By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
DEVON team manager Dave Tall will start assessing his options for the season ahead in a low-key warm-up game against Clevedon CC at Instow on Sunday.
Tall is keen to look at batsmen capable of making an impact in the team once the serious business starts in late May.
A pre-season availability check among established players has revealed likely gaps in the side and Tall wants to start weighing-up candidates to fill them now.
Devon were due to play the second teams of Gloucestershire and Somerset in their first two warm-up games as preparation for the National Counties T20 tournament.
Covid-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of the T20 competition and prompted a warm-up game rethink by Devon, who now play Clevedon CC, University of Exeter and Sidmouth CC in preparation for something else.
Attention now switches to the 50-over National Counties KO Cup competition and getting a viable squad together for the start of the group stages, which in Devon’s case is a home game against Herefordshire at Instow on May 30.
Cancelling the popular T20 tournament was not something the Devon management would have picked, but Tall said it might be a blessing in disguise.
“Although the cancellation of the T20 tournament wasn’t what we wanted to happen, it does mean there is an opportunity to look at players who could feature in our 50-over games and the three-day matches later in the summer,” said Tall.
“Nothing happens overnight with young players and it is useful to be able to see how they are developing in games like this, and some of the others we have got planned.”
Players – mainly batters or batting all-rounders – who have progressed through the Devon age-groups and development programmes feature prominently in Tall’s first team of the season.
Ben Beaumont and Elliot Hamilton have played and performed in the past so their inclusion is no surprise. Ben Privett, a Plympton team-mate of Hamilton's, has been given a late call-up as cover for Luke Bess, who has pulled out due to a back injury.
Harry Ward, an early-order batter from Paignton, gets a go as does bowling brother Charlie Ward and all-rounder Archie Farkins.
James Horler, who averaged more than a hundred for Exmouth in DCL Premier Tier cricket in 2020, gets the chance to show what he can do.
Tall had hoped to see North Devon all-rounder Jack Moore in action, but he has other commitments for the next two weekends. Sandford batsman Ryan Glass was also on the shortlist, but he had work commitments that prevented him playing.
The game will be played behind closed doors in line with the latest Government Covid-19 regulations.
Devon: J A Stephens (Taunton Deane), Z G G Bess (Sidmouth), B A Beaumont (Cornwood), E H Hamilton (Plympton), H C B Ward (Paignton), A J Small (Sandford), B H Privett (Plympton), E W O Middleton (Exeter), J D Horler (Exmouth), M P Skeemer (Cornwood), C W B Ward, A E Farkins (both Paignton).