Devon County Cricket Club 1995 – Where are they now?
By Neil Fissler
Nick Folland has revealed that it was a chance conversation that led to one of the most successful era’s in the history of Minor Counties cricket.
Folland says that he was Devon captain when he started to talk to the recently retired Somerset captain Peter Roebuck. And the conversation soon came around to Roebuck’s future plans and Folland discovered that they didn’t include retiring from the game.
Roebuck had been the controversial captain of Somerset who decided not to renew the contracts of Viv Richards and Joe Garner, which also cost the county Ian Botham’s services. And Devon had only won the Minor Counties Championship once in 1978, but under Roebuck they would win it four times in succession starting in 1994.
They would also win the MCCA trophy in 1992 and 1994 for a spell of success completely unprecedented in the Minor Counties game.
Folland said: “I was on the balcony at Somerset one day. I think we were playing against Somerset 2nds. I believe Nick Gaywood scored a century that day as well.
“Peter was there having just finished his first-class career. This was because I went to Somerset because we had almost swapped roles.
“I asked if he fancied playing a bit of cricket for Devon. He said, ‘if you ring me tomorrow I might even take you seriously’, in his quirky way of saying things.
“I thought this guy might be interested. I had a word with Geoff Evans who was secretary of Devon then, so we phoned him up and we registered him.”
Folland was leading run scorer in 1995, scoring 963 runs at 96.30 including three centuries but missed out as Devon reclaimed their title in the final against Lincolnshire. He was unable to get time off from his teaching job and says that Roebuck was the final piece of the jigsaw which helped Devon go on to sweep all before them.
Folland added: “We were very lucky. I think that we had a lot of good players who came together at one time. A lot of the players were real Devon players.
“They came through the ranks with Devon. When I was captain we had a good young local team with a lot of talent.
“But when Peter came in he took us to another level altogether and we started to dominate. He was a unique character and a fine captain.
“He lifted us as players and made us even better. But we were a very positive team, we weren’t afraid to lose.
“Peter reinvented himself, he loved the energy and enthusiasm of a young Devon team and he became an important figure in Devon cricket.
“It gave him something to do after his professional career, he also became a bowler and that was a major role in the team.
“But he was also able to come in at No.7 or No.8 and if we were in major difficulties he often got a brilliant 100.
“To have someone like that in your team, a pretty unique captain who kicked everyone hard, who wouldn’t take any nonsense and was a bit mad.
“He made us a very good team.”
Back row (left-right):
Nick Gaywood: A fast-scoring Bovey Tracey opening batsman is now based in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, where he is a teacher at Holgate School Sports College.
Nick Folland: An Exmouth batsman who spent two years with Somerset. Another teacher who is now the head of Sherborne Prep School in Dorset.
Keith Donohue: A Plymouth opening bowler was a policeman in Chatham and then Devonport Dockyards before retiring and is now Devon’s director of cricket.
Mark Woodman: A seamer who went on to play for England Deaf XI. Moved to Hampshire from Exmouth where he had been working for the Devon County Council.
Ryan Horrell: The Braunton spinner went on to play for Gloucestershire before he emigrated to Australia where he now works as a builder.
Matt Hunt: A Torquay batsman. He became a teacher after leaving Gloucestershire then trained and worked as a multi-sports coach. Now teaches at Torquay Boys Grammar School.
Julian Wyatt: A Torquay opening batsman who played and coached at Somerset. Has been the director of cricket at University of Exeter since 2009.
Andy Pugh: A Torquay batsman who had a spell with Sussex. Also played rugby for Devon and is Brixham’s captain this summer. Works as a builder.
Duncan Boase: The Plymouth wicketkeeper is the first team manager at Cornwood in 2015. Works as support co-ordinator for a haulage company.
Peter Roebuck: The former Somerset batsman and captain became a journalist in Australia and South Africa until his death in Cape Town, in November 2011, aged 55.
Gareth Townsend: The Tiverton batsman spent four years with Somerset and is now academy director with Surrey CCC in charge of their elite development programme.
Orlando le Fleming: An Exeter seamer made his NatWest Trophy debut aged 15 in 1992 quitting four years later to pursue a career in music. Is now a jazz musician New York.
Chris Read: Former England wicketkeeper is still playing county cricket for Nottinghamshire, aged 37.
Vinod Chouhan: Ugandan-born spinner played his club cricket for Exmouth and is living and working locally.
John Rhodes: A seamer who opened the bowling has settled in the Exeter area and still turns out for Clyst Hydon.
Jonathan Tipper: A seamer who is still based in his native Exeter where he runs his own wealth management company.
Adrian Small: The Portsmouth born batsman is based in the Exeter area where he works as a chartered physiotherapist.
Tony Allin: A spinner who also played for Glamorgan is now a diary farmer in Bucks Cross near Bideford, North Devon.
David Townsend: A batsman and brother of Gareth. He was a teacher then media manager for Sydney Thunder and is now personal development manager for the PCA.
(A member of the successful Devon County Cricket Club, during the time Peter Roebuck was its captain and the team enjoyed its greatest period of success.)
