A PROMISING schoolboy cricketer from West Devon has returned from a sporting tour of South Africa with renewed confidence.

Alex Shutt, 14, seized the opportunity of a lifetime to emulate his cricketing heroes by playing for the Devon County U-15 team.

He has benefited from the experience by playing abroad (paving the way for a possible professional future) and vowing to concentrate more on his bowling technique.

The tour has also prompted him to start to build up his physique to help his bowling, while his experiences during the overseas games has also reinforced his need to overcome any emotional doubts on the field.

The Walkhampton teenager and his young squad did have a disappointing start on the long-awaited trip.

They were due to play in the exotic surroundings of famous batsman Kevin Pietersen’s own cricket ground in Kruger National Park, with the prospect of seeing wildlife at close quarters.

However, rain had its own part to play, Alex explained: ‘We’d been looking forward to this for so long and in the end it was wetter than back home. We had to walk over a flooded river bridge instead of going by car and carried our own kit which weighed 25kg. In the end we couldn’t play because the pitches were waterlogged and only had a bit of nets practice. It was very disappointing.’

He did, however, learn about big game conservation and anti-poaching at a rhino conservation area and said the visit was a good team building exercise.

Alex qualified for the development tour through assessment trials which ensured he was still good enough to play for the county.

He was joined by his parents Chris and Sarah, who played a small role scoring and supporting on the side.

Chris said: ‘Overall the tour didn’t play as much cricket as was planned. But Alex has come back thinking more about his bowling technique and how to deal with frustration on the field. He has now learned not to let that get to him and how to channel it positively.’

Alex, a specialist opening fast bowler for his home team of Yelverton Bohemians (since he was seven) said: ‘I’m keen to be a professional cricketer and playing abroad is an important part of that, so it was good experience.

‘Also to play on different pitches in this country. I’ve realised also, what it will take to play at the next level.’

When the touring side moved onto Cape Town, to play Western Province teams, the Tavistock College student said he was pleased with his bowling and scoring figures, topped off with seeing Table Mountain in the background.

He also visited Boulder Beach with its famed peguins and Cape Point.

Despite some setbacks, Alex enjoyed every minute of this once-in-a-lifetime trip and the friendships he made.