Devon likely to appeal over latest obstacle to registering Alfonso Thomas

Alfonso Thomas - row rumbles on. Picture: Pinnacle Photo Agency

DEVON have run into a fresh problem getting clearance from the Minor Counties Cricket Association to register Alfonso Thomas.

Thomas, released by Somerset at the end of last summer, was approached by Devon to act as player-coach for this season.

The South African-born quick bowler had already signed to play for Exeter in the Devon Premier Division and was seen as a good investment by Devon at a time of change.

Devon have been playing with young, inexperienced sides for the last two seasons and have only won once in 11 games.

Bringing Thomas in was seen as a way of grooming young players and adding his 15-years' experience in the professional game.

Overseas players are banned from Minor Counties cricket, but Devon felt they would be entitled to an exemption under residency rules. He lives permanently with his family in Wellington, Somerset.

The MCCA said 'no' back in May, adding until Thomas was a naturalised UK citizen the answer would stay the same.

Thomas got his citizenship documents through two weeks ago, but that still wasn't enough for the MCCA.

"I have been informed by MCCA that Alfie will not be allowed to play until he has attended a ceremony to confirm his naturalisation, " said Neil Gamble, Devon's chief executive.

Gamble said even when the formalities have been completed, an additional problem has come up.

"All those from abroad are required, in addition to achieving naturalisation, to have been in this country for 210 days in each of the last four years," said Gamble.

"In Alfie's case his figures are fine for three years but for 2012-13, he spent 185 days playing T20 cricket in South Africa, India and Australia.

"Alfie went on tours abroad with Somerset on three occasions in the last four years.

"Those activities count as domestic arrangements and therefore are removed from the data for ECB calculation purposes.

"Next year 2012-13 should drop out of calculation, but the rules then revert to seven years instead of four.

"Given this change, Alfie won't qualify for Devon until 2020.

"We shall be appealing."

Devon had hoped Thomas would play against Cornwall at Sidmouth in the final game of the season, which starts a week today. That now looks increasingly unlikely.

Selection for the game against Cornwall won't be completed until the middle of the week.

Devon are unlikely to make many changes to the side beaten by Oxfordshire in a rain-ruined game last week.

One definite change will be to replace Somerset and England under-19 spinner Dom Bess, who is on international duty against Sri Lanka.

Spinner Jamie Stephens, who was left out against Oxordshire to make room for Bess, is almost certain to come back in.