 133 for five, but we showed bottle and nerve to do it,” said Donohue.
“James Burke batted superbly and it is disappointing for us that he had the best score on either side in the game, yet we lost.
“Gary Chappell gave it a real go in the last seven or eight overs, again showing tremendous character and bottle.”
Looking back on the game Donohue felt skipper Josh Bess was right to put Cheshire in, even though Devon won through the quarter and semi final rounds by defending targets rather than chasing them.
“We had the best conditions for bowling in, but we didn’t bowl enough good balls at times,” admitted Donohue.
“Our fielding was spot on – we took some great catches – and from looking like we would be chasing 300-plus we kept them under 250.
“Liam Lewis and James Burke put us in a strong position at drinks, but their captain had his bowling changes worked out well. You make life hard for yourself if you lose four of your top-five batters for 17 runs which we did.”
Will Evans (45) and Callum Rowe (58) got Cheshire off to a flier. Luke Robinson (31) and Ed Fluck (54no) upped the tempo again after Devon spinner Chappell had slowed things down.
Devon will look back at Matt Thompson falling second ball, skipper Josh Bess being caught on the scoop at short fine-leg and Zak Bess swing across the line of a straight one as killer blows.
Cheshire’s bowlers, particularly spinners Simon Normanton (4-21) and Jack Williams (0-31) deserve some credit too for putting the pressure on.
Burke and Chappell, plus some lusty heaves from Scott Barlow down the order, got Devon in a position where they could feel proud of their efforts, even if they were in a losing cause.
Cheshire 248-7 (W J Evans 45, C Rowe 58, T L Robinson 31, E B Fluck 54; J A Stephens 4-53), Devon 246-9 (J E Burke 95, L J Lewis 34, G R Chappell 39; S Normanton 4-21), Cheshire bt Devon by 2 runs.