Coach Paul Heard talks tactics with the team before the start of a match<br>credit: Nigel Ashplant

THE 20th Devon under-15 development squad tour to South Africa had to contend with injury, illness and weather problems almost unheard of during previous trips.

Bad weather plagued the programme and washed out one of the two-day fixtures and a combination of illness and injury left Devon struggling for bowling options during the latter stages of the tour.

The tour opened with a practice day at Skukuza CC in Kruger National Park where the players were put through an intense session by coaches Jack Bradbury and Paul Heard to prepare them for the hot, humid conditions normally found there.

Match action commenced the following day with a 50-over game against the Johan Rudolph Academy XI run by the father of ex-South Africa, Yorkshire, Glamorgan and Paignton CC batter Jacques Rudolph.

Against the backdrop of a thunderstorm warning, Devon skipper Jack Whittaker won the toss and opted to bat first. At 17 for two Whittaker (26) and Teddy Haffenden (34) grafted to recover the position.  Their partnership of 61 was to be the highest of the innings. 

Jake Pascoe on his way to a half century for Devon in the day-night game against Bergvlient High School At 92 for three with nearly 20 overs to bat, a challenging score was still possible. However there was only one significant partnership to come. Harry Passenger (22) and Noah Carlisle (18no) put on 42, but the last seven wickets fell for 59 runs, and only 48.2 overs used.

The Academy XI batted sensibly in reply, knowing they only needed a shade above three runs an over. The promised thunderstorm arrived, and when it had cleared Duckworth-Lewis System had revised the target to 131 from 40 overs. Despite tight bowling from off-spinner Passenger, 3-24 from his 8 overs and seamer Matt Jeacock (2-22) the target was reached with one ball to spare, and five wickets in hand.

Heavy rain over the next three days meant that the scheduled two-day game against Nelspruit High School, for the Battle of the Kruger Trophy, was abandoned without a ball bowled. Devon claimed the trophy by dint of being the current holders.

A two-hour flight down to Cape Town followed, for the second leg of the tour. The first game was a 40-over, day-night fixture against Bergvleit High School. Playing under floodlights was a first for all the Devon players.

Devon again lost early wickets. Pascoe was the rock, scoring 62. He found an able partner in Ed Butler (30), as the pair added 64 together, setting the side up at 143 for three with 10 overs to go. There was to be a repeat of the collapse in the first game, as the final seven wickets fell for only 27 and the innings ended on 170.

The High School response was aided by some ill-disciplined bowling early on, from which Devon never recovered. The School cruised home by seven wickets, hitting a six to win the game with 4.3 overs to spare.

To add to the disappointment of losing, pace bowlers Ed Butler (back) and Will Warren (muscle) came out of the game injured. Butler was unable to bowl again on tour, and Will was restricted to a short run. To make matters even worse, Passenger suffered a leg injury fielding and was unable to take the field again until the final game. A visit to the South African National Team coach worked wonders for his recovery.

Rondebosch CC hosted the next fixture against Newlands Cricket Academy. With players unavailable through injury, and Jeacock unwell, Devon were relieved hear the Academy side only had 10 players due to Western Province staging a trials day for some of their team.

At 33 for three with Haffenden, Holifield and Rider already back in the pavilion, Jake Pascoe took on his now familiar role of gluing the middle order together. Zach Dunn (73 from 88 balls) was his ally in a partnership of 95 before Pascoe was bowled for 67. This brought Jack Whittaker to the crease. He put on 65 with Dunn before Dunn departed. This only brought in the belligerent Lawrence Walker who was merciless taking 89 not out from 49 balls with eight fours and four sixes. The final total of 320 for five included an unbeaten partnership of 129 between Whittaker (48no) and Walker.

The Devon Development squad pose on the outfield at Newlands for a squad picture during the second-leg of their tour to South Africa. Back (left to right): Jacob Kopparambil, Jake Pascoe, Alec Holifield, Will Warren, Noah Rider, Eddie Butler, Noah Carlisle; front: Teddy Haffenden, Zach Dunn, Lawrence Walker, Jack Whittaker, Harry Passenger, Matt Jeacock, James TylerThe bowlers took over where the batters had left off, with leg-spinners Jacob Kopparambil bagging 3-25 and Teddy Haffenden 3-0 as the Newlands boys were bundled out for 86, giving the tourists a massive 234-run win. Alec Holifield and James Tyler bowled well at the top of the innings. A clinical performance and much needed for morale, given previous defeats and injury and illness woes.

There was a spring in the step, as the team moved on to Western Province Cricket Club for their two-day game. Billed as Western Province U14s, Devon in fact faced the Development team from Khayelitsha Township, where great effort are being made to develop young cricketers.

