Perched on top of league

Sidmouth face league and cup double header weekend

SIDMOUTH begin the second half of the Francis Clark Devon League season perched on top of the premier division and facing a trip to their nearest challengers, North Devon.

Tomorrow’s trip to Instow, which has one of the most batsman-friendly pitches on the circuit, provides the visitors with a chance to put distance between themselves and the chasing pack as they bid for a hat-trick of titles.

They will have taken heart from last Saturday’s victory over Plympton to bounce back from their first defeat for two years. The margin, seven wickets with 10 overs to spare, is deceptive because Sidmouth had to deal with one of the most hostile attacks seen at the Fort Field for several years as they looked to make 146 for victory.

Sarmad Anwar’s first delivery was pitched up and Josh Bess drove it for four. From then on he mostly kept the batsmen on the back foot. It meant evasive action was regularly needed, but the bounce of the Fort Field pitch meant there was little chance of the stumps being rattled.

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One delivery did rattle Anthony Griffiths’ rib cage, but it did not disturb his concentration and he hit the winning boundary to reach a half century.

Not much slower than Anwar was Lewis Gregory, who produced a yorker to remove Bess lbw and end an opening stand at 37.

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Nick Gingell made the most of respite from pace to strike sixes off Keith Donohue and Dave Wrench on his way to 39. He miscued a pull to depart at 96 and Neil Hancock followed at 115, but Hilton Cartwright joined Griffiths to blunt the Plympton pacemen and see Sidmouth home.

That the home side faced such a meagre total was down to moments of inspired fielding to back up competent bowling.

The most spectacular catch came from Saj Patidar, fielding to Matt Cooke’s bowling on the deep mid wicket boundary after holding a stinger at second slip off Bess.

James Carr, who in the space of three runs had survived two dropped chances, launched a big hit that seemed destined for six. Patidar, having misjudged the trajectory, stuck up a right hand in hope, the ball stuck and he tumbled backwards losing glasses and hat, but not ball, as his head hit the ground. A quick check to ensure he was inside the boundary was the cue for celebrations and applause all around the ground.

Carr was eighth man out at 118, having made 37 and, although Cooke was to strike again five runs later, an irritating last wicket stand between Donohue and Anwar added 23, with the Pakistani’s sliced drives causing Cooke plenty of difficulty at third man. One spun round him for four and another fell from his hands when holding it would have ended the innings.

Anwar was able to get the full face of the bat on a Cooke delivery shortly after, but only to send the ball into the hands of Hancock.

Earlier, seamer Adam Dibble had engineered the dismissal of Plympton’s second top scorer, Duncan Hefford, who made most of Plympton’s early runs. He had made 30 of the 45 on the board when Dibble placed Simon Sobczak at short leg and came round the wicket. Hefford obliged by planting the ball into Sobczak’s hands.

Taking over from Dibble, whose spell was ended by age-related bowling restrictions, Will Murray struck in the next over and, with Bess getting his second wicket promptly afterwards, Sidmouth were through Plympton’s top order with the total only 55. A sixth wicket stand of 55 was ended by Cooke taking his first victim in an analysis of 4-15. Bess and Dibble both took 2-39 and Murray 2-32.

After their trip to North Devon tomorrow, Sidmouth travel again on Sunday for a third round Devon cup tie with Bovey Tracey.

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