Wales in first test for Devon
DEVON have no intention of surrendering the Minor Counties title they won last year without a fight!
That's the crystal-clear message from county captain Chris Bradley ahead of this season's Championship opener against Wales at Exmouth starting on Sunday (11am).
Bovey Tracey spinner Bradley was acting captain when Devon defeated Cambridgeshire last September to win the play-off game against the Eastern Division champions.
Since then the county committee have made Bradley's appointment permanent following the resignation of former captain Neil Hancock.
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Devon were unbeaten last season and while there have been some ins and outs during the winter the spine of the side remains intact.
Bob Dawson and Hancock have both retired, Scott Barlow has moved to Dorset and the Overton twins are required by England U19s and Somerset this summer.
New to the squad are leg-spinning all-rounder Matt Golding, former Somerset and Notts batsman Matt Wood and Bradley's Bovey Tracey team-mate Ryan Bougourd.
Bradley says Devon have the desire to retain the title and anyone trying to take it off them will have a fight on their hands.
"The squad is a tight unit and the will to win it again remains strong," said Bradley.
"Although we have lost some players from last season, we have some quality replacements coming in for the first team, and some decent players who didn't make it this time but are competing for places.
"The good thing for the players coming in is they are joining a squad that is used to winning and high on confidence.
"To win the Western Division you need a bit of luck – if the weather turns against you it can be very hard catching up – but we are definitely up for it and looking to challenge again."
Wood, a former Devon youngster who graduated to the First Class game and scored more than 5,000 runs, is a useful addition to the squad of players.
Bougourd has been a consistent bowler in league cricket for Bovey and has shown his worth in one-day games this season.
Bradninch all-rounder Golding is a bit of a wild card selection, although his record in age-group cricket marked him out as one to watch from an early age.
Said Bradley: "Matt Wood is a top-of-the-range batsman who will be a big asset in our top four. Having him in the side will raise the confidence of the players around him.
"Ryan Bougourd has been doing it for years in the league and when he got a chance in the one-day side he took it. He has many great qualities as a cricketer, the ability to beat both edges of the bat being one of them, and is a the sort of fighter you want alongside you in the trenches.
"Matt Golding turns the ball away from the bat and that's an option you always want to have. Coming in at number eight he will only make our batting line-up stronger."
Devon: J E Burke (Budleigh), R J Woodman (Taunton), R J Holman (Exeter), D F Lye (Exmouth), M J Wood (Plumtree), J J Bess (Sidmouth), M W Thompson (Torquay), M J Golding (Bradninch), T S Anning (Exmouth), C Bradley, R J Bougourd (both Bovey Tracey). 12th: A Buzza (Exmouth).