Let's hear it for the big man

Seasoned observers were left frantically consulting the record books as Ottery 2nd XI s batsmen took full advantage of a benign wicket, a short boundary and ideal weather conditions to savage visiting Ipplepen s somewhat limited bowling attack, writes Ian Tonwsend.

Seasoned observers were left frantically consulting the record books as Ottery 2nd XI's batsmen took full advantage of a benign wicket, a short boundary and ideal weather conditions to savage visiting Ipplepen's somewhat limited bowling attack to the tune of 324-6 in just 44 overs. Foremost amongst the run scorers was giant all-rounder Rob Johns who plundered a fantastic century off just 44 balls in a display of quality batsmanship. However, frustratingly for the Salston Field outfit, in a contest so critical towards the foot of a very tight league, they were unable to claim victory and a maximum points return as the visitors batted obdurately to claim a hard earned draw.There was little indication of the impending carnage as home skipper Gavin Iley and Steve Forbes set out in circumspect fashion against Ipplepen's opening attack of veteran Bill Heath and the youthful James Wotton. Forbes survived a chance to slip off Heath before the shackles gradually began to be lifted and the score reached 30 off 10 overs. The 50 partnership arrived in the 15th over after Forbes received another life, being dropped at the wicket by Chris Partridge. Iley was now looking more like his aggressive self, but a half-hit lofted drive off Steve Harris saw him depart for 34, caught by brother Dave Harris at long off. Steve soon claimed a second victim as veteran Barry Flicker yorked himself aiming a lazy drive at a full length ball, to leave the Otters at 88-2. A four to third man brought up the 100 and Forbes's 50 (9 x 4s) in the 24th over before the incoming Johns was dropped at deep mid-wicket by Jack Wotton off James Wotton's bowling, an error which was to prove desperately costly for the visitors. With Forbes a virtual spectator, Johns embarked upon one of the most remarkable run sprees ever seen in a league game at Salston Field. The big man may be 6ft 10ins and he may employ a four pound bat, but this was not brute force, just an awesome display of timing and power. The short boundary was manna from heaven to Johns who wielded the willow from the outset. James Wotton's seventh over disappeared for 17 before a huge straight six saw Steve Harris deposited into the road. Johns reached his half century from 24 balls in just 22 minutes (five fours, three sixes) as the total raced to 152-2 from 28 overs. By now he had cut loose completely and, despite losing partner Forbes (62), who sportingly walked having been caught behind by Partridge after deflecting a delivery from leg spinner John Ranjit onto his body, he stormed to his century from just 20 more deliveries faced. Ranjit disappeared for 44 runs from just three overs! The 200 arrived in the 32nd over and one over later Johns reached a magnificent ton, including 10 fours and six sixes, in just 53 minutes at the crease. He finally departed for 112 when he missed a straight one from the persistent Heath to leave the total on 244-4 after 35 overs. That was not the end of the visitors' suffering as 17-year-old all-rounder Lewis Townsend took up the run-scoring mantle. The King's School student batted beautifully, powerfully dispatching anything loose, whilst running well between the wickets. Keith Bell was lofted for six over mid-wicket to bring up the 250 in the 37th over as 33 were rapidly added in a partnership with Alex Clements (8) before the latter fell lbw to the same bowler. Rick Jackson fell lbw to Heath for a duck but Townsend continued to prosper, launching Bell for a big six over long on before square driving him for four. A two to the cover boundary brought up the youngster's maiden league 50 (four fours, three sixes) and the 300 in the 43rd over and a further 24 runs were rapidly added before the home skipper chose to declare at the end of the 44th over. Townsend remained undefeated on 69 with Dave Richardson eight not out.In reply the shell-shocked visitors were faced with an altogether more threatening bowling attack, left armer Will Harrison deriving considerable bounce whilst veteran outswing merchant Keith Biggs regularly beat the bat. However, openers Dave Harris (16) and Steve Forsey (13) fashioned a stand of 29 in nine overs before the former fell, skying a top edged pull to keeper Clements off Harrison. Ten runs later Bell (5) was removed by the lively Richardson, courtesy of a sharp catch by Johns at first slip as he played a cross batted backfoot shot to a lifting delivery. The 50 arrived in the 16th over but run scoring was proving hard against Richardson and the extravagant bounce of Johns. Flicker was forced to deputise behind the stumps as Clements suffered a finger injury before Ipplepen slipped to 61-3, Forsey falling to a catch by Harrison at mid-on off Johns. Young left hander Ranjit then produced a curious innings of 36 (five fours, one six, during which he played some delightful shots, but never looked secure whilst fashioning a 53-run fourth wicket partnership with Steve Harris. The flighted off spin of Townsend eventually proved too much of a temptation for Ranjit, who sliced a catch to backward point where Harrison pouched a fine catch above his head. Steve Harris (26) soon fell to an excellent tumbling catch by Forbes as he hit a Townsend long hop to extra cover and Ipplepen were wobbling at 121-5. However, the visitors' lower order then batted with considerable character and proved hard to dislodge, despite a typically wholehearted spell from Richardson. Dave Alsop (30) played some fine shots in a stubborn 41 run stand with Partridge before being bowled trying to guide a Richardson delivery down to third man. Sixteen-year-old James Wotton then batted particularly well under pressure and helped Partridge (16), who was bowled by a Richardson nip-backer shortly before the close, guide his team through to a draw at 195-7. Richardson was the Otters' outstanding bowler, deserving better figures than his 3-48 from 13 overs.So, despite closing the gap to their opponents by seven points, Ottery were thwarted in their quest for victory in this vital match. However, the big games just keep on coming as the next two weeks feature trips to fellow strugglers Braunton and Axminster. Reflecting on his side's failure to finish the job, skipper Iley commented: "Johns' batting today was exquisite - he didn't have to smack it, he just timed it. But we're unhappy with that result. I certainly can't fault the effort, but it's so disappointing that we didn't win. It's Braunton on Saturday - it'll be tough but we've just got to go again."Otters' Man of the Match - Rob Johns.

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