Exmouth’s team-strengthening programme has continued with the return of Devon batsman Dan Pyle from Heathcoat to the Maer Ground, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.
Pyle, 24, stepped up to Premier cricket with Exmouth in 2015 and was a member of the T20 side that went all the way to the final of the NatWestT20 competition, where they lost to Ealing in a day-night affair in Cardiff.
Previously, Pyle had learned his cricket with Shobrooke Park and at Blundell’s School, where he was captain of the 1st XI.
Pyle left Exmouth for Heathcoat at the end of the 2018 season having scored nearly 1,700 runs in league and cup competitions at an average of just under 30. There were two Premier Division tons – the best 135 off 112 balls with 88 in boundaries against visiting North Devon in 2018.
Although Heathcoat won the Tolchards Devon League Premier Division in 2019, something they had never done before, Pyle had a modest season with the bat for his new club. He averaged less than 20.
Tim Piper, the new Exmouth captain, has had Pyle in his sights for a while and said he was delighted to have nailed him down for 2021.
“Dan was top of my hit list this year and is a great lad to have back on board at Exmouth as everyone knows how good he is as a batsman,” said Piper, who has taken over from Andy Buzza. “Everyone is real happy he is back.”
Pyle is definitely pleased to be back at Exmouth, where he hopes to recapture the sort of form that earned him a place in the Devon side.
“Heathcoat is a great club – the support at home games from spectators is fantastic – but I have not played to the standard I would have liked,” said Pyle.
“It was good being part of the scene when we won the Premier Division in 2019, even though I did not play in all the games.
“This season I am not sure how many games I am going to play as my missus is in Denmark and I am going over there to see her for a month.
“While I was at Exmouth I had some great times, made good friends – Baggs, Dawson, Lye – and enjoyed success on the field. I hope I can start enjoying my cricket again playing there.”
Pyle joins seamer Rikki Kelly (ex-North Devon) and all-rounder Tom Bath (Alphington & Countess Wear) who were already confirmed as new signings for the summer ahead.
Devansh Popley and Hugo Hammond have also committed to Exmouth, at least until the academic year ends in June.
Keeper-batter Popley was at the University of Exeter last year and commutes from his home in India to this county to study. He is currently at university in London.
“He came to us through Andrew Buzza and is travelling down to play for us,” said Piper.
“We don’t know much about him, but he is a decent top/middle-order batsman and we are keen to see him play.”
Popley’s CV includes time at the Gary Kirsten Academy in South Africa as well as tournament time in the UAE and India.
Hammond is the brother of Alex Hammond, who featured for Exmouth back in 2019. At the time he was a member of the England Physical Disability squad.
Hugo, who ‘home’ club is Hartley Whitney in Hampshire, has also represented the England PD side. He is a keeper-batsman who joined Hartley Whitney from Alton during the 2019 season and announced his arrival with a Southern Premier League ton against Waterlooville.
Piper has other irons in the fire on the signing front, including a Aussie all-rounder.
“He bats and bowls in first-grade cricket and I am talking to him at the moment,” said Piper.
“We weren’t going to get an overseas player, but he wants to come over self-funded, so we’re seeing what we can do.”
Piper said no one at Exmouth is being paid to play and that he is happy with how the squad is shaping up.
“No one is playing for money and therefore everyone is here for the right reasons,” said Piper.
“At the moment it looks like we’re going to have 11 proper cricketers every weekend, all with their own role. That’ll give us half a chance.
“As a club there is a lot of depth and whatever happens, we’re all really looking forward to a competitive season together. It should be a lot of fun.”