Devon Cricket League round-up by Stephen Birley

Axminster took a losing draw from their trip to Barnstaple & Pilton and that finally confirms Danny Larcombe s side as being destined for another year in the B Division next season.

Axminster took a losing draw from their trip to Barnstaple & Pilton and that finally confirms Danny Larcombe's side as being destined for another year in the B Division next season.

With 80 points to play for, they now trail second-placed Heathcoat by 47 points. Gary Larcombe and Nick Taylor both bagged braces as Barum posted a score of 205-6 and then Larcombe hit 30. His brother, the skipper, struck 35 and Paul Miller hit an unbeaten 32 as they closed on 152-7.

Seaton's hopes of promotion took a serious knock with a six-wicket defeat against Kingsbridge after they were once again left ruing the loss of the toss of the coin on yet another day when the midweek and eve-of-match rains meant that the toss took on greater significance.

Mind you, it was also a decision taken by the match umpires that incensed Seaton skipper Mike Wheeler who explained, saying: "I am not one to moan and whinge, but I could not comprehend the fact that the umpires sent us back out after that heavy deluge. What we got was a surface that no one could stand up on, let alone contest a cricket match. The statistics show that prior to the rain break Kingsbridge were something like 40-4 at a laboured two runs an over and when we came back they walloped 60 in six. We just could not get any control with a soggy ball on a pudding of a pitch."

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Batting first in difficult conditions Seaton could only muster 107 with David Cottam (24) the only batsmen to make any impression. The hosts, after that mid-innings break for rain, eventually reached their target for the loss of four wickets. Mike Wheeler's side are now 38 points off second-placed Kingsbridge and, with just 80 points left to play for, it adds even greater importance to this Saturday's meeting with leaders Clyst Hydon, a contest that now takes on the mantel of 'must win'.

Ian Hunt had a fine game for the club's 2nd XI, first taking 6-28 as hosts Cullompton made 124 and then hitting 53. Peter Anderson chipped in with 23 as Seaton claimed a seven-wicket win.

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If promotion is looking less and less likely at Seaton, relegation is very much on the minds of those at Kilmington as they have slipped to just one place and five points above the drop zone.

They were beaten by Feniton and Chagford picked up 10 more points with a draw against Tiverton and Bickleigh. Again this contest was one determined by the toss of the coin. Ian Gooding called incorrectly, his side were invited to bat struggled throughout before being bundled out for 91. Jonathan Pyle (5-19), Russ Whitton (2-31) and Stuart Bright (2-9) exploited the conditions and then Graham Tucker hit an unbeaten 25 and Brian Cann chipped in with 23 to see Feniton to the win which takes the Station Road outfit 19 points clear of the relegation berths.

Gooding's side can go a long way towards securing their status in the Division this coming weekend when they travel to meet the side who sit between them and a berth in the relegation zone, Chagford. At the very least Kilmington need to avoid defeat. Feniton can strengthen their bid for a top four finish with a home win over 'doomed' Babbacombe.

Ottery St Mary continue to make serious moves towards the promotion berths in D Division and they claimed a massive scalp on Saturday, beating the side who started the day's play in second spot, Bridestowe.

The game, at Salston Field, served up a real thriller, the home side winning by a single wicket thanks to an unbeaten 42 from number eight bat Matt Kirk.

Earlier Richard Crabb and Robert Bradshaw-Smith both took three wicket hauls as the visitors were bowled out for 169 and then, after skipper John Tierney had scored 32, Kirk came to the rescue as the tail wagged and Ottery claimed a huge win.

It's an East Devon derby next with the visit of Whimple and that is followed by games with Dawlish at home, and both Uplyme and Thorverton away and if the current form continues to the end of the month then the Otters may well be preparing this winter for life in the C Division.

Uplyme and Lyme Regis saw their home game with leaders Dartington washed out by a downpour just as the contest was looking like running to an interesting conclusion. Adam Caddy (77), Phil Norris (40) and Tim Daniel (18) hit the lion's share of the home side's 180.

The visitors' reply was on 68-1, Steve Batey having removed the one batsmen to fall, helped by a smart Adam Caddy catch at backward point, when the heavens opened and the game was abandoned. This weekend it's the long trip to Bridestowe where a win will see Caddy's side maintain a place amongst the promotion-chasing patch.

