Alphas struck down by injury to overseas player + Moore wary of season ahead + boom time at Braunton says Brierley

D J van Vuuren - missing from Alphington

BRAUNTON welcome newly promoted Heathcoat 2nd XI to Kelsey for their C Division East opener.

Braunton were involved in yet another relegation scrap in 2018 and once again survived. A period of consolidation would suit skipper Dan Brierley

Ian Roberts - a Braunton liferThe arrival of Australian keeper-batsman Ben Whitty from Newcastle, New South Wales is a sign Braunton are looking to climb the ranks again.

With Ian Roberts coming to the end behind the sticks, a keeper signing is welcome news.

James Kemp, who is moved to the area from Bicester, can also keep wicket if needed. He is an experienced cricketer in the Cherwell League.

Barnstaple & Pilton were in the running to sign Kemp but he opted for Braunton instead.

Joe Barnes – 20 wickets in 10 games last summer - is available for most of this season.

Brierley has young players knocking on the door that he expects to co-opt into the first team as the season rolls on.

ALPHINGTON are hoping to locate a replacement for overseas player D J van Vuuren before the season gets much older.

The South African all-rounder scored 659 league runs last season and bagged 20 wickets.

A shoulder injury has prevented him travelling to the UK this summer and Alphington are looking for cover.  Clubman Will Pring is in charge of the search, but they won’t have anyone in time for the derby clash with Exeter 2ndXI this Saturday.

The rest of last season’s free-scoring squad remains in situ, including Exeter City manager Matt Taylor, who averaged more than 60 in the 10 games he played.

Alphas were short of wickets at times last season so the arrival of bowling all-rounder Kam Singh from Countess Wear is good news.

Jon Heaver, who keeps and bats, is another recruit from the Wear.

SHOBROOKE Park open the season in the C Division East with an away game at Ottery St Mary.

Relegation from the B Division at the end of last season dropped Shobrooke down to level four in the Tolchards Devon League for the first time since the 1994 season.

Pete Turner, now the club chairman, and current secretary Richard Pyle were the leading run getters in the 1994 promotion season with 707 and 539 runs respectively.

Kiwi Craig James, who was the leading run getter for Shobrooke Park with 524 in the league last season, has re-joined former club Cornwood for 2019. An un-named Australian batsman is on the way as reinforcement.

Otherwise it is largely as you were in the dressing room for the summer ahead.

BEN Silk will once more be at the helm of Whimple as they look to again climb out of the C Division East

Last season saw them start well but then drop away to finish just 14 points above the relegation places. 

Silk says: “It was disappointing how things slipped away last season and I am looking for us to hit the ground running this year.

“There are some new teams this year, which is exciting for us, but equally I feel we have nothing to fear.”

Whimple have lost the services of Neil Maud, who has made the switch to Sandford as it is close to his home, but they have recruited Lee Nessling from Upottery and are also looking to bring Sanja Rajapakse back to the club.

The Sri Lankan has been with Whimple before and has some top drawer coaching qualifications.

Silk adds: “If we can get Sanja in he will be a huge asset to our thriving junior section.”

He continued: “I am really looking forward to seeing how Cameron [Kidd] progresses this season and we have another, even younger talent, in 15-year-old Sam Jefferson and I am looking forward to seeing him playing 1st XI cricket.”

OTTERY St Mary want to improve on a mid-table finish in a division heavily populated with 2ndXIs

Skipper Will Harrison emphasised the feeling of positivity at Salston Field, saying: “Our young players are a year older and, with Oli West returning as overseas, I’m positive we can improve on last year’s league position, maybe even challenge for promotion. 

“With Heathcoat and Exmouth 2nd XIs getting promoted it’ll be interesting to see how the new league structure is settling down.”

West scored 873 league runs and took 23 wickets in 2018. The return of prolific Aussie all-rounder is certainly a coup for the club, but key to a successful campaign may be whether talented youngsters such as Joe Henkus, Sam Brook and Henry Mutter can step up.

Ottery are at home to Shobrooke on Saturday.

HONITON head into the new league term with former Sidmouth player James Pickard as the 1st XI skipper.

The Mountbatten Park men will play in D Division East and face seven other 1st XIs and the second teams from Premier Division Sandford and A Division Budleigh.

As for their aspirations, Pickard says: “Promotion has to be the main target. I do think we can go up another division. We have a very strong club at the moment and I see no reason that we can not go up.

“However, the primary focus for the season is to try and get people enjoying their cricket as much as possible.

“If this happens I believe the team will function as a unit and we will get some great results.”

Honiton have lost Ben Kidson to Upottery, but Pickard is happy there is sufficient strength in depth. 

He adds: “The squad is strong to provide good teams at 1st and 2nd XI level. We’re also hoping availability is going to be better this year.”

The 2nd XI are boosted by the arrival of seamer Craig Mudd and will be led by Jon Hext, who says: “I’m looking forward to my first season as skipper and looking for us to continue with the momentum  the side had in the second half of last season. 

“That said, first and foremost it’s all about the guys enjoying their cricket.”

BARNSTAPLE & Pilton skipper Steve Moore expects the season ahead to be a struggle.

B&P were promoted from the D Division East last season, which always looked likely from the first few weeks.

The bad news for Moore, who worked with a squad of just 14 first teamers last term, is numbers are an issue.

Going into tomorrow’s seasonal opener against Whimple, Moore was struggling to name a side when he sat down on Tuesday night to select one.

“Like most clubs we have players who only want to play in the 2nd XI and I had eight available for first team selection,” said Moore.

“We were down to the bare bones a few times last season, but hoped being promoted would encourage a few more to join us.

“As no one has joined and we have lost a few as well, perhaps we would have been better off not being promoted.”

A big loss is batting all-rounder Brady Saunders, who has moved to Rotherham to live and work.

Dan Smith, another all-rounder, will miss the first few matches of the season, having suffered a knee injury playing in goal for Fremington.