Nigel Ashplant keeping wicket for Sandford 1st XI against Budleigh Salterton in a game from the 2014 season

SANDFORD’S veteran cricketer Nigel Ashplant is poised to make his England debut at the ripe old age of 64.

Ashplant, who plays for Devon Over-60s when not umpiring in the Tolchards Devon League Premier and A Divisions, has been drafted into the England Over-60s’ party for the looming tour to Australia.

England are due to spend a month touring Tasmania and Australia, where they will play a mixture of representative matches as well as three one-day internationals for the Grey Ashes.

Three games in Australia against New Zealand Over-60s are also part of the itinerary.

Keeper-batsman Ashplant had already made plans around the same time to fly out to Auckland, New Zealand, where his son Simon is now living and working.

When Gloucestershire’s Nigel Belletty withdrew from the touring party for family reasons, he was asked by the team management to recommend a replacement.

“The next thing I know is I am being approached after we played Gloucestershire by a couple of gentlemen from England O60s and was invited to go,” said Ashplant.

“You need to be retired and able to afford the tour as ECB give the O60s nothing. As I ticked both of the boxes and was already going out to New Zealand around the same time I jumped at the chance.

“I will miss the first couple of games as I will still be in New Zealand, but will hook up with the rest of the tour in Tasmania on November 11.

“The tour ends on December 9 and we will be flying back to Auckland for a while before coming home for Christmas.”

Wife Bridget will be accompanying Ashplant round Australia during the tour.

The tour will criss-cross eastern Australia and will include a game at the Don Bradman Oval in Bowral, New South Wales.

“All the games are one-day fixtures,” said Ashplant. “Anything longer than that and we would be down to seven or eight on day two.”

Ashplant is one of two keepers on the tour roster. The other is Kent’s Chris Tarrant. 

“Not THE Chris Tarrant, but a very useful cricketer who keeps wicket and opens the batting for his county,” said Ashplant, who is 64 and a retired civil servant.

Ashplant said he has been fortunate to enjoy numerous highlights in a cricket career dating back more than 45 years.

“I went through the Devon League divisions with Sandford from the C all the way to the Premier Division and played in sides that won the Premier Division and the Devon Cup,” said Ashplant.

“There have been many highlights in my career but to be selected for one of the international games on the tour would be the icing on the cake.”

Ashplant is the third Sandford player to be named in an England seniors’ squad. His predecessors are Chris Theedom and Bob Eames.

Nigel Ashplant started played cricket for Newton St Cyres in 1971 as a 16-year-old batting all-rounder, who attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Crediton.

Shobrooke Park offered Ashplant the chance to play for them at a better level shortly after his 20thbirthday and he took over as wicketkeeper from the long serving Cuthbert Burrington.

His next move was to Sandford in 1982 when Theedom approached him to be part of a team set on joining the Devon League. Ashplant went all the way through the divisions with Sandford, who earned three promotions in eight years to reach the Premier Division.

Other than two seasons back at Shobrooke Park (2005-06) helping his old club out of a keeping crisis, Ashplant has served Sandford loyally as player, 2ndXI captain, coach and committeeman.

Ashplant gave up Saturday league cricket midway through the 2017 season to take up umpiring and is now on the Tolchards Devon League Premier Division Panel.

He was a regular in the Devon O60s’ side in the season just ended and turned out for Sandford’s North Devon League side on Sunday in the 36-run defeat by Barnstaple & Pilton.