Three young cricketers from North Devon have been selected for the trip of a lifetime to South Africa next year – if it goes ahead.
North Devon CC duo Will Popham and Rohan Cross, together with Bideford’s Julian Hayter, are in the Devon Development squad due to tour South Africa in February.
Popham – the cousin of North Devon 1st XI captain Tom Popham – bowls left-arm over and bats. Cross bats up the order and bowls medium pace. Hayter is a keeper-batter.
Since 2002 the Devon Cricket Board has been selecting a squad of 14 or 15 year olds to spend two weeks in South Africa, where they play school, district and provincial sides, firstly in the Kruger National Park before moving on to Cape Town.
Devon age-group coach Alan Swift ran the tour until 2015 when ill health forced him to step back.
The tour is booked for mid-February 2021, although whether it takes place or not will depend on Government guidelines at the time, or any international travel restrictions imposed by South Africa.
Standby arrangements are in place to go in October 2021 if the tour is postponed.
The tour is regarded as a stepping-stone for Devon’s young cricketers towards the adult game. Most get as far as club first teams, but for a handful it is preparation for a professional career in cricket.
Previous tourists have included future England players Dom Bess, Craig Overton and Lewis Gregory. Additionally, Ryan Stevenson, Ollie Sale, Ben Green, Jamie Overton, Adam Dibble, James Burke and Tom Lammonby have all gone into the professional ranks.
The Overton twins, who were nurtured by North Devon CC, toured in 2009 along with Instow team-mate Max Curtis.
Paul Heard toured with Devon in 2010 when he was a young bowler learning the ropes with North Devon CC. If the tour goes ahead he will be returning as a newly qualified level three ECB coach.
North Devon chairman Mark Ansell is a huge enthusiast for the South Africa trip, so much so he has been on eight of them, either as a parent (twice), scorer or treasurer – and for four years up to 2019 as tour manager.
Ansell said he had been lucky enough to see from close range the benefits for Devon’s young cricketers of playing talented opponents in different conditions.
“As a manager of the tour it has been a wonderful privilege to see how much some of the boys grow in confidence as players and people over those two weeks,” said Ansell.
“It is an incredible and unique opportunity for talented 15 year olds to develop and grow – both as cricketers and young men.
“At no other time will they get two weeks playing so much good cricket as a team, sharing experiences, learning and seeing new things, in two incredible places - the Kruger and Cape Town.”
Bideford youngster Hayter will be following in the footsteps of older brother James, who toured South Africa with Devon in 2019.
Other past Bideford tourists include Jack Ford and the Hannam brothers, Ollie and current 1st XI captain Alex Hannam.
Skipper Hannam said the tour will be an eye-opening experience for Hayter.
“I think Julian will learn a lot about the longer format of the game and also being away on tour for two weeks will develop his off-field skills massively,” said Hannam.
The full tour party is: Harry Southgate (Sampford Peverell & Tiverton), Fin Hill (Exeter), George Tapley (Ipplepen), Harry Mount (Chagford), Harry Williams (Exeter), Surya Suresh (Plympton), Otty Yip (South Devon), Ben Kay (Bovey Tracey), Jon Triner (Ottery SM), Morgan Couch (Shaldon), Jed Finley (Kentisbeare), Rohan Cross (North Devon), Julian Hayter (Bideford), Will Popham (North Devon)