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.
This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper on Friday September 4, 2015