Silk relishes challenge of new-look C East + Tough start for Ottery against Exeter II + Garner talks up Kilmington prospects + Hydon waiting on Batagodage visa application +

CLYST Hydon get an early taste of what an all-through league means when they play Budleigh Salterton 2nd XI on Saturday.

Second teams have been integrated in into 1st XI divisions from this season on to create a 15-division competition with promotion and relegation almost all the way through.

Second teams can’t go past C Division level yet, although that may change in a year or two once the new format settles down.

Budleigh finished fourth in the Premier 2nd XI division last September and, along with Exeter II and Sidmouth II, have been placed in the C Division East.

Ian Sutton, the Hydon’s  captain, said he has no idea how the changes will affect the team’s chances.

“It's hard to tell where we stand until we see the quality of the new teams joining the division,” said Sutton.

Rumesh Batagodage, who topped Hydon’s run stats (456) and wicket chart (24) last season, is still in Sri Lanka waiting for visa clearance.

Team news, according to Sutton, is limited,

“We have made a few new signings through university contacts, who look decent prospects,” said Sutton.

We also have Graham Trude and Hefin Wood back from long-term injuries.”

Batter Trude only played eight games last season and Wood batted in just two 2nd XI games before his season ended.

Hydon may run into all-rounder Richard Arnold on Saturday as he has departed for Budleigh Salterton.

OTTERY St Mary find themselves back in the C Division East and up against Exeter 2nd XI in their first game.

Ottery lasted two seasons in the B Division before dropping back. 

Last season’s trials and tribulations – they didn’t win a game on a Saturday afternoon – won’t stop Ottery aiming for promotion again.

“Promotion is the aim, maybe after a year on consolidation, but we want to go up again,” said new chairman Rob Johns.

“Looking round the division we are going to be in we know most of the teams other than the three 2nd XIs who have come in.

“There is certainly nothing for us to fear.”

Will Harrison is carrying on as 1st XI captain with Jody Clements doubling up as vice-captain and vice-chairman to Johns.

A piece of disappointing news on the eve of a new season was Rob Crabbe’s departure to Kilmington.

Crabb took 18 league wickets at less than 17 last season and chipped in with 140 runs, inlcuding a half century against promoted Abbotskerswell.

Whimple skipper Ben Silk is relishing the challenge his side face in the new-look C Division East.

Whimple face a tough start for they start with Sidmouth II and also face Exeter and Budleigh 2nds as well as Alphington in the first month.

Said Silk: “It is not ideal for the 2nd XIs are bound to be a different challenge for us – particularly as the quality those sides will no doubt have in their ranks and that will be a big test.

“But this is what we all yearn for, to play against new sides and face good, honest competitive cricket.”

Whimple have recruited New Zealander Devon Nightingale – a spin bowler and batsman – and have managed to retain the services of Cameron Kidd who has resisted the lure of a number of potential suitors, to stay at Whimple and has been made vice-captain.

“We managed to persuade Cameron that with the all-in nature of the league he is going to get the chance to shine against some top sides and it’s great for us that he has agreed to stick around,” said Silk.

Whimple have also recruited batsman Guy Harrison-Roberts, who has experience with South Devon, Abbotskerswell and Chudleigh.

LUKE Phillips is the new skipper at Alphington charged with getting the team out of the C Division East.

The Alphas, under former captain Stuart Shaw, were second last season when only Cullompton were allowed promotion as part of the league reorganisation.

Alphington were promotion play-off losers in 2016, third in 2015 and third also in 2014.

Sooner or later they have to go up, although maybe not this year.

“If we don’t do it this year we will be building a stronger side to have another got the following season,” said Phillips.

Alphington will have a squad of 15-16 1st XI players this season – and nothing else as the second team has disbanded due to lack of numbers.

“It means we will have a strong squad of players for the first team and may have to rotate people,” said Phillips.

South African all-rounder Ashley Green will play the first two matches before he heads home at the end of a two-year stay.

Overseas assistance will come from Drikus van Vuuren once he arrives from the republic in mid-May.

FENITON skipper Mark Salter is looking forward to seeing how his side fare in the C Division East this season.

The Acland Park men launch their campaign on Saturday at home to Alphington and then meet the first of the three 2nd XIs they will play in league cricket this season – Budleigh Salterton at their Ottermouth home the week after.

Salter says that Feniton will be unchanged to last year as they have neither lost or recruited anyone significant.

There is one area that Salter is keen to see improve on recent summers.

“Availability is certainly a huge thing for us,” said Salter.

"In recent years we have failed to get a consistently strong side out and that has hit us.

“When we field the side we want to put out I feel we can be a match for anyone at our level and I will be looking for greater consistency in availability this time round.”

As for the all-in nature of the C Division and the inclusion of Sidmouth, Exeter and Budleigh 2nd XIs, Salter says: “It’s a great opportunity for us to enjoy the experience of playing at some new grounds.

“In terms of our league cricket and I think we will see a rising in the general standard which has to be good for everyone involved.”

BRAUNTON captain Dan Brierley is aiming up the table after a couple of years in the doldrums.

Braunton players feel they have been fighting relegation battles too often in recent seasons and appeared to be heading for another one in 2017 after losing four of their first five games.

It was all smiles after finishing sixth with a comfortable 28-point safety margin.

Braunton members spent much of the winter clearing the club’s outstanding debts and refurbishing the Kelsey pavilion.

Now, says Brierley, it’s time to refurbish the playing side too!

“Everyone seems to be more available this year, which has got to be a good thing,” said Brierley.

“No one wants another start like last season so the first month is going to be critical to how we go.”

Brierley expects to have pacy all-rounder Simon Murfitt more readily available this season, and has high hopes of seeing Ian Roberts back behind the stumps if his knees hold up.

Braunton entertain Kilmington this Saturday.

KILMINGTON skipper Brett Garner is not afraid to talk up his team’s chances in the C Division East.

Garner, whose team will meet 2nd XIs from Sidmouth, Budleigh and Exeter, will also face just one long trip – ironically their opening day fixture – away at Braunton, with the remainder of the section made up of clubs not too far from the East Devon-based side.

Garner feels the club has recruited well with the arrival of Billy Reed and Rob Crabb from Ottery St Mary and Matthew Pile from Axminster.

The Kilmington skipper says: “We have added real quality to our side and, if we can get good availability on a consistent basis then I see no reason why we should not be there or thereabouts in terms of a promotion berth finish.”

He continued: “We don’t play any of the 2nd XI sides until after we have met the other six sides in the section so we ought to be readily prepared for what are bound to be exciting and different challenges ion the last three games of then first half of our season.”