Honiton just about remain on the fringes of the E Division promotion race after a 61 run win at Mountbatten Park over Lustleigh.

Skipper Pete Matravers led by example, cracking a majestic 83 and such was his dominance of the pre-tea session that the next best with the bat from his team mates was an unbeaten 11 from Andy Brinsford. Honiton closed on 156-9. Post tea it was the Honiton bowlers who took centre stage, Andy Brinsford sending down nine overs, seven of which were maidens and he took one wicket for just two runs. The serious damage was inflicted by the pairing of Phil Tansley (5-28) and Kevin Kelly (4-52) as Lustleigh were bowled out for 95. With just four games and 80 points to play for, promotion looks highly unlikely for Matravers and his men, but what a different table we might have if Honiton had not had five of their games washed out this term.

On Saturday, Honiton are at home again as they host Halberton. For the winners there will remain mathematical hope of promotion, but for the losers it will confirm E Division status for another season .

Upottery travelled to Shaldon knowing that if they could bank seven points then they would seal the G Division top honour no matter what happened in the game at Yarcombe where Topsham St James were the visitors.

As it happened, on a 'pudding' of a surface, they slumped to defeat and indeed banked just five points. However, news came in of a surprise first defeat for Yarcombe and the title was the villagers' to celebrate!

Stuart 'Willow' Drew was another skipper to lead by example as he took 5-33 leaving hosts Shaldon all out for a miserly 104. But Drew's batsmen found the conditions just as tough to bat in as they were humbled for 97. Shamus Machin (46) apart, none of the visitors' batsmen could make any impression and that meant, with five points banked, there was an anxious wait to see if Yarcombe could apply pressure before the two sides meet this Saturday in the final game.

Saturday's game at home to Yarcombe is now 'meaningless' for the home side, but a must win scenario for the visitors.

The Upottery 'slip' on the South Devon coast was just what Yarcombe & Stockland wanted to happen but they failed miserably in their bid to bank a big haul of points in their game against Topsham St James and the defeat may yet make a very serious dent in their promotion hopes.

In Saturday's final games of the season, Yarcombe have to travel to champions Upottery whilst St James host Newton St Cyres and the sides will go into those final games with just eight points separating Yarcombe from St James.

Batting first, Topsham St James were led to an imposing 274-9 thanks to some hard hitting by the late and middle order. Ollie Devon cracked a 50 ball 72. Jonny Horne was equally aggressive with a 34 ball stay at the crease that saw him register 55, Sunkara bludgeoned 36 from 17 balls and Ross Treleavan hit 30 from just 13 balls. Richard Reed was the most successful bowler with 3-45 in 10 overs. The home reply saw no one get to grips with some fine all-round bowling.

Reed completed a fine personal all round effort with 32 but it was the father and son combination of Dad Richard Horne with 4-18 in 12.2 tidy overs and son Nick, who claimed 2-13 in 8, that helped finish the hosts off on 126 after 38.2 overs. The promotion issue will not be settled until the final day of the campaign.

There's an old saying 'Leave the best till last,' and that is certainly what Fenton Day and his Chardstock side did. They had not won any of their previous 13 games but the 14th, and penultimate, outing saw a change in fortunes.

Mind you it was very much a 'one man show' which helped them to the win as Robert Hutchings dominated the contest with both bat and ball. Hutchings hit a magnificent 115 in a total of 202-9. Paul Reynolds chipped in with 33 and then Hutchings sent down 13 excellent overs and returned figures of 5-38. Reynolds also completed a fine all round effort with both bat and ball as he took three wickets.

Chardstock ended their away League campaign on a real high with the final home wicket being taken by some smart fielding that effected a run out to force a two run win.

Uplyme II beat Upottery II by 119 runs. Dave Norman opened the home innings and made the most of 'three lives'. He was dropped each time and went on to score 126. Other runs came from Mark Brimmacombe (30), Will Blackmore (22) as Fred Drew took 4-56.

But Upottery struggled with the bat. Ian Drew top scored with 32, Leo Jefferson hit 22 whilst Ollie Borget (3-17), Mike Holding (3-31) and Alistair Rattenbury (2-27) took the wickets as the reply closed on 121.

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