By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
RYAN Stevenson has signed a contract extension with Hampshire through to the end of the 2021 season.
Bowling all-rounder Stevenson, 28, made his First Class debut for the Hampshire in September 2015 following impressive performances for Devon in the Minor Counties Championship.
Giles White, the former Devon all-rounder, saw Stevenson in action while watching his former county in action against Berkshire at Finchampstead.
White was there to check the progress of Hampshire youngsters in the Berkshire side when Stevenson caught his eye. Within six weeks the former Dartington & Totnes and Torquay all-rounder was in the Hampshire first team.
A back injury curtailed Stevenson’s involvement in 2016 and also restricted opportunities in 2017, but he has since developed into an increasingly prominent member of Hampshire’s seam attack.
Stevenson featured twice in the Bob Willis Trophy and nine times in the T20 Blast.
Said Stevenson: “In what has been such a different and tough year for so many people, I feel very fortunate to continue my journey at Hampshire in 2021.
“I am looking to continue working hard on my game this winter and hopefully I can contribute as much as possible to help the team moving forward.”
White, who played for Devon between 1988-93, added: “It’s been excellent to see Ryan’s growth and progress over the last five years.
“He has continued to develop and improve his game in that time while contributing to the club both on and off the field and he’s a valued member of our group - we’re really pleased he’s signed a new extension with us.”
Stevenson inherited the cricket gene from dad Harold, who played for Torquay, South Devon, Totnes and finally Dartington & Totnes during a career spanning five decades from the 1970s onwards.
Stevenson junior went through the colts’ teams at Dartington & Totnes and graduated to the county age group sides in 2007 in the under-15 side. He topped the under-16 batting averages (firstname.lastname@example.org) in 2008.
After a brief excursion into golf, which included the offer of a sports scholarship at a university in the United States, Stevenson settled into club cricket with Dartington & Totnes.
Torquay lured Stevenson to top-flight cricket for the 2015 season. He was a member of the side that won the Premier Division title that summer.
Devon were quick to spot Stevenson’s potential and he featured in five games that season before White offered him a crack at pro cricket with Hampshire.
Injuries have blighted Stevenson’s time with Hampshire, although between them he has shown what he can do with bat and ball.
Stevenson stroked a maiden First Class half-century at the Oval in 2019 when he made 51 batting at number 10 against Surrey in a stand of 114 for the ninth wicket. At the other end was Kyle Abbott, another former Devon League player who was with Lewdown in 2006. His best day with the ball was against Middlesex in last summer’s Bob Willis Trophy when he took four for 70 in 19 overs.
Stevenson was ever-present in Hampshire’s T20 Vitality Blast side in 2020, which suggests his injury problems could be behind him.
“A back operation a couple years ago seems to have helped,” said Stevenson. “That and more experience on how to manage my body.
“Getting things right such as gym work, soft tissue work and knowing when to return and recover has made a big difference.”
Mick Rusling, the Dartington & Totnes CC chairman, said he hopes Stevenson is over his injury problems once and for all.
“Ryan fully deserves his contract extension and we're thrilled for him, given the rocky ride he's had with injuries at points where his elite cricket career seemed to be taking off,” said Rusling. “He is a fine young man and we wish him well.”
Rusling said it was clear from his early days in league cricket that Stevenson had something special.
“Ryan started his senior career playing with me in our third team when he was about 13 and quickly progressed to our firsts, missing out the second team,” said Rusling.
“We always knew Ryan was extremely talented and I nominated him for Devon young player of the year after he took 40 wickets wickets for our first team in 2010 when he was 17.
“But this fell on deaf ears with the Devon Cricket League, presumably because he wasn't playing Premier cricket, which I always thought was a shame.”
[O] For the record the DCL’s young player of the year in 2010 was the Bradninch all-rounder Gary Chappell.