Late cavalry charge saves Otters' face

Sub-standard ground fielding and a paucity of front line bowlers combined to scupper Ottery St Mary 1st XI s efforts to put a dent in the promotion aspirations of visiting Lewdown.

Sub-standard ground fielding and a paucity of front line bowlers combined to scupper Ottery St Mary 1st XI's efforts to put a dent in the promotion aspirations of visiting Lewdown.

The Salston Field outfit appeared to have a stranglehold on the West Devon side, who were restricted to scoring at under three runs per over for much of their innings.

However, a late innings onslaught saw 100 runs posted in the final 14 overs and, as the Otters struggled in reply, only an unbroken 64-run eighth wicket stand between impressive youngster Jack Pritchard and seam bowler Mark Woodman saved the home side from defeat.

Inserted on a hard, but grassy wicket, Lewdown openers Mevan Porage and Oliver Brown found the going tough against Otters' seamers Woodman and Will Harrison. The latter struck an early blow as Porage (2), driving on the up, was brilliantly caught by the diving Matt Kirk at extra cover. The edge of the bat was being beaten with monotonous regularity as Woodman, in particular, expertly exploited the bowler-friendly conditions.

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Ironically, it took the introduction of spin to secure a further breakthrough for the home side, Brown (16) lifting a long hop from skipper Martin Miller into the hands of Pritchard at deep backward square leg.

Jack Skuse (34) was batting defiantly, however, and, in partnership with youngster Harry Geering, he produced some fine off drives in taking the total to 72 in the 28th over before failing to clear Kirk at long off with a lofted drive off Miller.

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Having hitherto effectively restricted the scoring, things rapidly declined for the Otters as the change bowlers struggled to find a line and length.

Thirty five runs were haemorrhaged off three overs from Lewis Townsend and Jody Clements as Geering and Mark Jordan posted a 63-run stand before Jordan (29) was bowled trying to shovel Townsend to leg.

After Antoni Weeks was suicidally run out, Geering completed an excellent half century (4 x 4s) as the total passed 150 in the 40th over. Geering (55) departed as he sliced Townsend into the safe hands of Steve Forbes at extra cover and the same combination soon accounted for Adrian Clements as he lofted to long on. By now, however, the Ottery ground fielding had totally fallen apart and, even though Townsend claimed a fourth victim, Charlie Hughes offering a steepling top edge to the ubiquitous Kirk at deep midwicket, Carl Weeks and Ben Williams (13 not out) cashed in, posting a rapid 29-run ninth wicket stand.

Harrison, who bowled splendidly on his return, ended the fun as he trapped Weeks (14) lbw from the final delivery of the innings, but the visitors had been allowed to accrue at least 30 runs more than should have been the case. It was a travesty that the excellent Woodman remained wicketless from 13 splendid overs costing just 24 runs.

Ottery were given a sound start in reply by openers Charl Axsel and Richard Townsend. Axsel, in particular, was timing the ball beautifully off his legs against the all left arm opening attack of Adrian Edmonds and the pacy, but erratic, Williams. However, with the score on 33 in the 10th over, Devon U15 bowler Williams struck as Richard Townsend (5) yorked himself. The total passed 50 in the 15th over before the Otters suffered a double blow, vice captain Clements (8) being trapped lbw as he played across a delivery from Jordan and Kirk (2) suffering a similar fate although the ball from Porage appeared to deflect from his glove onto his pad.

The Otters were 57-3 and Porage was proving a handful, deriving considerable turn with his flat off spin. The incoming Tierney was in characteristically aggressive mood, launching a series of lofted drives and running well between the wickets, but Axsel's controlled knock (28) ended in disappointing style as he was bowled sweeping at Porage.

The score passed 100 in the 26th over, but the home side suffered a collapse. First Forbes (8) mis-hit Jordan to mid-on where Geering took a juggling catch, then Tierney (39 from 33 balls with 7 x 4s) holed out to long off also off Jordan, before Porage bowled Lewis Townsend (0) through the gate.

At 110-7 the Otters were staring defeat in the face. Enter the cavalry in the form of sixteen year old Exeter School student Pritchard and Woodman, noted far more for his bowling prowess. In fading light, the pair crafted an excellent partnership, defending stoically and cashing in on the loose delivery.

Pritchard brought up the 150 by lifting Clements for six over midwicket. Deploying surprisingly defensive field settings, the visitors' frustration grew and when their final throw of the dice, the reintroduction of paceman Williams, was thwarted, as the umpires deemed the light too poor for the youngster to bowl at full pace, the Otters had comfortably secured a draw.

Pritchard remained unbeaten on 34 (5 x 4s, 1 x 6), terrific support coming from Woodman (23 not out) to cap a fine all round performance. Sri Lankan Porage was easily the pick of the Lewdown bowlers, returning 4-42 from 13 excellent overs.

In a season featuring an inordinately large number of draws, this was another contest in which the Otters were left to reflect on what might have been, if only they could consistently deliver in all three major disciplines of the game. Ottery Man of the Match: Mark Woodman.

Francis Clark Devon League D Division: Lewdown 199-9 (H Geering 55, J Skuse 34, M Jordan 29, L Townsend 4-65; W Harrison 2-34, M Miller 2-48), Ottery St Mary 175-7 (J Tierney 39, J Pritchard 34*, C Axsel 28, M Woodman 23*; M Porage 4-42, M Jordan 2-43).

Ottery St Mary (10pts) drew with Lewdown (13pts).

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