It’s tight at the top of the Premier

Sidmouth 1st XI cricket: PAIGNTON, precariously perched just above the relegation zone in the Francis Clark Devon League Premier Division, provide the opposition at the Fort Field as Sidmouth strive to consolidate their place at the top of the table tomorrow.

Sidmouth 1st XI cricket: PAIGNTON, precariously perched just above the relegation zone in the Francis Clark Devon League Premier Division, provide the opposition at the Fort Field as Sidmouth strive to consolidate their place at the top of the table tomorrow.

Then, on Sunday, battle is enjoined at the Ottermouth with title rivals Budleigh Salterton for the first of two meetings in six days. Sunday's match is a Devon Senior Cup semi-final with the winners facing either Sandford or Brixham at the County Ground, Exeter, on Sunday, August 24.

A week tomorrow, Sidmouth travel to Budleigh Salterton for what is sure to be a decisive league game between sides who are currently separated by four points.

As Sidmouth strive to prevent Paignton distancing themselves from the danger zone, they will be hoping Sandford, who have been climbing the table relentlessly over the past three weeks, can hamper Budleigh Salterton's challenge for honours.

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With the nights drawing in as the cricket season reaches its climax, the action in league games starts at 1pm.

Although Sidmouth won convincingly in last Saturday's game at North Devon, they saw their lead cut to four points with Budleigh gaining a maximum 20 points against Paignton. Sidmouth came home from Instow with 18, having failed to bowl out their opposition for maximum bonus points.

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But that does not reflect badly on the Sidmouth attack - indeed they emerged with full credit for restricting their hosts to 178-7 on a ground where scores around the 300 mark are common.

A miserly opening spell from Scott Barlow, who sent down his first nine overs for just 13 runs, was the key to this. He got wickets in a second spell to finish with 3-35. Though wicketless, Will Murray was equally economical, despite none of his 15 overs being a maiden.

Louis Talay's spin removed both North Devon openers after they had laboured to 50 in 21 overs. A stand just short of a century for the third wicket frustrated Sidmouth until Barlow returned and struck twice in an over to remove Stuart Rhodes and Mark Overton who had proved obstacles as they both reached half centuries.

Neil Hancock, testing out his recovery from an injury sustained while fielding the previous weekend, nipped in with two wickets as the home middle order disintegrated.

Sidmouth's reply had a scare when Nelson struck twice, Josh Bess and Saj Patidar departing with the score on 111 to Rob Gear. But the run rate was healthy and, although Gear removed Hancock with the score on 135 and Matt Dart added Nick Gingell to the earlier scalp of Anthony Griffiths, Sidmouth reached victory after 34 of their 50 available overs.

Sidmouth 2nd XI netted 18 points from the reciprocal game played at Bicton College after young seamers Zak Bess and Will Gater bagged four wickets each as North Devon were dismissed for 120.

Having reduced the visitors to 47-6, Sidmouth were disappointed to be faced with a three-figure target, but Warren Miller provided stout resistance, making 57 at number four, and found a willing partner in Richard Kelly who put 71 on with him for the seventh wicket. The end of that partnership signalled the last four wickets falling for two runs.

Gater generated considerable swing and two of his wickets came from smart slip catching by Sam Richardson and James Macey.

A sound opening partnership between Simon Sobczak and James Macey saw 51 on the board. Richardson played a captain's innings to reach 45 not out in a winning total of 121-5. Some needlessly sacrificed wickets meant Sidmouth failed to register maximum batting points and had to settle for a haul of 18, which keeps them comfortably at the head of the 2nd XI Premier Division.

Girl power was in evidence in Sidmouth 3rd XI's 'home' game against Abbotskerswell at Halberton, whose ground was hired because the 2nd XI had taken over Bicton College while the Fort Field was given over to FolkWeek parking. Two of Sidmouth's most accomplished players, Graham Munday and Tim Drake, were dismissed in consecutive balls from Jenny Bergman, with Sara Dallyn taking the catch offered by Drake.

These wickets left Sidmouth at a nervous 163-7 as they chased 175 for victory, but veteran Bob Macey, unbeaten with an obdurate 37, guided the side home with two overs to spare and eight wickets down. With solid runs at a brisk rate from James Gingell, Tom Bowring and Graham Bess at the top of the order, a more comfortable chase might have been anticipated.

It was an out-of-sorts performance by Sidmouth against the division's bottom side and only five wickets, two of them to Charlie Miles's off-spin, were taken as the visitors reached 174.

Nevertheless the 17 points gained meant another step up the 2nd XI A Division into fourth place. Tomorrow the 3rd XI travel to promotion-chasing Cornwood, currently one place, but 36 points, ahead of their visitors.

By John Goodwin

Sidmouth 1st XI cricket

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