CRICKET: Shirazi stars as Oxfordshire off to winning start in thriller

thisisoxfordshire: Damian Shirazi Damian Shirazi

DAMIAN Shirazi made a stunning comeback from his self-imposed exile to steer Oxfordshire to a thrilling one-wicket win over Devon in their opening Group 1 game at Bovey Tracey.

The 30-year-old left-handed opener, who hadn’t played for the county since July 2011, hit an unbeaten 74 as Oxfordshire overhauled Devon’s 167 with eight balls to spare.

He was joined in a last-wicket stand of 28 by Ashley Blanchard to see the visitors home.

It also gave new skipper Luke Ryan a win in his first competitive outing after he had won the toss and elected to bowl on a green wicket.

Chad Keegan took advantage of the seamer-friendly conditions to bowl Robert Woodman with his fourth delivery.

Rob Holman and James Burke took the score to 45, before Blanchard knocked back the former’s stumps.

Burke was then joined by David Lye, who made a breezy 37 off 39 balls with three fours and two sixes, before he was bowled by Blanchard to leave Devon 111-3.

And the Banbury man claimed his third victim soon afterwards when Josh Bess edged behind to Jonny Cater.

Ryan trapped Burke lbw for 43, and fellow spinner Richard Kaufman bowled Neil Hancock and then gained an lbw verdict against Liam Lewis as the hosts collapsed.

Ryan had Trevor Anning stumped by Cater, and Keegan returned to bowl Christopher Bradley, before Kaufman had Matthew Thompson caught by substitute Chris Watling for 27 to polish the innings off.

Oxfordshire’s run chase got off to a disastrous start, with Anning trapping Kaufman, before Lloyd Sabin shouldered arms to the Devon paceman – both for ducks – to make it 4-2.

Jamie Perkin took the score to 50 with Shirazi, before being caught by Josh Bess at cover off Bradley.

Richard West fell to a superb diving catch at point by Lye off Hancock.

And when Cater and David Smith were run out in quick succession going for quick singles, Oxfordshire were in big trouble at 72-6.

But Keegan then hit 36 off 38 balls with four boundaries and a six to take Oxon to 132, before he was bowled by Anning, who then trapped Ryan lbw.

With Rowe being bowled by Bradley to leave Oxon 141-9, the visitors were up against it.

But Shirazi, whose runs came off 142 balls with six fours and a six, and Blanchard kept their nerve, and the winning runs came when Hancock fired a delivery down the legside for five wides to take Oxon to 169-9.

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