MINOR COUNTIES Exciting times for Wiltshire

IMG 5700.Tahir Afridi 5 for 63JPGWiltshire hope that a landmark victory over Devon will set them up nicely for two matches that will shape their season.

Last week’s four wickets win at Sandford was Wiltshire’s first victory over Devon in the Minor Counties Championship for 52 years.

That startling fact reflects how powerful a force Devon have been in the Western Division for many years but the balance may now be shifting.

The win in Devon took Wiltshire into third place in the Western Division table, just 14 points adrift of leaders Berkshire and well-placed to pounce should the defending champions slip up in the last three rounds of matches.

Today Wiltshire host Wales – without a three-day win since 2016 – at the South Wilts club in Salisbury and they will then travel to Finchampstead to face Berkshire in the semi-finals of the 50-overs Trophy on August 11.

For a side that last won the Minor Counties Championship in 1909 and who have only twice reached the Trophy final, these are exciting times for Wiltshire.

“We were told about the statistic about not having beaten Devon for 52 years after the match and we couldn’t quite comprehend that it had been that long,” said Wiltshire captain Ed Young, the former Gloucestershire slow left-armer.

“We have been building up to it for a while. It was a really good performance by the guys. Maybe you take the win for granted slightly but to be given that stat makes you appreciate it.

“Devon have been one of the counties to mark ourselves against. We have had some good games against them and a bit of luck too. We won a bowl-out against them in the Trophy earlier this season which allowed us to progress to the quarter-finals.

“Even though they are in a slight rebuilding phase they still had some very good players playing.

“This weekend’s game we are playing at South Wilts where we generally do well and if we can beat Wales it will put pressure on Berkshire at the top of the table and keep momentum up going into the semi-final.

“We are playing good cricket. We have punched above our weight in one-day cricket but each game we have developed in confidence, everyone understands their role in the team and people have stood up and been match-winners which is exactly what we are after.

“Last year was one a rebuilding year where we had a lot of youngsters come in. It was challenging but there were a lot of positives. We got better with each game throughout the season and the young guys got the confidence that they could not only play at Minor Counties level but do well.”

Young, who is in his sixth season with Wiltshire, player/coach Tom Morton and professional Tahir Afridi provide the experience that has helped the youngsters to become battle-hardened.

“The young guys are full of raw talent but some of them might not have played all of the formats so it’s nice to have that balance with experienced players to learn off,” Young said.

“But it’s also a chance for us older guys to see that talent and to see them play this fearless cricket that we are trying to promote.”

Wiltshire bowler Tahir Afridi in full flight captured by Roy Honeybone

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