Braunton's Alex Hodges wheeling away

BRAUNTON’S prospects in next season’s Tolchards Devon League have been enhanced by the signing of a young Australian all-rounder.

Ben Whitty, who will be 19 when the season starts in May, is currently turning out for Stockton Northern Districts in the Newcastle NSW grade competition.

Whitty, who played representative youth cricket for Newcastle, bats, bowls and keeps wicket as well.

He was in Stockton’s first grade side for their last game before Christmas having been promoted from the second grade team earlier in the season.

Braunton have signed Whitty as a keeper-batter, although a season’s best with the ball of four for 19 in a T20 game against Wallsend did not go unnoticed.

Artwell Nyambanje, who was Braunton's last overseas player back in 2014Braunton have not had an overseas player since 2014 as an economy measure, but feel the time is right to start investing in the playing strength again after slipping down three divisions since 2013.

Dan Brierley, who is set to continue as 1stXI captain for another season, said when Whitty approached the club it quickly became apparent he was the right fit.

“Ben is coming over on a student visa purely to play cricket and is costing the club nothing,” said Brierley.

“He is a young player who is looking to experience living and working in another country for a couple of years.

“Ben bats and keeps wicket and can bowl – and he has a coaching qualification too.

“As a club we have been in the doldrums for a couple of seasons and seem to be fighting against relegation all the time.

“Ben coming to us, as well as a number of signings from other clubs in the area, is a signal of our intent to start climbing the league again.”

Over the past two years Braunton have gone from the verge of going out of business to running a thriving clubhouse that has funded a revival of the club.

Money has become available for ground improvements, a replacement net lane and new catch fencing around the ground.

Women’s cricket is taking off under the tutelage of coach Dean Davies.

Said Brierley: “Wine and Wickets proved a marvellous way of brining women into the club and they are going from strength to strength.

“Dean has got the girls working hard indoors already and we hope to get a hardball team going, if not this year then next.”

Net practice does not start until early March, but Braunton have booked the sports hall at Braunton School from this Sunday (4-6pm) to play games of indoor cricket.

Contact Brierley on 07789 938003 for details of Braunton’s plans for 2019.