Thompson asking for extra five per cent from batters

THINGS can only get better for Devon in the Minor Counties Championship this season after the trials and tribulations of 2015.

Matt Thompson’s first season at the helm ended without a win in three-day cricket and Devon on the bottom of the Western Division table.Matt Thompson

For a county that has been one of the dominant forces in Minor Counties cricket over the past 20 years – Devon have been champions seven times since 1994 – it was quite a fall from grace.

Devon had never finished bottom of the Western Counties table before – the competition was divided into East and West in 1983 – so 2015 will go down as their annus horribilis.

Thompson remains at the helm for the campaign ahead, which gets under way tomorrow when a three-day game against Wales commences at Pontardulais, and he is confident better times lie ahead.

“Our bowling wasn’t that bad last season – Charlie Miles and Zak Bess in particular both performed well – but we have to bat a lot better,” said Thompson.

“If everyone of the batters can improve by just five per cent, that will make a huge difference to us.”

Something else that will make a big difference to Devon is the return of former captain Josh Bess, who handed over to Thompson at the end of the 2014 season when he left to work in Australia.

Josh Bess - Pinnacle Photo AgencyThe last thing Bess did as captain was guide Devon to victory over Oxfordshire in the final of the one-day Unicorns Trophy. Bess averages 42 with the bat and 21 with the ball in three-day cricket, which is a huge boost for the captain and the county.

Five of the 12-man squad going to Wales are below 20, and a couple more aren’t much older.

Bess bring experience to a side high on potential but low on Minor Counties game time, Thompson is glad to have him.

“Having Josh back is huge for the team and for me,” said Thompson.

“He is vastly experienced at this level of cricket and has a lot to offer as a player and mentor for the younger players.

“As a former captain who made a good job of it during his time, I am glad to have him as a sounding board.”

Devon have four new faces in the travelling party: batters Dan Pyle and Dylan Penberthy, pace bowler Tom Pedel and off-spinner Toby Codd.

Pyle scored more than 700 runs in ECB U17 cricket for Devon last year, Penberthy topped 300 runs for Heathcoat in the Devon Premier Division, Pedel opens the bowling for Exeter and Codd has impressed in development games for the Devon Lions.

Devon: M W Thompson (St Fagans), D T Penberthy-Hutchings (Heathcoat). D R Pyle (Exmouth), J J Bess (Sidmouth), M C Golding (Bovey Tracey), J F S Dart (Heathcoat), D M Bess (Exeter), Z G G Bess (Sidmouth), T C Pedel (Exeter), C L Miles (Sidmouth), J V King (North Devon), T R J Codd (Bovey Tracey).

Wales (from): G A Ansell, S J Pearce, G C Holmes, S H Roberts, C L Herring, J Murphy, R A J Smith, S D Thomas, A J Norman, N H Davis, H W Powell.

Umpires: A J Wheeler & M T Ennis.