Stalward bowlers star with bat for Ottery

Ottery St Mary 1st XI have, in the past, frequently relied heavily upon the seam bowling prowess of Mark Woodman and Rob Johns, but last weekend’s visit to Halberton and Sampford Peverell saw the experienced duo play key roles with the bat as the Otters struggled to maintain their unbeaten start to the new season, writes Ian Townsend.

After a ragged display of bowling and fielding allowed Halberton to post an above par total, the visitors were struggling at 123-6 in reply before Woodman shared excellent stands with first Johns and then teenager Alex Clements to guide his side to a draw.

The Otters began well with left armer Will Harrison removing home opener Andy Blake (3) in the fourth over, courtesy of a sharp slip catch by Matt Kirk.

However, the arrival of Paul Robins soon saw the bowlers’ radar wander as, in partnership with Tom Sambrook, the No 3 posted a century stand in just 67 minutes.

Too many deliveries were served up ‘in the slot’ and Robins despatched them with aplomb, a delightfully timed array of drives bringing him a half century containing an amazing 12 boundaries!

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The run haemorrhage was stemmed by the introduction of Johns and off spinner Nick Doman, both of whom were rewarded for producing a much better line and length.

Doman snared Robins lbw for a terrific 70 (16 x 4s) before Sambrook (32) fell in similar manner, trapped in front by an excellent Johns yorker. However, from 112-3, the home side’s momentum was re-established by Kevin Fever who proceeded to frustrate the bowlers by producing a series of unorthodox shots which garnered a run-a-ball half century containing ten boundaries – an innings low on style but high on effectiveness.

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And when Fever (55) departed, bowled aiming one slog too many at the persistent Doman, Halberton were powered past the 200 mark by Jez Turner as he and Richard Durrant (16) posted a rapid 38-run partnership before the latter was run out.

Turner eventually departed for 29 (3 x 4s, 1 x 6) from just 14 balls faced as he was bowled by the returning Woodman.

Halberton’s 239-8 represented an above par total on an uneven wicket as the visitors’ wayward bowling was compounded by some poor fielding.

In reply, openers Steve Forbes and George Biggs initially handled the pacy home attack of Robins and Turner well to compile a relatively untroubled 30-run opening stand.

But Biggs’ indecision saw a Robins delivery seam in and remove his off stump, which was the signal for a series of Otters’ batsmen to get in, and then out! Kirk’s rapid 18, including a six onto the pavilion roof, ended as he sliced a steepling catch to backward point off Durrant.

Forbes departed for a patient 21, edging Turner behind to Sambrook, and James Faulkner (3) was unfortunate to see his defensive prod off the same bowler spin back onto the stumps.

From the depths of 70-4, skipper Jody Clements and Exeter University youngster Will Munford (24) took the score to 100 before the latter, having despatched veteran bowler Fred Harding for two sixes over long on, failed to clear the fielder attempting another maximum.

Clements (22) was looking in good nick until he smashed a Dan Coles long-hop to Robins at deep cover and it took the arrival of Johns and Woodman to steady the ship.

The pair defended well and punished the odd loose delivery to take to the total to 159 before, in fading light, Johns (32) fell to an excellent swinging yorker from the impressive Turner.

The visitors were staring down the barrel but, despite the return of the pacy Robins and the now appalling light, Woodman, whose unbeaten 46 was a league best, and the gutsy Alex Clements (15*) resisted bravely to post an unbroken 43-run eighth wicket stand and secure a draw for the visitors.

Turner’s 3-34 was the standout effort amongst the Halberton bowlers.

Despite a markedly patchy display, the Otters escaped with a respectable points haul, although the lesson clearly needs to be learned that, in order to fulfil their undoubted promotion potential, consistently focused displays will be needed throughout the season.

Otters’ Man of the Match – Rob Johns

Francis Clark Devon League D Division: Halberton & Sampford Peverell 239-8; Ottery St Mary 202-7 (Ottery St Mary (11pts) drew with Halberton (14pts).

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