By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
DEVON complete their programme of county friendlies tomorrow with a 50-over friendly against Wiltshire at Sidmouth.
Covid-19 ruled out any chance of three-day cricket months ago and a proposed competitive white-ball tournament was scrapped in late July.
Dave Tall, Devon’s director of cricket, was keen to get some cricket played to give young players a chance to show what they can do. He has his eyes on next season’s hoped-for return to a full programme.
A clue to Tall’s thinking is that seven of tomorrow’s 12 are aged 19 or below. It promises to be the toughest test for the youngsters so far as eight of Wiltshire’s team have featured in their three-day NCCA side in the past.
Teenage prospects such as Ben Beaumont and Elliot Hamilton have shown what they can do with the bat and are retained for the final fixture. Sam Read gets another go having missed out on runs against Cornwall two weeks ago.
Tall said the upside of having no competitive cricket has been the chance to test young players at a better level than the one they are used to.
“What we have been able to do is give them the opportunity and seeing players like Elliot Hamilton go out and make 60-odd in his second game,” said Tall.
“Ben Beaumont has confirmed what we saw in him last season, that he is a promising young batsman, and those who have not done quite so well will have benefited from the exposure to this level of cricket.
“I am confident we will see the rewards of giving youngsters opportunities next year and the year after that.”
The one new face in the Devon 12 belongs to Torquay’s Sonny Baker, an up-and-coming pace bowler who has been gathering admirers on the circuit. Baker would have bowled against Dorset last Sunday had the T20 double header at Bridgwater, which became a victim of bad weather.
Injuries have slowed Baker’s progress at times, but as the 17 year old is fit and raring to go he has been called up.
“Sonny is a player I have wanted to see at the next level up for a while and I am glad that the opportunity has presented itself,” said Tall.
Baker, who is at school in Taunton, has benefited from the close collaboration between Somerset and Devon through the partnership agreement signed last year.
On one side of the coin Somerset youngsters such as Jamie Baird get game time in Devon teams. On the flip side Devon’s brightest talents get coaching time in the cricket centre at Taunton.
Although Baker is not part of any formal Somerset programme, he has been invited to sessions where Somerset are able to work more closely with him and monitor his development and progression.
Sandy Allen, Devon’s player pathway manager, said "Sonny is doing well under the collaborative approach agreed by the two Counties".
“Sonny has been invited to sessions at Taunton working with Andrew Griffiths, who is the Somerset pathway bowling coach, and they have been impressed with his progress to date,” said Allen.
As skipper Alex Barrow is unavailable due to work commitments, Zak Bess will lead the side.
Devon:Z G G Bess (Sidmouth), J W Baird (North Perrott), J H G Degg (Plymouth), M C Golding (Bovey Tracey), B A Beaumont (Cornwood), S O Read (Exeter), J A Stephens (Taunton Deane), D J Goodey (Plymouth), E W O Middleton (Exeter), H M Whitlock (Bovey Tracey), B H Hamilton (Plympton), S Baker (Torquay).
Wiltshire:J Goodwin, W J Wade, J A Stearman, N J Clark, E G C Young, J B Lintott, B L Draper, T G Afridi, C Taylor, J M King, M Burton.
Umpires:R G B Allen, K Jacobs.