By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
BIG-match cricket is poised to return to Exmouth next summer after an absence of more than 10 years.
Devon’s amateurs will play Somerset’s professional on the Maer Ground in a challenge match on July 17.
Exact details have not been finalised yet, but a 40-over match starting in mid-afternoon is a likely option.
The game is one of several around the country promoted by the ECB to bring Minor Counties such as Devon closer to their nearest First Class county.
Somerset were runners-up last season in the Specsavers County Championship. As Devonians Dom Bess, Lewis Gregory and the Overton twins are Somerset regulars, the game is expected to attract a large crowd.
Mark Davies, the Exmouth chairman, said preparations are already under way for the match.
“It has been a while since we have had the chance to stage a game like this and everyone at the club is looking forward to it,” said Davies.
“Games against First Class counties used to take place almost every year on our ground, but the last one was in 2009 when Devon played Worcestershire.
“Exmouth was the home of Devon’s big games for nearly 30 years before they fizzled out because of the crowded First Class fixture list.
“Steve Horler has worked really hard on the ground for the past few years to get our wicket in tip-top condition for a game like this and it is a tribute to his hard work that Devon have come to us first.”
Exmouth was Devon’s go-to venue for matches against professional counties in the 50-over List A NatWest and C&G Trophy competitions.
Minor Counties were excluded from the List A programme from 2005 onwards, but not before Devon showed what club cricketers could do by defeating Leicestershire at Exmouth in 2004.
Twenty-20 games against Warwickshire (2005) Somerset (2006-8) and Worcestershire (2009) went some way towards replacing the lost fixtures.
Other showcase matches against Kenya and the United States were also played on the Maer Ground. Former Exmouth captain Richard Baggs will never forget the match against the USA as he made 142.
Devon’s provisional fixture list for 2020 is:
April 5: University of Exeter (home); April 12: Somerset II (Sidmouth), April 19: Gloucestershire II (tbc), 26: Herefordshire T20 (Exeter).
May 17: Cornwall T20 (Wadebridge), 24: Wiltshire T20 (Bovey Tracey), 25: Dorset T20 (North Perrott).
June 7: Bedfordshire KO (Sidmouth), June 14: Hertfordshire (away), June 24: T20 finals day (Banbury), 28-30: Cornwall NCC (North Devon).
July 5: Berkshire KO (Falkand), 12-14 Hereford NCC (Colwall), 17 Somerset CCC (Exmouth), 19: KO quarter-final; 26-28 Wales (Sandford).
August 2-4: Cornwall NCC (Truro), 9: KO semi-final; 23-25 Shropshire NCC (Sidmouth).
September 2: KO Trophy final (Banbury); 6-10 Championship final (tbc).