WELL what a winter that was. More rain than you could swing a stick at.

How our groundsmen, Chris Theedom and Simon Saunders, managed to get two pitches ready to play the first games of the new 2024 season was nothing short of a miracle.

Thankfully they did, and so did the ground staff at Exmouth, where our First XI were due to play their first game of the season in defence of the Devon League Premier Division title they won last year.

So, as I’ve indicated, the Firsts travelled to Exmouth last Saturday in pursuit of their first victory of 2024.

Skipper Jackson Thompson won the toss and elected to field, which proved to be a good toss to win.

Exmouth’s strong opening partnership of South African province player Jason Niemand and Devon’s One-Day captain James Horler would have been hoping for a steady start, but both were back in the hutch by the time the score had reached 24.

A great start for the Ford with veteran opening bowler Jamie Palmer trapping Niemand LBW for nought, and one of Sandford’s newcomers Northants County seamer Raphael Wetherall, claiming Horler for 17.

The second pitch in action at Sandford Cricket Club the day it was opened.  AQ 1413
The second pitch in action at Sandford Cricket Club the day it was opened. AQ 1413 (Alan Quick, Crediton Courier)

A stand of 41 between Josh Austin (21) and Dan Pyle (24) saw the Exmouth score advance to 65, before another of Sandford’s new players Byron Knowles struck to start a wonderful spell of 5-32 from nine overs.

Along with this year’s Indian overseas player Aryan Lakra who chipped in with 2-32, also from nine overs, Exmouth were left reeling at 101 for nine.

A last wicket stand of 24 saw Exmouth eventually reach 125 before Somerset Second XI player, 17 year-old James Theedom (one of our own), struck to wrap up the innings in only 37 overs.

In response Sandford made a steady start with openers Adam Small (11) and Harrison Jones (19) getting the innings under way with a stand of 40 before Small departed. Jones followed shortly afterwards.

It was then left to Lawrence Walker, benefitting from a winter in Australia, to guide his team to victory with 37 not out (five fours), and Lakra (31 – two sixes and three fours).

They shared a third wicket stand of 52 to put their side within sight of victory, before Lakra departed having scored his runs at a run-a-ball.

Jack Ford came and went quickly, and along with Walker, young James Theedom (15 no) saw Sandford to victory in only 28.5 overs. An excellent 20 points to start the season off well.

Following their relegation from the B Division at the end of last season, the Seconds were at home to Ashburton in their first ever C Division West game (they usually play in the East section of any divisions).

Ashburton had never played a League match at Creedy Park before. Having lost the toss, and being asked to bat first, Sandford found progress difficult against the Ashburton opening bowlers.

However, openers Jon James and Joe Hopkins kept their nerves and compiled an opening stand of 38 before James departed for a patient 24 from 50 balls faced (three fours).

With Hopkins being joined by Praison Alias, another Indian overseas player, now living handily in Exeter, they progressed the score to 77 before Hopkins was eventually out for 30 from 92 balls (three fours).

A couple of quick wickets saw the score decline to 88 for four,  but then a mild recovery between Alias and Tom Gidney (16) advanced the score to 119 before Gidney perished.

The fall of this wicket subsequently saw the remaining Sandford batters struggle against Ashburton spinners Coon 3-44 (9), overseas Sheth 4-38 (9) and Yeo 3-20 (4.5).

Alias eventually departed for a patient 47 (four fours), as the Sandford total subsided to 139 all out in 41.5 overs. To say the least, a little disappointing after the steady start, with the last six wickets falling for only 20 runs.

With the wicket drying out after tea, batting became somewhat easier, and although Ashburton lost a wicket to only the second ball of the innings, their overseas star Vaibhav Sheth guided his side to victory with 56 at a run-a-ball, including eight fours.

Although he was out with the score on 84, his knock had broken the back of the run chase, and so it was left to Ashburton skipper Lloyd White 33no (one four and a six) along with Matt Churchill 20 (three fours) to guide their team to victory by seven wickets inside 31.2 overs.

