Devon captain Matt Thompson<br>credit:

DEVON captain Matt Thompson remains committed to giving the county’s best young talent a crack at representative cricket, despite the signing of two professionals and two rising stars of the Somerset Academy.

Somerset all-rounder Peter Trego, who is on a white-ball contract only this season, is Devon’s first contracted professional for more than 40 years.

When Trego can’t play his spot in the side will go to Wayne White, the former Lancashire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire all-rounder.

England under-19 seamer Kasey Aldridge and Ned Leonard have been secured for the season ahead through and agreement with the Somerset Academy. Leonard bowls medium quick and bats.

Devon have also signed Torquay’s South African-born all-rounder Mitchell Pugh, who is now qualified to play Unicorns Championship cricket through residency in this country. He is a student at the University of Plymouth.

Thompson said Devon although Devon have looked outside the county boundaries to strengthen their squad, home-grown talent remains on the radar.

Hugo Whitlock, who is hoping to return in 2019 after a lengthy injury lay off“We have lost a significant number of players from last year’s squads and cannot expect to replace all of them just like that,” said Thompson, who has assumed the captaincy a second time following the retirement of Josh Bess.

“Josh’s retirement leaves a huge hole to fill with bat and ball in all forms of cricket.

“Scott Barlow won’t be playing this year. He was key for us in reaching the 50-over final and T20 semi-finals last year.

“And with Gary Chappell not playing we have lost not only a left-arm spinner who turns the ball away from right handers – always useful to have – but a very effective opening batsman at the top of the order in the short forms of the game.”

Devon already know they won’t have all their automatic picks like Thompson, Alex Barrow and Jamie Stephens available for every game across the formats, which is one of the reasons the management have opted to bring in Trego as lead professional.

Thompson said players coming through the youth ranks and players performing consistently in league cricket will not be overlooked.

“Peter Trego and Wayne White give us some quality with bat and ball to supplement our younger players and bring their experience to an inexperienced squad,” said Thompson.

“We are still all about doing things the Devon way, which means bringing in our own young players and giving them opportunities.

“Matt Petherbridge (Plymouth), Ed Middleton (Exeter) and Max Hancock (Sidmouth) all featured at times last season and I see them competing for Gary Chappell’s bowling role.

“George Allen came in at the end of last season and did well with the bat and will want to secure a permanent place.

“I hope we see something of Jack Gibbs (North Devon CC) this year, although Gloucestershire are very keen on him. If the opportunity comes up to use him we will.”

Thompson said pace bowler Hugo Whitlock, who has missed a season and a half due to a back injury, is close full-steam fitness again and could feature once the season is under way.

Devon’s pre-season programme starts on April 7 when Somerset 2ndXI are due to play them at North Devon CC.

Thompson said the pre-season programme also includes an internal trial match, which he regards as significant.

“There really are places to be decided in the squad and it is a chance to players to put their hands up and show what they can do and what form they are in,” said Thompson.