CRICKET: Clark content as Wiltshire stay top of the pile

This Is Wiltshire: Wiltshire’s Tahir Afridi catches Devon’s Max Curtis off his own bowling during Devon’s first innings in the Unicorns Championship Western Division match at Devizes on Sunday  Picture by Graham Smith Wiltshire’s Tahir Afridi catches Devon’s Max Curtis off his own bowling during Devon’s first innings in the Unicorns Championship Western Division match at Devizes on Sunday Picture by Graham Smith

WILTSHIRE batsman Neil Clark is delighted the county side still hold the destiny of their Unicorns Championship title challenge in their own hands after their draw with rivals Devon at Devizes this week.

Wiltshire remain 12 points ahead of their south west rivals in the Western Division after forcing a stalemate on the final day of the match on Tuesday, with Max Curtis’ maiden century for the visitors proving in vain.

Clark says that the positive feeling remains as strong as ever within the Wiltshire camp as they look to secure top spot and a place in the Championship Final in their final two games of the season.

“Neil Shardlow and Colesey (Mike Coles) said to us before the game to go out there and push for the win but that a draw wouldn’t be a bad result either,” said Clark.

“It keeps us 12 points ahead of Devon and the important thing is that everything’s still in our hands – we got knocked out of the Trophy but that gives us a chance to go for the Championship.

“They set us a pretty steep target and Colesey hit 15 off not many balls in our first innings but pulled up with a bit of a back injury. I think that if that hadn’t have happened to him, we would have been a lot closer to them early on.

“We had them at 170-4 at the end of the second day but they put on a few more runs and made the target a bit more unrealistic, so it was up to us to just bat out for the draw.

“We’ve got to play Cheshire and Shropshire and they’re two teams that will go at you hard. Anyone can beat anyone in this league and it’s going to be tough.

“But everyone is still really enjoying the season and can’t wait to get out there for the next game at South Wilts (on August 3).”

Devon batted first on Sunday after winning the toss and Curtis put the visitors in control as he hit 11 fours on his way to a patient 101.

He was well-supported by Matthew Thompson (76) as Devon made it to 311 before they were dismissed early in the 88th over, with Wiltshire’s Tahir Afridi and Jake Roberts taking four and five wickets respectively.

Josh Bess’ 5-45 turned the screw on Coles’ men, with the Wiltshire captain forced off with an injury after facing just nine balls.

Jayden Levitt made 52 whilst Ashur Morrison hit 41 as the home side posted 205-9 in reply.

The bowlers did give Wiltshire some hope, with Afridi (4-58) and Roberts (3-58) both taking wickets during Devon’s second innings.

Curtis again top-scored for the visitors, who declared on 222-9 as they chased victory.

But Coles’ league leaders refused to roll over, with Levitt weighing in with a knock of 71.

Clark hit an unbeaten half-century of 56 whilst Ed Young (31) and Morrison (31 not out) also contributing before the two captains agreed to call time on proceedings, with Wiltshire standing at 241-4 after 72 overs.

MORE SPORTS NEWS & PICTURES IN THIS WEEK'S GAZETTE & HERALD AND WILTSHIRE TIMES

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