By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
THE South Devon Cricket League has been given a new lease of life for the 2021 season by the arrival of three new clubs.
Only four clubs were left in the competition at the end of last season – Kingsbridge, Ipplepen, Plympton and Ashburton – which was barely enough to create a fixture list.
Brian Fishlock, the league chairman, appealed in the media for new clubs to get on board and keep the competition viable.
The three clubs that answered the appeal were Brixham, Ivybridge and Devon Medics, whose applications were rubber stamped by the league annual meeting.
Brixham and Ivybridge are returnees to the league while Devon Medics are making the transition from midweek evening cricket to something a little longer on Sunday afternoons.
The Medics draw players from the NHS in and around Exeter and will be playing home games on Exmouth’s ground.
Mark Davies, the Exmouth chairman, said South Devon League clubs won’t be running into his Premier Division players as there is no tie-up with the Medics.
“As we struggle to get our own players to turn out on a Sunday it will be good to see the ground being used rather than empty,” said Davies.
Brixham’s membership lapsed some years ago. They have returned as part of the rebuilding process that will lead to re-establishing the Saturday 2nd XI, which folded due to lack of players two years ago.
“For our younger players, and those who have become too old for youth cricket, it is the start of league cricket for them,” said George Breyley, the Brixham chairman.
Ivybridge were in the South Devon League as recently as 2018 and have decided to return after pulling out in 2020.
John Sparkes, the Ivybridge chairman, said there was a sound reason for returning to the South Devon League.
“Having just launched a third team we found there were still people being left out on Saturday and we need to make sure we have some cricket for everyone at an appropriate standard,” said Sparkes.
“The league offers a convenient number of fixtures against clubs not too far away and provides a core of Sunday fixtures. By the time we have added a few friendlies, the two Devon T20 cups and the under-19 T20 we will have most Sunday's filled.
“We are not concerned about winning the league or anything like that, but in opportunities for people to play cricket.”
A derby date for Ivybridge to look forward to is their meeting with near neighbours Plympton.
Plympton are old hands at South Devon League cricket, which serves a key function for the club.
“It’s proper Sunday cricket and a chance to get colts playing adult cricket,” said Jon Goulder, the Plympton chairman.
“It is also a chance for parents who have not played for years to play and an opportunity for more senior players who want to play a bit more or need a bit of crease time to play.
“We see the South Devon League as a great opportunity for a real mix of players to play in a relaxed atmosphere!
“And as our numbers keep growing it is a really useful overflow for those who do not make a team on a Saturday.”
The seven teams will play each other once this season and the default match format is 40 overs a side. However, there is leeway in the competition rules for clubs to play fewer overs if that is necessary to get the game on.
Tom Cooper, one of the league’s committeemen, said: “We would prefer games to be 40 overs, but if the captains agree beforehand they can be shortened.”
Cooper and his colleagues had hoped to attract enough new teams to run two divisions of at least four teams playing home and away with end-of-season play-offs between the winners.
“For this season teams will play each other once either home and away, but if more teams enter in future we can look at that again,” said Cooper.