The young township boys elected to bat first. At 99 for eight they were in danger of being overwhelmed. A partnership of 107 between 13 year olds Dube (87) and Pato (38) saw the total up to a respectable 211 in 78 overs. Both looked players with a future in the game.

The wickets were shared around. Tyler (2-20) was again impressive. Holifield (1-26) and Kopparambil (1-26) were frugal. Rider took 2-60 from 15 overs.

Pascoe and Carlisle batted out the day, with little alarm. On day two they took the score to 98 before Pascoe (58) was dismissed for another well-crafted half-century. There was no respite as Lawrence Walker in confident mood plundered another 76 runs along with Carlisle (56), who booked in his first county half-century..

Whittaker joined Walker and the carnage continued. 111 more runs were added before Walker was dismissed for an imperious 123. He faced 135 balls and hit 13 fours and four sixes.

Whittaker reached 52no before the declaration came at 351 for five with the intention of giving the bowlers enough time to bowl the opposition out. The bowlers did not miss the opportunity. Spinners Kopparambil (4-18) and Rider (3-20) were the destroyers as the opposition subsided to 99 all out 26.4 overs. Dube again top scored with 20.

The early finish meant the two teams could watch the Cape Cobras play at Newlamds. There were three ex Devon League players in the Cobras line up. Kyle Verreynne (North Devon), Zubyar Hamza (Paignton), Aviwi Mgijima (Sidmouth). Jason Smith (North Devon) was 12thman.

The final game of the tour is always the toughest. Western Province put out an under-15 side, and the tourists have never beaten them. At the picturesque Vineyard Oval Devon won the toss and decided to bat first. An opening partnership of 34 between Pascoe (12) and Holifield (20) gave rise to some optimism. This, however, proved to be the biggest partnership of the innings. Whittaker with 25 in the middle order and a battling 31 from Teddy Haffenden at number 10 were the only other scores of note as the innings subsided to 162 all out in 48.2 overs.

The Province boys were ruthless in their reply. Opener Bowers putting the result beyond doubt with a classy 64, ably assisted by Lategan who scored 49 not out. Tyler capped a successful tour with two wickets.

Nigel Ashplant, the team manager on tour, said the trip was tough but there were learning lessons along the way.

“Overall it was a tour with its ups and downs, but one that provided experiences both on and off the field which will stand all the players in good stead in the future,” said Ashplant.

“It was disappointing to lose two days of cricket on a short tour, but it gave the opportunity to see more of the wild life, an extra day on the golf course, and a visit to the Rhino sanctuary to see, and scratch the backs of orphaned rhinos, whose mothers had been victims of poaching.

“This tour gives players the opportunity to experience different playing conditions and different game formats against a variety of opposition.

“Personnel may change but the good news is the tour will continue as plans are already in place for 2021.”

Ashplant paid tribute to tour manager Mark Ansell, who is standing down after six years as administrator, trip treasurer and match-day scorer.

“Mark took on the considerable responsibility of organising the tour when Alan Swift, the founder, stepped down,” said Ashplant.

“As a small token of their appreciation the players presented a signed shirt to Mark. There are hundreds of Devon cricketers who have much to thank Mark, and Alan previously, for. “

Devon 151 (J Whittaker 34, T Haffenden 26, H Passenger 22; T Pearson 3-14), Johan Rudolph Academy 131-5 (D van Royen 37; H Passenger 3-24). Rudolph Academy bt Devon by 5 wkts using DLS.

Nelspruit HS v Devon. No play rain.

Devon 170 (J Pascoe 62, E Butler 35; J Williams 3-15), Bergvliet HS 176-3 (J Wareley 49, A Plaaatjes 53; N Rider 2-22). Bergvliet HS bt Devon by 7 wkts.

Devon 320-5 (L Walker 89, Z Dunn 73, J Pascoe 67, J Whittaker 48l M Mthishwa 4-68), Newlands Cricket School 86 (D Skota 30; J Kopparambil 3-25, T Haffenden 3-0). Devon bt Newlands CS by 234 runs.

Western Province U14s 211 (M Dube 87; J Tyler 2-20) & 99 (J Kopparambil 4-18, N Rider 3-20), Devon 351-5 dec (L Walker 123, J Pascoe 58, N Carlisle 56, J Whittaker 52). Devon bt Western Province U14s by an innings and 41 runs.

Devon 162 (J Whittaker 25; D Simons 3-30), Western Province U15s 165-3 (K Bowers 64, D Iategan 49no; J Tyler 2-31). Western Province bt Devon by 7 wkts.

The view from the boundary during Devon's day-night game against Bergvlient High School