CRICKET: Belcher on standby for Oxfordshire debut at 15

The Oxford Times: Lloyd Belcher will play if skipper Luke Ryan fails a fitness test Lloyd Belcher will play if skipper Luke Ryan fails a fitness test

Lloyd Belcher is on standby to make his Oxfordshire debut as captain Luke Ryan battles to be fit after a neck spasm.

The 15-year-old Horspath spinner would become Oxon’s youngest player if he features in the Unicorns Counties Western Division clash with Shropshire at Bridgnorth, starting on Sunday.

Ryan woke up with the problem on Sunday and will not play unless he feels properly recovered.

“I can’t really lift my arms above my head without pain,” he said yesterday. “I am struggling a little bit.

“I don’t want to take a risk with it. If I wake up on the second or third day and am not able to move, that wouldn’t be fair on the other players.”

Left-arm spinner Belcher is on Gloucestershire’s books and has already played for Oxfordshire Academy.

If he replaces Ryan, he would break the county record held by Lloyd Sabin, who was 16 years and 26 days old on his debut in 2010.

“Lloyd has done fantastically well this year,” said Ryan.

“We have been keeping an eye on his performances.

“We know he has got a lot of ability and has got a hatful of wickets.

“I watched him bowl for the academy on Wednesday and he had great control.”

One player definitely making his debut is Durham MCCU batsman Hugo Darby, who lives in Oxford.

Darby featured for Oxfordshire Academy last summer and plays for Surrey club Spencer.

Even if Ryan is fit, Oxfordhire will make seven changes, with Sabin, Darby, Chad Keegan, Jamie Perkin, Francois Vainker, Liam Manley and Vishane Perera coming in.

Shabaz Alam, Karl Penhale, Chris Watling, Richard Cook, Alex Davies, Leo Bethell and Jimmy Phillips drop out.

Keegan would captain the side if Ryan is not fit.

Oxon lost their opening matches by ten and nine wickets respectively, but Ryan is targeting a big improvement.

He said: “We have got a much more established spine in the team for this game with the likes of Lloyd Sabin and Chad Keegan coming in.

“We have got a lot more experience for the three-day competition. Hopefully, we can put in a much better performance this time.”

The following Sunday, Oxfordshire host Wiltshire at Bicester & North Oxford CC in the Unicorns Counties Trophy semi-final and Ryan said players could still force their way in to that line-up.

“We have just got to pick the best XI for that game.

“If a player comes in and plays out of their skin in this match, there is nothing to stop them being selected for the semi-final.”

Oxfordshire squad: from Ryan (Banbury, capt), Belcher (Horspath), Cater (Banbury), Darby (Spencer), Kaufman (Old Northamptonians), Keegan (Henley), Manley (Banbury), Perera, Perkin (both Oxford), Rooney (Thame Town), Sabin (Banbury), Vainker (Oxford).

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