Otters pull through

Flaming June? Summer solstice? You re having a laugh! But this thrilling contest merely goes to show that a great game of cricket can brighten up even the most damp and depressing day writes Ian Townsend.

Flaming June? Summer solstice? You're having a laugh! But this thrilling contest merely goes to show that a great game of cricket can brighten up even the most damp and depressing day. And the brightest light of all was provided by Ottery's Aussie newcomer Brett O'Brien who turned in a magnificent all round performance to boost his adopted team to victory over high flying visitors Ivybridge.Veteran vice captain Barry Flicker's decision to field on winning the toss raised a few eyebrows. The sodden outfield seemed likely to make it hard for bowlers to grip the ball whilst the dry, hard wicket appeared well suited for shot making. And so it initially proved, as the visitors' top order tucked into some ill-directed fare from home opening bowlers Will Harrison and Joe Birch. Ivybridge openers Toby Borrow and Gary Higgie both effectively dispatched the loose ball and took the score to 32 in the sixth over before the latter perished for 11, giving a thin edge behind to Charl Axsel, chasing a wide half volley from Birch. Borrow, though, continued unabated, unleashing a series of fine off drives before depositing a Birch full toss onto the roof of the pavilion. After Borrow was given a life by Ollie Mann at backward point, the incoming Sam Henderson joined in the fun, twice dispatching Lewis Townsend into the adjoining caravan park as he took 17 from the young off spinner's first over. And, with fellow change bowler and 1st XI regular Rob Bradshaw-Smith also initially struggling to find his line and length, the score raced along to 88 before Henderson perished for 32 from just 22 balls, pulling a Bradshaw-Smith long hop to Mann at square leg. Adam Birch then kept the score rattling along with a series of powerful blows all around the wicket. The 100 came up in the 16th over with another maximum into the long suffering caravan park! With the total on 128, Birch fell for 31 as he sliced a catch to Flicker at mid-off off the bowling of Bradshaw-Smith, who was now looking more like his usual miserly self. Borrow reached a fine half century in the 22nd over but the visitors' innings was beginning to lose momentum. Tim Lancaster (11) edged behind, fending at a lifting delivery from Bradshaw-Smith, who then proceeded to bamboozle incoming Devon U13 player Josh Malling. However, the youngster survived and proceeded to bat with considerable character as Bradshaw-Smith retired from the attack with a calf strain. Occasional bowler Joe Edwards made a crucial breakthrough as Borrow's fine innings ended at 65 (four fours two sixes, 74 balls), courtesy of a brilliant one-handed catch above his head by Flicker at extra cover. Having survived a catch to mid-off, Malling played some pleasingly timed drives before falling lbw to Edwards for 12 as Ivybridge slipped to 186-6. Tail ender Mike Tuckwell (17) provided some late resistance, but the introduction of O'Brien saw the tail efficiently dispatched. Tuckwell and Alex Warden (6) both saw their stumps shattered by the Aussie who demonstrated the value of bowling straight and, after the returning Harrison removed Pete Boast (13), courtesy of a fine tumbling slip catch by Bradshaw-Smith, O'Brien rounded off the innings off by bowling skipper Gareth Stuckey for a duck. Ivybridge's total of 212 fell well short of expectations, given that they stood at 153-2 with over 20 overs remaining. Pick of the Otters' bowlers were Bradshaw-Smith with 3-34 and O'Brien with 3-11.The Otters' reply began in tentative fashion in the face of well directed opening spells from Stuckey and Pete Boast. Somerset academy recruit Axsel (3) was an early casualty, nicking a lifting Stuckey delivery behind to Borrow and, when Mann was beaten and bowled by a ball from Boast which seamed in, the home side were struggling at 13-2. Continued tight bowling and a well set field saw the score crawl to 42 in the 20th over before Edwards (16) fell to another seaming delivery from the impressive Boast, his off stump being removed as he failed to offer a shot, leaving the opening bowler with figures of 2-11 from 10 overs. The Otters' fortunes were then transformed by an excellent 90 run partnership between the experienced duo of O'Brien and Steve Forbes. The Aussie enjoyed his share of luck, as he survived two chances to keeper Borrow before bringing up his 50 from 61 balls with his fifth boundary, powerfully swept through mid-wicket. The arrival of the visitors' change bowlers saw the pressure released and O'Brien began to bat beautifully, playing a series of fine shots all around the wicket. The 100 arrived in the 31st over, after which Birch gave O'Brien another life, dropping a relatively straightforward return catch. The returning Stuckey broke the partnership as Forbes (22) played around a low full toss. O'Brien's luck continued to hold as he survived a massive appeal for a catch at the wicket and was dropped off a steepler by the unfortunate Borrow. Incoming youngster Alex Clements continued his excellent recent form before being run out for 12 in a comical mix up and the injured Bradshaw-Smith (4) was soon bowled by Stuckey, leaving the Otters at 158-6. Flicker joined O'Brien and the old warhorse was soon on the offensive via a series of powerful drives. A sharp single brought up O'Brien's maiden century for the Otters in the 46th over, compiled from 102 balls with 10 fours. Flicker departed soon afterwards for a valuable 22, bowled playing inside the line of a Birch delivery and, when Townsend (4) was run out by a sharp piece of fielding by young Malling, the match was back in the balance, given the batting prowess of Nos 10 and 11, Harrison and Birch!The latter was to come up trumps as he scrambled an edged two from his first delivery, then produced a flowing cover driven boundary to secure the Otters' victory by two wickets.O'Brien remained unbeaten on 109. Boast claimed an excellent 2-31 from 15 overs.So, a hard fought victory for Ottery in a fine game of cricket, and the Salston Field outfit appear to be slowly but surely adjusting to life in the C Division. Stand-in skipper Flicker afterwards paid tribute to the resilience of his side commenting: "All of their top four really went for it and our opening bowlers didn't bowl that well. But we stuck at it and came back well - at one stage they looked like getting 300. Their openers bowled well to a canny field which put the pressure on early, but the batsmen played patiently. "Our innings was built around Brett. He played really well, had a bit of luck maybe, but played shots all around the wicket." Otters' Man of the Match - Brett O'Brien.

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