Sidmouth bid for fourth Premier title

SIDMOUTH Cricket Club begin their quest for a fourth successive Francis Clark Devon Premier League championship at Bradninch tomorrow expecting a much tougher season.

While the Fort Field club’s strength has peaked over the past couple of years, the overall strength of the league has waned, but things appear to be changing.

Traditionally strong, Exmouth return to the top division after two years with renewed vigour and purpose.

North Devon remain formidable and Bovey Tracey are sure to play to potential soon, while Plympton and Plymouth have individuals who can turn games.

Budleigh Salterton, the only conquerors of Sidmouth last season, cannot be discounted and the recruitment of former Sidmouth player Scott Barlow will certainly add spice to the meetings with Sidmouth.

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During pre-season friendlies, Sidmouth have claimed the scalps of two Western League premier division sides, Bath and Taunton Deane, but lost narrowly to Cornwall side Werrington.

Sunday matches, when the side has been shorn of players on representative duty, have seen some heavy defeats sustained against Beddington and Butleigh.

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There have been some good individual batting performances, but a certain fragility has often been apparent.

When fully fit, the 1st XI attack is a handful, but question marks remain over who will fill the gaps if injury or unavailability occurs.

Taunton Deane became Sidmouth’s second Western League victims on Saturday with Will Gater starring.

With 56 of his 73 not out coming in boundaries, Gater provided Sidmouth with an innings to quickly calm the nerves after his side had initially stumbled towards a modest victory target.

The Taunton side had been restricted to 162-8 in their 40 overs at the Fort Field but, when the home side's reply stood at 93-5, the visitors' total had gained some magnitude.

With Matt Cooke including three crisp cover driven boundaries in his 20 not out, the sixth wicket pair hurried Sidmouth home, Gater's innings coming off 50 balls with 11 fours and two sixes.

Key to Sidmouth's bowling success was some stand-out catching, Josh Bess holding on to a screamer at slip and Will Murray grasping a firmly struck cover drive with one hand as it flew to his right.

On debut, Australian wicketkeeper Ben Gledhill turned in a tidy performance with a leg side catch, standing up to Murray the highlight. Murray had figures of 2-18 in his eight overs, the first three of which were maidens.

Neil Hancock took two early wickets to have the Deane at 20-2 and he finished with 2-13 in six overs.

Greg Chaplin sent down six overs for 2-32, including the wicket of Sam Shaikh, bowled for 53.

Also taking wickets were Gater with 1-23 and Miles Dalton, 1-45.

Sidmouth's reply did not get a foundation with both openers, Anthony Griffiths and Josh Bess both making four.

Hancock was third out at 29 and, when Nick Gingell fell for 15 to make it 93-5, the game was in the balance but Gater's knock, marred only by a few swishes and misses, rapidly tipped the scales.

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