Devon batsman Ben Beaumont receiving the young player of the year award, a bat donated by England cricketer Moeen Ali, from Devon CCC president Jack Davey<br>credit: Conrad Sutcliffe - no re-use without copyright owner's consent

DEVON opener James Horler believes team boss Dave Tall deserves a ‘huge amount of credit’ for turning round the county’s fortunes in a short space of time.

Devon finished bottom of Western Division Two in 2021 with just one win to their name at the start of a rebuilding process.

Two years and one promotion later Devon are West Division One champions and about to play East counterparts Buckinghamshire in the Durant Cricket National Counties play-off game. The last time the two counties met in 2006 Devon defeated Bucks in a three-day final at Exmouth CC.

James HorlerHorler, together with Elliot Hamilton, Ben Beaumont and Kazi Szymanski, was one of the Young Turks that Tall invested time and effort in to develop them as National Counties cricketers.

Tall felt with senior players such as Matt Thompson, skipper Jamie Stephens and professional Calum Haggett to guide them his young guns would prove quick learners.

Horler said although there were times when things did not go to plan, Tall’s loyalty to the players has paid off

“A huge amount of credit should go to Dave, who has taken the side from bottom of Division Two, to winning Division Two then winning Division One in three years,” said Horler.

“Dave, Matt Thompson, Jamie and Cal put a huge amount of faith in a lot of young players, when it was argued there were plenty of other players who should be looked at. 

“Dave stuck by us and allowed the team to develop and grow. For that he deserves a huge amount of credit.”

Tall said although his strategy of looking for long-term gains rather than short-term success attracted some criticism from the Devon cricket community, he never doubted it would pay-off.

“When I was appointed five years ago we used about 30 different players during the season and I said to Neil Gamble, our chairman, that we were never going to win anything using that many players,” said Tall.

“Three years ago, we identified the players who we thought had potential but also with a mixture of experienced players like Matt Thompson, Jamie Stephens and Calum Haggett. 

“They all bought into what we were looking to do. The first year it was a case of rabbits in headlights but now, when I think how far we have come in two years, I am lost for words. 

“I copped a fair bit of criticism three years ago, not from our committee or our lads, just general comments. 

“There was a genuine case for leaving players out but that would have defeated the object of the exercise if we had started chopping and changing. 

“People come in and start thinking: ‘if I don’t get runs or wickets, am I going to play the next game?’ 

“The loyalty helped the lads to feel comfortable and at ease and that’s possibly been a contributory factor. 

“Last year we used only 16 players in winning the Second Division and it’s been the same number again this year. 

“When you have that core that you can rely on and depend upon and who are improving then you have got a chance.”

End-of-season finals inevitable pose selection difficulties for amateur sides whose players have full-time careers to concentrate on.

With Thompson unavailable due to a long-booked holiday overseas, Devon had a batting gap to fill at the top of the order.

Tall plumped for Cornwood opener Max Finzel as Thompson’s replacement on the strength of his league form and an impressive knock of 43 for Devon against Somerset in the showcase game at Bovey Tracey in July.

Said Finzel: “It's a pleasure to have been asked to play. 

“I'll enjoy playing alongside two Cornwood lads (Ben Beaumont and Matt Skeemer) and the rest of the team. 

“I hope I can contribute towards a positive result.”

The Durant Cricket National Counties Championship final between Devon and Buckinghamshire is being played over four days at West Bromwich Dartmouth CC, Oldbury from Sunday, September 3 to Wednesday, September 6. Start time daily is 10.30am.Devon president Jack Davey hands Elliot Hamilton his county cap during the game against Herefordshire at Sidmouth