Matt’s glossy finish sees Otters home

Francis Clark Devon League D Division: Bridestowe 169 (A.Griffiths 40, N Griffiths 28, P Woods 24, R Bradshaw-Smith 3-22, R.Crabb 3-41, J Clements 2-34) Ottery St Mary 170-9 (M.Kirk 42*, J Tierney 32, M.Miller 24, C Lavis 5-37, A Griffiths 2-46). Ottery St MAry (18pts)

Francis Clark Devon League D Division: Bridestowe 169 (A.Griffiths 40, N Griffiths 28, P Woods 24, R Bradshaw-Smith 3-22, R.Crabb 3-41, J Clements 2-34) Ottery St Mary 170-9 (M.Kirk 42*, J Tierney 32, M.Miller 24, C Lavis 5-37, A Griffiths 2-46). Ottery St Mary (18pts) bt Bridestowe (7pts) by 1 wkt.

Over the years, many a sports team has fallen into the trap of over reliance on the performance of one or two top players, a phenomenon which, in recent times, has often applied to Ottery St Mary 1st XI with respect to the contributions of John Tierney and Rob Bradshaw-Smith.

And so to anyone with the long term well-being of Ottery CC at heart, this hard fought and thrilling victory over high riding visitors Bridestowe will have been all the more satisfying for the fact that, with the star performers back in the hutch, two batsmen in their early twenties were responsible for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

Having dismissed the visitors for a modest 169, the Otters were staring defeat in the face at 88-7 before, amidst enormous tension, excellent controlled batting by Dave Richardson and Matt Kirk saw their side through to a wonderful one wicket victory.

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After skipper Tierney won the toss and chose to bowl, unlike so many matches this season, the Otters' opening bowlers, Jody Clements and Ed Fowler, applied real pressure, bowling straight and full. Bridestowe were soon in trouble, losing Phil Hatton (5), who sliced Clements' full toss loosener to Sam Lynch at backward point, and James Ewen (1) to an excellent delivery from the same bowler which nipped away to hit the top of the off stump. Fowler then dropped a 'dolly' return catch offered by Gary Sizmur as the score crawled to 15-2 from 10 overs. Sizmur (13) briefly took advantage of his life with a couple of powerful boundaries, but he soon perished as the introduction of Rob Crabb saw him top edge an attempted square slash to slip where Bradshaw-Smith pouched a sharp chance. From 31-3 Phil Woods and Mark Fogarty then fashioned a 35 run partnership, although scoring was proving difficult against tight bowling from Bradshaw-Smith and Crabb. The latter claimed a second victim in the 24th over as Woods sliced a drive to deep point where Martin Miller took a juggling catch.

However, the introduction of Miller to the attack saw the pressure relieved as the normally accurate slow left armer bowled too short, allowing the Griffiths brothers, Neil and Adam, to embark upon a hard hitting stand of 38, during which the total passed 100 and Miller was despatched over square leg for six. The spinner gained his revenge when Neil Griffiths (28) was bowled playing back to a full length ball, but the incoming Gavin MacDougall was straight onto the attack, first profiting from Fowler's second drop of the day, as he palmed the ball over the midwicket boundary for six, then launching the returning Clements for a huge maximum over long on. Adam Griffiths joined in with a six into the adjoining caravan park after Tierney spoilt his otherwise terrific fielding display by spilling a catch at long on, and the 150 arrived in the 39th over. Fowler returned to bowl MacDougall (16) but then completed an unwanted hat-trick by dropping Bridestowe skipper Chris Lavis in the deep off the unfortunate Bradshaw-Smith. The latter's accuracy was soon rewarded as he ended Adam Griffith's valuable knock, bowling him for 40. Mark Butler (4) was bowled backing away to Crabb and 'RBS' concluded the innings at 169 as Lavis (9) was bowled having a slog. The ever reliable Bradshaw-Smith was the pick of the bowlers, claiming 3-22, excellent support coming from Crabb with 3-41 from 11 overs.

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The surprising decision to employ Crabb as Miller's opening partner summarily failed as he was soon bowled for eight having a slog at Adam Griffiths. The lively paceman then claimed a second victim when a leg stump yorker hit Ollie Mann's pads on the full to trap him lbw and leave the Otters at 20-2. The in-form Tierney then announced his arrival in typically forthright fashion, despatching Adam Griffith for four successive boundaries before Miller brought up the 50 with a characteristically elegant cover drive. As Tierney threatened to run riot, the introduction of Lavis regained some control for the visitors and the paceman struck a huge blow as a highly contentious lbw decision ended the clearly mortified former Devon all-rounder's innings at 32 from just 22 balls faced (6 x 4s). The quick loss of two further wickets then plunged the Otters into deep trouble at 70-5.

Lynch (1) bizarrely managed to send a leading edge soaring into the covers to be caught off a Sizmur full bunger whilst Miller (24) was beaten and bowled playing back to a Lavis delivery which kept low. The visiting skipper was producing an excellent spell, hitting the deck hard and giving little away and, after the incoming Bradshaw-Smith had despatched him for a couple of sumptuous cover drives, he claimed the prized wicket, bowling the experienced all rounder for 13 as he was beaten on the drive.

Lavis's third victim soon followed as Clements (5) edged a lifting delivery behind to Hatton to leave the Otters at a terminal-looking 88-7.

But, just when all seemed lost, Richardson and Kirk then revived the hosts with a gritty and intelligent 43 run partnership.

Both men played commendably straight (a real achievement for the usually impetuous Richardson!), ran well between the wickets and put the bad ball away. Richardson eventually departed for an excellent 24 when he mis-hit a lofted drive off Neil Griffiths to long-off but, despite losing Fowler (5) soon afterwards, bowled by Lavis, Kirk continued to prosper. In partnership with 16 year old last man Charl Axsel (1 not out), the former Swansea University student, having played no serious cricket for three seasons, edged the score past 150. This was an innings of real maturity, punctuated with quality shots including a searing six over extra cover which will live long in the memory. Amid growing tension, Kirk farmed the strike beautifully and despite the best efforts of the excellent Lavis (5-37 from 14 overs), to rapturous acclaim he secured victory for the Otters with a flowing cover driven boundary to remain unbeaten on 42, containing 4 x 4s and a six.

So the Otters' excellent recent form continues and, after having earlier in the season been looking anxiously over their shoulders, they now find themselves just 21 points behind second placed Hatherleigh with four matches remaining.

Having seen his side get out of jail, a relieved Tierney commented: "It was a game of two halves and we shaded the second half! If we'd caught our catches, we'd only have been chasing 130. This result makes the rest of the season interesting. We've got to make some important decisions about the balance of our league sides for the remaining games."

Otters' Man-of-the-Match: Matt Kirk.

By Ian Townsend

Ottery St Mary CC 1st XI

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