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Celebrating Sir Christopher Ondaatje Devon Cricket Centre

Celebrating University Cricket & 10 years of the Sir Christopher Ondaatje Devon Cricket Centre

A fitting end to the University’s cricket season for 2019 as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sir Christopher Ondaatje Devon Cricket Centre opening on the 6th July and the achievements of all our teams this year.

On Saturday 6 July 2019 we celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the £2 million Sir Christopher Ondaatje Devon Cricket Centre. This fantastic indoor training facility accommodates the Devon Cricket Board (DCB) and is used by the University of Exeter's student cricket clubs, the Exeter College Academy, the DCB indoor cricket league and many local clubs.

Dr Bruce Coleman, Honorary University Fellow, strong supporter of University Sport and long-standing volunteer for all University Cricket fixtures shares his reflections over the last decade:

“My recollections of the formal opening of the new Cricket Centre in July 2009 are unfortunately coloured by my physical condition at the time. Badly lame with an arthritic hip, I was forced to use the lift to get up to the gallery.  Humiliating!  But the opening ceremony went well and it represented a major new stage in the great sports development plan adopted by the University at the end of the '90s.

 By 2009 the University's cricket had fallen off from a peak just after the millennium, coinciding with the creation of the MCCUs (initially UCCEs) of which Exeter was very nearly one. Facilities were clearly one of the problems behind disappointing standards and the new Topsham ground had proved inadequate for top-level cricket, so that the University 1st XI moved its matches to the old County Ground, Exeter CC's home, alongside the Streatham estate. 

The provision of a modern cricket centre combined with the appointment of Julian Wyatt (formerly of Somerset) as the first Director of Cricket turned around our fortunes and Exeter peaked again in 2013-14, winning the BUCS indoor title and reaching the outdoor final in the latter year. (Indoor cricket played in the winter terms has been a conspicuous beneficiary of the Centre's facilities, as has the women's game.)  Very few of our competitors in BUCS have their own centres comparable to ours. The Centre also provides a focal point for University players and the cricket office where Ruan Louw and Jack Bradbury now hold court and acts as a centre for cricket management.

The recent renovations of the Centre again speak for the University's commitment to cricket as a major sport. This summer a talented and undefeated 1st XI has won its way back into the National League, the top division of BUCS, and in 2020 will be playing the MCCUs again. The future of the MCCUs themselves seems to be in doubt, as we await decisions from the ECB.  If university cricket reverts to its former structure, as it was before the MCCUs, we could well see Exeter as one of the three leading universities for cricket, alongside Loughborough and Durham.  Leading cricketers, male or female, in the schools should take note when deciding their choice of university. There is still a lot to play for as we mark the Centre's tenth birthday this month.”

Head of Cricket Ruan Louw has reflected on his season and time here so far:

“The University of Exeter Cricket club in 2019 has seen a pleasant change from the 2018 season in many positive ways. I have only been at the University since March 2018 and progress has been made both on and off the playing field.

The Women’s club has seen great expansion in participation and will become a force to be reckoned with moving forward. The women’s 1st XI again ended up sweeping everyone in the division aside and unfortunately succumbed to Durham in the Semi-finals. It is time for the league to be nationalised in our opinion, in order to give our players more competition more often and allow the game to develop to its fullest potential. They also happily made it to finals day during the indoor season and walked away with a silver medal after a hard fought game against Loughborough.

The Men’s club continued to be prominent in all divisions and the 2nd and 3rd teams were unfortunate in weather setbacks and fixture congestion, to not both be promoted this year.

Our Men’s 1st team has seen great improvements. Having won our first competitive fixture in over 700 days on 4 June 2018, the team has now gone 10 BUCS matches undefeated and has, in the process, won the league, gained promotion to the National league (Against MCCU’s) and won the national trophy gold medal. Add this to the indoor medal tally and it has been a positive year for the University.”

The final was held at Kibworth Cricket Club in Leicestershire against Durham University. Ruan explains “In the final we found ourselves 16 for 3 batting first but showed good composure to end up 265/9; Wells 81, Patel 78 and O’Brien 43. We then proceeded to bowl Durham out for 167 thus winning by 99 runs. Max Mannering taking 4 in his last game, Lawson 1, with George Barlow and Ben Twine splitting the other 5 between them.

Whilst the season has been positive, it now has to be repeated in the very top division in University cricket and this will take increased effort, time, investment and input on every level.

I am indeed pleased with the overall position we have found ourselves in with both the Men’s and Women’s clubs and hope to see some fresh talent in September along with our hotbed of talent already here.”

The Sir Christopher Ondaatje Cricket Centre is the home and essential environment for in house development for the students, allowing training to take place before during and after lectures on campus has certainly made the difference for the Men’s & Women’s clubs with the input and direction from Ruan.

Date: 5 July 2019