Former Devon captain Bob Dawson (with shield) surrounded by team-mates after the win over Buckinghamshire in the 2006 Minor Counties play-off game at Exmouth.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19
FORMER Devon captain Bob Dawson has pledged to carry on playing as long as the county want him.
Dawson’s seven-year reign as skipper ended recently after a meeting with Devon chairman Roger Moylan-Jones to review the season just ended.
With a new side emerging as younger players replace old stalwarts such as Andy Procter and Arwyn Jones, Devon’s top brass felt the time was right for a change and appointed Neil Hancock to the job.
Hancock, currently with Sidmouth, was born in Australia but came to this country in 1996 to play for Torquay and has since settled down and started a family.
Dawson, 39, has confessed he didn’t see regime change coming. But he agrees it is time for a change and will throw his support behind the new man in charge.
“I was surprised not to be consulted before the appointment was made, but I don’t have any axe to grind about Hanks taking over,” said Dawson.
“Seven years as captain is too long anyway and had the chance come up to go a couple of years ago I would have been happy to step down.
“David Court looked like the obvious candidate then, but he moved away to work with Surrey and there wasn’t really anyone else.
“Hanks and I are great mates and I am looking forward to playing for a few more years under his captaincy.
“I played my first game for Devon when I was 10 years old. Playing for Devon means a lot to me and I will carry on as long as they keep picking me.”
Dawson made his Devon debut in 1988, but was largely lost to the county between 1992-99 when he was on the staff at Gloucestershire.
Dawson faced a tall order replacing Peter Roebuck as Devon captain for the 2003 season. During two spells as skipper (93-99 and 01-02), Roebuck had taken Devon to a record-breaking four Minor Counties titles, two wins at Lord’s in the final of the MCC Cup, as well as two defeats in the final of the same competition.
Dawson’s record was three Western Division titles, two outright Minor Counties championships, a Lord’s victory over Berkshire in the cup and a win against Leicestershire in the old-format Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy.
Looking back on his achievements, it was the win over Leicestershire that gave Dawson the most satisfaction.
“Leicestershire was special because Minor Counties beating professionals in the C&G had only been done a few times in 40-odd years,” said Dawson.
“I remember looking at their results in the couple of games before they came to Exmouth and thinking we had a chance as they were not going well.
“It rained on the first day so we had to use the second, which only made Leicestershire more nervous than they were to start with.
“When we got them all out for 156 I thought we were really in with a chance, but it wasn’t straightforward as we were 70-odd for six at one stage.
“David Court and I put on 50 or so and we were right back in it. I got out in the last over with three needed to win and two to tie. Procs and Aqeel Ahmed got the scores level with one ball to spare and that was enough as they didn’t bowl us out.”
Surprisingly, winning at Lord’s is a third on Dawson’s list of achievements, even though he was man of the match on the day with 96 in Devon’s total of 290 for three, one which was 40 too many for Berkshire.
“It was certainly a highlight and a day I will never forget, but even if I had scored a hundred at Lord’s I doubt I would feel differently,” said Dawson.
“What you are judged on is how you do in the Minor Counties Championship and our two wins in that have the edge over Lord’s.
“We got into three finals in four years, lost one, shared one with Bedfordshire when only the rain saved them and won one outright.
“During that period we had a great team, possibly one of the strongest there had ever been in Minor Counties cricket.
“Andy Procter was the best off-spin bowler in Minor Counties cricket at the time and we had Arwyn Jones as the perfect foil. They bowled well as pair and a lot of the wickets Procs took were earned for him by Arwyn giving nothing away at the other end.
“Neil Hancock had passed his residential qualification and could play, we had Arul Suppiah scoring runs, Chris Mole had solved the wicketkeeping problem and was a fine bat as well, Andy Pugh was scoring runs and I was getting my share as well.
“I think we only realised just how good that side was when we thrashed Buckinghamshire at Exmouth in the 2006 play-off game. That was the game when Arwyn bowled them out in the second innings with seven for 32.
“We won all six games in our division that year as well as the final, which hadn’t been done before. It will take a very good team indeed to repeat what we did.”
Looking back on his seven years as skipper, Dawson said while there were disappointments from time to time he had no regrets worth mentioning.
One of his disappointments was the premature departure from the county team of his former Gloucestershire team-mate Matt Hunt, whose injury problems prompted him to call it a day in 2006.
“Of all the opening batsmen I have known playing for Devon. Matt was one of the best and the best when the conditions were poor,” said Dawson of the former Torquay and South Devon player.
“If you were put in on a dodgy track and everyone else was struggling, Matt would be there on 40-odd not out at lunch on the first day when everyone else had struggled to make double figures.
“He was a fine, fine player at this level and Devon have never really replaced him.”
Dawson has long said he is not one for dwelling on records or his own personal performances, although that’s not to say there aren’t things he has been proud of.
In the season just ended, the century he made to save the game against Dorset at Torquay was hugely satisfying.
Top of the list though were historic back-to-back centuries for Devon against Wales at Pontypridd on the way to the Western Division title in 2004.
Dawson made 118 in the first innings and 127 not out in the second. His stand of 229 for the sixth wicket with David Lye (154) was a new county record that still stands.
No Devon batsman had ever made two centuries in a match before, although Hancock repeated the feat against Cornwall in 2006… without being dismissed.
According to Dawson what made his ton double special was not a place in the history books but the effect it had on the match and the outcome of the season.
“It was us and them unbeaten at the top and the game looked likely to decide who won the Western Division,” said Dawson.
“There was 20 runs in it either way after the first innings, then we were 100 for five second time when Dave Lye came out to join me and it needing a few runs.
“Our stand batted Wales out of the game as they were left needing around 370 to win and we bowled them out.
“That was Wales knocked back and although we slipped up against Cornwall in the next game we won against Wiltshire and got through to the final.”
Not being captain is going to be an odd experience for Dawson after seven years in charge, but it is something he is looking forward to.
“Some players find being captain a burden as the responsibility can affect their own game, which is not a problem I have had,” said Dawson.
“Being captain is mentally wearing though and I am looking forward to concentrating largely on my batting, rather than thinking about the bowling changes or whether to move the field.”