A disappointing start for the Seconds, but with a number of players missing, they will be hopeful of better things to come over the next few weeks.

The Thirds, following their promotion last season, were playing their first game in the G East Division on the second pitch at Creedy Park, against local rivals Shobrooke Park Seconds.

In a quite remarkable match, Shobrooke Seconds were asked to bat first by Sandford skipper Alex Stevens, and amassed 190 all out in their allotted 40 overs.

Cricket covers and cattle at Sandford Cricket Club.  AQ 1564
Cricket covers and cattle at Sandford Cricket Club. AQ 1564 (Alan Quick, Crediton Courier)

Their score revolved around an innings of powerful hitting from middle order batter Bruce Kerry, who smashed his way to 76 from only 61 balls (three sixes and five fours).

Although riding his luck on three occasions apparently, he shared stands of 75 with skipper Andy Bridgeman 21 (two fours) and 62 with Ben Trenaman 40 (one six and four fours).

Trenaman’s dismissal with the score on 171 then saw the Shobrooke inning collapse to their eventual total of 190, which included the important wicket of Kerry.

For Sandford the main wicket takers were Ellie Bishop 6-52 (seven overs) and Emily Wilson 2-34 (eight) – two of their female stars – along with Glyn Baker, who opened the bowling and chipped in with 2-29 from eight overs. He, together with Ollie Knight 0-15 (eight), and Sebi Gibbs 0-9 (four) kept the early order Shobrooke batters in check, before Kerry started his onslaught.

In response, if Sandford were to get the large total that had been set, they needed someone to get a shivvy on.

Skipper Alex Stevens, who could have been capable of doing the job, departed quite early for five with the score on 12.

Enter last minute call-up Steve “Tipper” Lyon. Along with remaining opener Ellie Bishop, he bludgeoned a quickfire 82 from only 61 balls – five sixes and six fours.

His first ever score of 50 or more in any form of cricket. Together they added 124 runs for the second wicket before he departed, having set his side up for a good chance of victory.

However, there were still 67 runs required. Luckily Ellie Bishop has learnt to keep her cool playing for the Thirds, and her Devon age group teams in seasons past, and she continued to chip away at the eventual target. But another “twist in the tail” saw her depart with the score on 155, for a patient 47 from 90 balls, including a six and two fours.

Although a couple more wickets fell quickly to put Sandford on the back foot, 15 year-old youngster Rhys James kept his nerve to play an important knock of 19 not out from 39 balls – one four – and together with veteran Danny Knight 15 not out at a run-a-ball, with one four and one six, they knocked off the remaining runs to give Sandford Thirds victory by five wickets with nine balls remaining.

In doing so, Sandford claim a 20 point victory. A great start to life in G Division East.

This Saturday sees the First XI at Creedy Park, when Sidmouth will be the visitors, hoping to consolidate on their good start with a 12.30pm start. The Seconds travel to Ivybridge for a 1pm start and the Thirds travel into Exeter to meet Exwick Seconds, also with a 1pm start.

There should also be an additional game this Sunday with the Firsts due to play a National Cup match at Creedy Park. At the time of writing we are not sure who we will be entertaining, but the start time will be at 1pm.

With the Community League matches due to have started on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, it is all action from now on at Sandford Cricket Club with Youth games coming up as well.

Something else that may be of interest to the readers, is following Margaret Phillips’ decision to stop administering the Sandford 200 Club, the Cricket Club has now set up its own 100 Club.

Subscriptions are £36 per year (£3 per month) with monthly prizes of £60, £25 and £15 initially.

If we manage to attract more that 100 people we will continue to accept people into the scheme and prize money will increase accordingly.

If you wish to become a participant please email: [email protected]  or: [email protected] .

We look forward to hopefully seeing you soon at Creedy Park during the summer, where I can assure you of a very warm welcome.

Phil Matten