Popham brothers cleared to play for North Devon in Servicemaster T20 final

Flashback - Joe Thompson with the man of the match trophy after last season
Flashback - Joe Thompson with the man of the match trophy after last season's T20 final. The presentor is Conrad Sutcliffe

THE Servicemaster Devon T20 finals day takes place at Budleigh Salterton today (Sunday) where the action starts at 10.30.

Holders Torquay face North Devon in the first semi-final, followed by Bradninch against Exmouth.

North Devon have had clearance to play the Popham brothers against Torquay, even though they appeared for Barnstaple & Pilton in the North Devon Cup final against North Devon.

The Pophams – batsman Tom and fast bowler Jack – play Devon League cricket for North Devon CC and North Devon League cricket for B&P.

Although the North Devon Cup is the agreed qualifying competition for the Servicemaster T20, it is not administered by the Devon League.

The North Devon Cup is run by the North Devon League, a largely Sunday competition, in which it is commonplace for players to turn out for a different club to the one they are aligned to on Saturday.

North Devon League registrations apply in the North Devon Cup, so the Popham brothers played for Barnstaple & Pilton.

Devon League rules pertain in the Servicemaster T20, so they are eligible to play for North Devon on finals day.

The way the Servicemaster rules are framed means none of the qualifiers from the South, East of West could bring in a player from another club for any game at any stage.

The anomaly was picked up by Torquay, who asked competition organiser Richard Stevenson for clarification.

Rules were checked, the loophole discovered and the Pophams cleared to play.

However, the loophole will be closed for the 2018 competition.

“I will be changing the rule for 2018 to ensure if somebody represents another team in either the semi or final in the North Devon T20 then, regardless of DCL club registration, than that will tie that particular player to that team and then they will not be able to represent another club in the DT20 semi-finals days in the Devon T20,” said Stevenson.

North Devon, beaten semi-finalists last season, have had problems getting a squad together for finals days and will have been relieved the Pophams have been ruled in.

“As we are missing Dan Bowser, Josh King and Tom Ansell, we are not expecting great things,” said North Devon skipper Ed Yeo.

“Our first game up against last year’s winners so will be a tough ask.”

Torquay are without Joe Thompson, whose powerful hitting won last year’s final against Bradninch at Sidmouth. He is in Devon’s squad to play  Wiltshire at Salisbury.

George Allen and Ben Francis are back in the team having missed yesterday’s Premier Division match against Bovey Tracey.

“We are really pleased to have got this far in the competition again and it should be a great day,” said Torquay captain Justin Yau.

All the finalists have form in T20 cricket having been to Devon finals before.

Torquay defeated Bradninch in last season’s  final at Sidmouth.

Exmouth won the Devon competition in 2015 and from that qualified for the national NatWest T20 clubs competition. They reached finals day in that at the SWALEC in Cardiff before losing to Ealing.

Gary Chappell, the Bradninch captain, was Exmouth’s T20 skipper then and knows what’s coming from his old team-mates.

“I know first hand how seriously Exmouth take T20 and how good they are at it,” said Chappell.

“However we are a very decent T20 side ourselves which we proved last year.

“We are at full strength and looking forward to it.

“Budleigh always put on a good show so it should be a great day.”

Exmouth have been affected by selection issues which rob them of big-hitter Jon Evennett, pacer Sam Harris, keeper-batter Sandy Allen and teenage all-rounder Billy Rudolph.