Ben Privett, who will debut for Devon's T20 side against Cornwall<br>credit: Conrad Sutcliffe - no re-use without copyright owner's consent


DEVON and Cornwall meet at St Just on Sunday in a white-ball double-header that gets the new-look National Counties T20 Competition under way.

Cornwall reached last season’s final, where they lost by four runs to Staffordshire, by winning one of four five-team groups to go straight to semi-finals and finals day at Tring CC in Hertfordshire.

The new format is five groups of four teams with an extra round added. The winners and runners up of the five groups progress to the play-off, along with the two third-placed teams with the best record. Competition organisers are calling it the ‘Super-12s’ play-off. The four winners go through to finals day at Tring CC on Sunday, May 26.

Cornwall got the better of Devon twice over last season at the same group stage of the competition. Both squads are dramatically different this time round.

There are three totally new faces in Devon’s travelling party: Connor Gilbert, Charlie Sharland and George Addy. All have connections to the University of Exeter, where cricket is under the management of former Somerset and Devon batsman Alex Barrow.

Dave Tall, who runs the playing side of the county club, said he wanted to have an early look at three players who had either been recommended to Devon or had asked to be considered.

“George Addy – a mystery spinner – is playing for Sidmouth this season and was recommended by Alex Barrow,” said Tall.

“Connor spent our winter in Australia playing in the same team as Kazi Szymanski and showed an interest in playing for us. He is an opening bowler, which is an area we don’t have much cover in should Kazi get injured.

“Charlie Sharland is an opening batsman, again recommended to us by Alex Barrow.”

Among the other first-timers playing against Cornwall are all-rounder Ben Privett, who finished last season in the three-day team and was Devon's young player of the year, and batter Lawrence Walker, who has been part of the Lions Development programme.

Only a handful of players survive from the Devon squad that met Cornwall at Cornwood at the same stage of last season’s competition. Tall said it would be wrong to read too much into that.Lawrence Walker – first call-up for Devon

“There are very few chances to see possible players under real match conditions to see how they react under pressure,” said Tall. “If that costs us, so be it.

“Although we go out looking to win every match, I see the T20 tournament as preparation for 50-over cricket later in the season, which we are better at.

“Three years ago we were picking from 13 or 14 – and sometimes finding it difficult to get the eleventh (player).

“Things have changed dramatically as we now have a pool of 19-20 players, which is a far healthier position to be in.”

Devon have omitted left-arm spinner Max Shepherd from their squad for what Tall described as purely practical reasons.

“We know what Max can do,” said Tall. “Leaving Max out allows us to look at other spin bowlers to see what they can do?” 

The Cornwall side has five changes from the one that lost to Staffordshire in last season’s final. Among the newcomers is former Kent batsman Alex Blake, who debuted later in the season in red-ball cricket.

Blake, 35, had 17 seasons on the staff at Canterbury, where he was predominantly a white-ball regular from 2019 onwards. Cornwall hope no professional counties will approach him this season to resume his T20 and List A career.

Callum Wilson, an opening bowler, has made himself available after a sabbatical of a couple of seasons, but only for white-ball cricket.

Also back is former Cornwall captain Matt Robbins, who will add some depth to the batting.

Godfrey Furse, the Cornwall team manager, has a different outlook to Tall on the significance of the competition.

“If we play to our full potential, we have a team capable of winning the competition,” said Furse.

Cornwall: P S Smith, A J Blake, M M Tryfonos, W A MacVicar, B A Ellis, A W Bone, E A F Whitford, K J T Roberts, A Snowdon, C J Wilson, M L Robbins.

Devon (from): J D Horler, C J Haggett, B A Beaumont, E H Hamilton, S O Read, W R Christophers, W B Szymanski, L S Walker, B H Privett, C A R Gilbert, C M Sharland, G J Addy.