By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
PAIGNTON captain George Benton has further strengthened his 1st XI squad for a title push next season by making two new signings.
Keeper-batsman George Allen, who played for Devon last season, has made the short trip along the sea front road from Torquay, where he was skipper last season.
Allen led Torquay to promotion from the A Division in 2018, but the Rec Grounders were unable to stay up and dropped straight back at the end of last summer.
Benton, who led Paignton to second spot behind champions Heathcoat last season, has also got a new overseas player in place for 2020. He is opening batsman Joshua Richards, who is currently playing tier two First Class cricket in South Africa for Gauteng.
The signings are a clear sign Benton wants to turn Paignton from runners-up into champions in 2020.
“We want county quality to push us more and that's exactly what George will do,” said Benton.
“It's the signing we wanted. George is a very good player and will add a lot to the team.”
Allen, who went through Warwickshire’s county age group sides before moving to Devon, has an impressive record at Torquay.
According to the league data base held on Play-Cricket, Allen hit three tons and 15 half-centuries for Torquay in 68 games played across four seasons. His career best was 168 against Plymouth in 2017.
Paignton already have a keeper-batsman in Richard Ashworth, not that Benton regards that as a problem, especially as both are prolific run scorers.
“Rich and George are good keepers and having both in the team is good so they can chop and change if required,” said Benton.
Richards has gone through the State cricket system in South Africa from St Stithians College through Gauteng Under-19s and into the South African Under-19 side that toured England in 2018.
Richards had a quite tour of England with the bat, but showed his talent with 104 on his Gauteng debut against KwaZulu Natal in October 2018.
Richards averages 54 in all forms of First Class cricket in South Africa – three and four-day – and has made six centuries and three 50s in 26 innings since his debut.
With stats like that it is hardly surprising Richards graduated into four-day cricket with the Lions franchise last month. He made 80 on debut against Knights in the longer form of the game.
“Joshua looks a very talented player and again will add a lot to the team on and off the pitch,” said Benton of the 20 year old.
“Having our overseas sorted early is an added boost for us.”
Richards will replace West Indian Anthony Alleyne, who hit three Premier tons on his way to making 699 league runs last summer at an average of 49.93.
Allen’s departure is a further blow for Torquay, who have now lost three significant players since the end of last season – four if overseas Elliot Moses is factored in.
Batter James Degg has departed for Plymouth after a season at the Rec and all-rounder Mitch Pugh, another county player, has joined Bradninch.
Tim Western, the director of cricket at The Recreation Ground, said the search is under way to find a new captain.
“With George's decision to leave, we will be carefully considering the options for next season's captain,” said Western
“He may be from within the club or, alternatively, from outside.”
Western said he understood why Allen has opted to leave, but added the door was always ajar for him and Pugh if they want to return.
“George spoke to me over the last few days and confirmed he will be joining Paignton for next season, as he wants to continue to play Premier cricket,” said Western.
“We respect George's decision to do this and he and Mitch (Pugh) go with our best wishes.
“We hope to see them back at Torquay CC in the future.”
Torquay are looking to appoint a cricket manager next season to oversee coaching and team affairs within the club.
A candidate has been identified and interviewed, but his identity will remain a secret until a formal decision is made.