Craig Overton and Chris Rogers link Instow to Melbourne
As Craig Overton and Chris Rogers face each other in Australia, North Devon Journal and thisisnorthdevon.co.uk sports editor Andrew Jones wonders who will be next to follow Rogers from Instow to full international cricket.
THE JUNCTION Oval cricket ground in Melbourne, Australia, could hardly be farther from the thatched pavilion at Instow.
On Thursday, possibly for the first time in more than 150 years of history, the two were linked across the 10,600-odd miles that separates them.
Linked by a contest over 22 yards.
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At the bowler's end, Craig Overton, the 18-year-old Somerset and North Devon all-rounder from Northam, making his debut for the England Lions.
Facing him, Chris Rogers, the 35-year-old Victoria opening batsman, who had three full summers with North Devon in the late Nineties.
Youth beat experience in their personal duel – Overton having Rogers caught by Chris Wright for 23 – although Victoria had a significant edge overall, winning by eight wickets with more than 13 overs to spare.
When Rogers arrived at Instow in 1997, Overton was only 3. He might have been playing with his twin, Jamie, beyond the boundary rope while the Australian teenager was compiling a record 1,246 runs in one Devon League season.
Those runs helped set Rogers on the way to a successful professional career, albeit one in which he has only represented Australia in a single Test match, scoring four and fifteen in defeat to India in Perth in January 2008.
He was one of a generation of outstanding Australian batsmen – Jamie Cox, Michael Di Venuto and Stuart Law to name just three others – denied regular international cricket by their all-conquering peers. Maybe it is not too late.
Only three batsmen – Phil Hughes, Ricky Ponting and Mark Cosgrove – have scored more runs than Rogers in the Sheffield Shield this season.
He averages one-tenth of a run short of 50 over 228 first-class matches for Western Australia and Victoria in his homeland and Middlesex, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire in county cricket.
The stats suggest he passes 50 in every third innings.
The teenage Rogers was following a well-trodden path, even if he did not quite go on to achieve the success of the Australian youngster at the Imperial club in Bristol for the 1989 season.
Shane Warne, the legend has it, looked a better batsman than a bowler and slept in the club's pavilion.
At least Rogers had the comfort of being put up by Colin Payne, the former club chairman at North Devon.
"I can remember him scoring hundreds for us in adverse conditions and I even remember him scoring a hundred for us playing right-handed," said Payne at the time of Rogers's Test debut. "We didn't tell the opposition he was left-handed until after the game."
Payne described North Devon as Rogers's "spiritual home" in England.
In those three summers, he pulled bowlers to the boundary and pints at Wetherspoon's in Barnstaple; and cut long-hops for four and the grass at Grenville College, Bideford, where he worked as a groundsman.
Who will be the next North Devon player to progress to full international cricket?
Surely one of the Over-twins who are making strides faster than even they can quite believe. Maybe not.
They could be in a race with Glenn Querl, their Devon League title-winning team-mate in 2011.
The exploits of Instow's latest import in his homeland of Zimbabwe are attracting attention.
Querl is due to return to North Devon for a third season this year – no doubt to the delight of Devon League batsmen who will again be sent ducking and weaving by his fearsome bouncer.
First-class players in Zimbabwe know exactly how they fell. Querl was the leading wicket-taker in 2011-12, taking 45 in seven matches to help Matabeleland Tuskers win the competition.
Querl's efforts at earning a county contract may have proved fruitless so far, but there is talk now of a call to the Zimbabwe team.
Two English summers spent leading the North Devon attack and playing for the Unicorns against county sides in one-day cricket have undoubtedly helped Querl improve.
The use of players like Rogers and Querl, it is said, helps no one but themselves and stands in the way of the development of a club's young players.
It does not seem to have held back Craig Overton as, halfway around the world, Rogers would confirm.