By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
THE best of Devon’s youth cricketers fly out to Johannesburg on Thursday for the sporting experience of their young lives.
The Devon Development Squad tour to South Africa started in 2002 and has become an annual event every February since.
Fourteen young cricketers from the summer 2019 under-14 squad – together with the tour management – jet out from Birmingham on Thursday at the start of the 17-day trip.
Ahead lie six games against under-14 and under-15 opposition in three different formats. The tourists will play 50-over, day-night and two-day games during their time in South Africa.
The tour opens at Skukuza CC in the Kruger National Park with a 50-over fixture against the Rudolph Academy, followed by a two-day game against Nelspruit Hoërskool.
For week two the tourists move on to Cape Town where four more games have been arranged.
The tourists fly back from Cape Town overnight on Sunday, February 23.
Three adult coaches – Nigel Ashplant, Jack Bradbury and Paul Heard - are accompanying the touring party.
Heard has been out to South Africa as a tourist in 2010 and is returning as a coach for the second time.
Ashplant, who doubles as the squad manager, said the tour is a learning curve in cricket and life for the youngsters taking part.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for the players to experience cricket in a different country, under difficult conditions against tough and talented opposition, and challenge themselves in different formats,” said Ashplant.
“It also serves as a useful pre-season preparation for the ECB National County Competition.
“However, it is more than just a cricket tour. The boys will spend 17 days exposed to African culture, with the opportunity to see African wild life in its natural environment, and learn about the challenges the country faces.
“It is a great learning experience on all levels, and one to enjoy.
“Jack, Paul and myself are looking forward to helping these players in their development over the next few weeks.”
Squad: Eddie Butler (Heathcoat), Noah Carlisle (Plymouth), Zach Dunn (Ivybridge), Teddy Haffenden (Plymouth), Alex Holifield (Exeter), Matt Jeacock (Ottery), Jacob Kopparambil (Ivybridge), Jake Pascoe (Ashburton), Harry Passenger (Torquay), Noah Rider (Torquay), James Tyler (Ottery), Lawrence Walker (Ottery), Will Warren (Plymouth), Jack Whittaker, captain (Braunton).
Fixtures: February 9:Johan Rudolph Academy (Skukuza); February 11-12:Nelspruit Hoërskool; February 14:Bergvliet High School; February 16:Newlands Cricket School; February 18-19: Western Province U14; February 21:Western Province U15.