National Counties Cricket Association

National Counties Cricket Association

Interview with Dave Tall: Devon Reap Rewards from Investment in Youth

03 September 2023
Interview with Dave Tall: Devon Reap Rewards from Investment in Youth

Devon are reaping early rewards from their decision to invest in youth with a surprise appearance in Sunday’s Durant Cricket National Counties Championship play-off final against Buckinghamshire at West Bromwich Dartmouth. 

Having been promoted as Western Division Two champions 12 months ago, Devon clinched the Western Division One title on a rollercoaster final day of the regular season by beating Herefordshire at Sidmouth while Cheshire did them a favour by beating Oxfordshire at Banbury. 

At the start of the final round of matches Devon were still facing the prospect of being relegated but they came from third to first on the last day to overtake defending champions Berkshire and clinch a place in the final for the first time in 12 years. 

Devon’s success has been achieved with a squad with a solid core of talented homegrown youngsters who have matured and developed together over the past three seasons under the tutelage of Dave Tall, Devon’s director of cricket. 

In 2021 Devon finished bottom of Western Division Two having lost three of their four matches and another defeat followed in the opening match of last season against Wales NC at Abergavenny. 

But Tall held his nerve by keeping faith with the youngsters and he has been rewarded by a run of five wins in seven three-day games over the last two seasons plus a strong showing against Berkshire in a rain-affected draw and the only blemish being a defeat by Oxfordshire at Exeter last month. 

“I never thought that we would go down this year but you have got to be realistic sometimes and the thought of winning the league is not something that we talked about,” Tall said. 

“It’s something that we aspire to do but we have a young side who are still learning and who still have a lot to learn about the game. They have been brilliant and I cannot praise them highly enough. 

“When I was appointed five years ago we used about 30 different players during the season and I said to Neil Gamble, our chairman, that we were never going to win anything using that many players. 

“We had a write-off season with Covid then, three years ago, we identified the players who we thought had potential but also with a mixture of experienced players like Matt Thompson, Jamie Stephens and Calum Haggett. 

“They all bought into what we were looking to do. The first year it was a case of rabbits in headlights but now, when I think how far we have come in two years, I have to keep pinching myself. 

“That’s all credit to the lads. They have worked hard away from our games back at their clubs and they are only going to get better whatever happens this weekend. 

“I copped a fair bit of criticism three years ago, not from our committee or our lads, just general comments. 

“There was a genuine case for leaving players out but that would have defeated the object of the exercise if we had started chopping and changing. 

“People come in and start thinking: ‘if I don’t get runs or wickets, am I going to play the next game?’ 

“The loyalty helped the lads to feel comfortable and at ease and that’s possibly been a contributory factor. 

“Last year we used only 16 players in winning the Second Division and it’s been the same number again this year. 

“When you have that core that you can rely on and depend upon and who are improving then you have got a chance. 

“I’m absolutely chuffed that we have got to the final. It will be a great experience for them and one that I’m sure they will relish.” 

The four-day final will be the first time that Devon have played Buckinghamshire in the Championship since the 2006 final at Exmouth which they won by 180 runs. 

Devon’s last Championship title came in 2011 when they beat Cambridgeshire by 169 runs at March with a side that included wicketkeeper/batter Thompson. 

But Thompson will not be involved in this year’s showpiece having booked a holiday from his job as head of pathway at Cricket Wales before the start of the season. 

“The only player we are missing is Matt Thompson who decided quite a while ago that we weren’t going to be in the final so he booked a holiday. So, he is going to be doing his country dancing somewhere in America instead,” Tall said. 

Buckinghamshire, who were also promoted last season, won Eastern Division One with a similar record to Devon – two wins, a draw and defeat – and are making their first appearance in the final since 2012 when they were beaten by Cornwall at Truro. 

Buckinghamshire’s last title came in 2009 when they beat Cheshire at Slough with a side that was captained by Harrison, who is now their director of cricket. 

Play on each day at West Bromwich Dartmouth starts at 10.30am and admission to the Durant Cricket National Counties Championship final is free. 

Durant Cricket National Counties Championship Final 

September 3-6 (10.30am) 

West Bromwich Dartmouth: Buckinghamshire v Devon 

Image Credit: Alfie Shenton

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