Barnstaple & Pilton have been rocked by the unexpected departure of last season’s leading run scorer on the eve of a new Tolchards DCL D East season.
James Roe scored more than 1,000 runs in all matches for B&P last season, including 794 at an average of nearly 50 in Tolchards DCL and North Devon League matches.
Roe will be playing B Division cricket for Bideford in the season ahead, a decision that has shocked and upset B&P captain Lee Cole.
“James was appointed on to the committee this season and was looking forward to the season ahead,” said Cole.
“He helped bring James Thomas back to the club and had brought some fresh new ideas for the coming season.
“I totally understand James wanting to go and play a better standard of cricket, but to transfer just two weeks before the season starts after attending every pre-season net and organising some pre-season get togethers is frustrating.
“Last season was his first full season in the first team, but I wish him well. Our loss is Bideford’s gain.
“As a club, we will never stand in the way of players wanting to better themselves, which is what James is going to do.”
Barnstaple & Pilton managed to clamber away from the drop zone in the dying days of the 2021 season, which was no mean feat after going six games without a win at the start of the season.
“If we can improve on last season, I will be happy, but once again availability will be an issue,” said Cole.
“Signing James Thomas is a boost, but his availability is limited due to work commitments, as with last season’s top wicket-taker Joe Hastie.
“We also lose Charlie Holm, who has impressed in pre-season, at the end of May, as he is going travelling for two months.”
The season starts this Saturday away at Sampford Peverell & Tiverton.
Bideford make the long trip to Dartington & Totnes to start their B Division campaign.
Tom Brend is the new captain at the Westward Ho! Club, having taken over from Alex Hannam since the end of last season.
Bideford finished just below halfway at the end of last season, but when average points were multiplied out, they were considerably closer to the bottom than the top.
Captain Brend has a shrewd idea of what needs to change if Bideford are going to get up among the promotion challengers.
“Our aim to have a positive campaign and nothing is unachievable if we play to our potential,” said Brend.
“We need to establish some consistency in our play – particularly with the bat, –but with everyone another year older, I feel we’re almost there if a few lads can have big years.”
Although Jack Ford has departed for Sandford and Premier Division cricket, the arrival of James Roe from Barnstaple keeps the balance of the side broadly similar.
“James will come into the side as an off-spinning all-rounder and add strength with bat and ball,” said Brend.
“He made 1,000-plus runs across the piece with B&P last year and felt ready for the step up and challenge.”
South African Clayton Malgas is due to arrive in the UK in time to feature in the game at Dartington & Totnes this Saturday.
He has played regular cricket in the Gauteng Province Premier League and, more recently, in the Northerns Premier League
“Clayton will be an excellent addition to our side both on the pitch with bat and ball as well as off it with his coaching qualifications already in order,” said Brend.
North Devon return to Premier Division cricket after a three-year absence by welcoming Bovey Tracey to Instow on Saturday.
There has been something of a player-churn since North Devon last graced the top flight, which includes Josh King departing for Sandford and coming back again!
King, a former Devon seamer, is mainly looking to play 2nd XI cricket in 2022.
Tom Popham, the North Devon captain, believes the priority for the team is learning how to win close games.
“We have a young side full of potential and we will have to get used to the standard of the Premier quickly,” said Popham.
“If we do that, we can make a really good go of the season and establish ourselves as a Premier Division club again.
“The season we went down we were on the wrong side of some tight losses, so we need to make sure in those situations, we come out of the right side.
“With the experience we have as a side, I think we will handle those tight games much better.”
North Devon’s new overseas player is South African Darren Butler, a left-handed batsman and off break bowler.
“He is 23 years old and plays Premier cricket in South Africa for Rondebosch,” said Popham.
Harry Nicol, who joined North Devon at the latter part of 2021, will start his first full season with the club.
Devon face Herefordshire at Instow on Sunday in a National Counties Cup double header.
The action starts at 11am with the first game of the day and continues with game two at around 2.30pm.
This is the final round of fixtures in Group Two and neither Devon or Herefordshire can qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition.
Devon’s hopes ended when Dorset defeated them twice at North Perrott on Bank Holiday Monday.
North Devon Gazette Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.