Peter Roebuck was a brilliant captain. Probably the best I played with. He was not conventional and would have been horrified to have been described as such. His idea of a warm up revolved around ‘off you go then and do what you have to’, while his ability to hover at breakfast and cast an eye over those entering and then to make an assumption of the length of time they had been out the previous night was legendary.
But so was his knowledge of the game.
He could often sum up a pitch within a few deliveries. In one match on a dead surface in Wiltshire he persisted with the usual 3 slips and a gully for approximately four balls before dismissing all the close fielders bar one to various areas of the field. Sure enough, no runs were scored in the next six overs and the lone slip took the catches.
He could also lose his cool resulting in some bizarre outbursts. After a series of misfields by a newcomer, who had partaken a little too heavily the previous night, the unfortunate was summoned to bowl. This would have been fine if the gentleman had ever bowled in a match but, unfortunately, he had not. This did not deter a steaming Roebuck, who waved his protests away and then asked all the fielders to move to the offside. Needless to say his first ball was a legside full toss that disappeared much to the delight of the whole side, who delayed the next ball whilst they recovered from their laughter.
He could also see the funny side. On playing for the first time in Bournemouth I found myself at the front of the queue of cars leaving the hotel car park. With no idea where I was going I trusted luck and turned right and started driving. Five miles later I was on a country lane when I pulled into a layby, followed by six other cars. As I got out smiling bravely about this ridiculous situation, Roebuck sat there in the car behind me laughing about the fact everyone had followed someone who had no clue where the ground was, even though they all did.
His Devon days also showed the class he still had as a player. Bowling endless overs where batsmen couldn’t score against him or tearing through sides when there was something in the wicket were the norm. So were his feats with the bat where he could take a game over if his mind was set, particularly against opponents who had annoyed him in previous contests.
He enjoyed his time with Devon. He acknowledged that often. After his career had ended with Somerset there is no doubt that he enjoyed going back to the basics of the game where he could play without fear of censure. No professional contracts nor end of season recriminations. Simply good cricket with some talented players and a beer at the end of the day.
At a match in Cheshire one day, he was becoming increasingly frustrated at the inability of the people operating the sightscreen to move it without delaying the game. Over after over saw some sort of holdup until Roebuck stopped the game and started walking towards the culprits. The two youngsters got to their feet to try to plead their innocence, when he shouted: ‘I’m not quite sure what’s going on down there, but just remember that they managed to put a man on the moon didn’t they? Hurry up can you’
That was Peter Roebuck!
Devon captain Peter Roebuck with the MCC Trophy after Devon’s victory over Lincolnshire at Lord’s cricket ground in London, 24th August 1994. Devon won by 18 runs.
Fellow member and team player with Peter at Devon County Cricket Club
Whenever ex Devon players of 15-20 years ago bump into each other, it is still mainly Peter we discuss; the successful times and, indeed, the bizarre times we had. We were very blessed to have him on board and he gave Devon cricket everything; taking a good amateur team on to new heights and allowing us to dominate minor county cricket for a while. The stories of his behaviour and captaincy are hilarious and will always stay with me.
Peter was a fine player and massively competitive. He demanded very high standards, he was fit and strong and set the example. He would, however, shout from the rope (use you bat man!), meditate alone in changing rooms, throw tantrums, lie down in the outfield, even sit on the wicket, place fielders in ridiculous positions, immediately bowl someone who had misfielded, take bowlers off after only an over, switch all off side fielders with all leg side fielders just to make a point, and storm into committee rooms. This last one coming after a remarkably poor effort by us all when we were stupidly bowled out by declaration bowling against Dorset one day, but Peter felt the opposition had reneged on the so called agreement.
Despite this (we actually enjoyed a lot of it), as we had huge respect for the man. He could sum up a player, the game, the situation so quickly, simply and succinctly. He was always positive, always trying to win, wanting bowlers to get people out and batsman to score quickly. He bowled his heart out and was also a cut above. He was a pleasure to bat with and when we needed him he often produced, especially if there was some pace on the ball.
He may not have his own bat, however, and would at times hunt around the changing room looking for one to use. Kit and material possessions were not something he cared for. His kit was often brought along in a bin liner. A second hand Mercedes turned up at Somerset one day. Peter had purchased it, but when the chap handed him the keys he had no intention of even looking at it and had never even seen it. “I’ll see it when I drive home,” he said.
Peter and I suspect, the Devon committee, would put the team in hotels just that little bit too far away from places of interest! We were young and we enjoyed each other’s company and although this was inconvenient, it would not stop us having a few beers and going out at times. Peter would have a half of beer and if not with the committee, would choose to eat alone in a local Italian.
He did not seek company, although was always brilliant to talk with. I do remember a special evening in Wales when he held court in front of the whole team, laughing and joking and, dare I say it, getting a little drunk. It was good to see him like this, as he seemed genuinely happy at that point in time and this image will always stay with me.
I think Peter was lucky in many ways to find Devon cricket. He really enjoyed his time with us. We were certainly fortunate to find him. Peter made many of my cricketing years much richer than they would have been without him. He was an extremely clever man, whose company I am very glad I experienced for a while. I consider myself privileged that our paths crossed.