Sidmouth's sweet Devon league and cup double

OUTSTANDING fielding to defend a substantial total, which featured a century from Neil Hancock, saw Sidmouth win the Tony Pryce Sports Devon Senior Cup to complete a league and cup double.

OUTSTANDING fielding to defend a substantial total, which featured a century from Neil Hancock, saw Sidmouth win the Tony Pryce Sports Devon Senior Cup to complete a league and cup double.

The squad left Sidmouth on Sunday in downbeat mood, thinking the persistent drizzle would mean a postponement of the game but, at host club Sandford, conditions were dry and the final against Plymouth got under way on time.

The city side won the toss and, with rain possible, predictably inserted Sidmouth. There were early dividends when Josh Bess and Chris Williams fell lbw to seamer Dave Burke by the time the score reached 32.

Anthony Griffiths and Hancock survived a number of further lbw appeals as they put together a stand of 74 at a decent rate. Griffiths fell for 55 but the platform was laid for Hancock and the rest of the middle order to play their shots.

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Hancock went on to reach 112 not out in a 40-over total of 229-6, hitting 11 fours and three sixes. While it was a healthy score, it meant that if the constant threat of rain materialised and curtailed the innings to a minimum of 10 overs Plymouth needed a run rate of 5.75 an over to win.

Drizzle duly arrived after the cut-off point and intensified to such an extent that the umpires took the players off.

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The accuracy of Sidmouth's opening attack of Scott Barlow and Neil Hancock, combined with sound fielding, had kept the rate well below Plymouth's victory target. The skies looked leaden and local weather authorities were saying there was little chance of the rain letting up.

Had the match ended at this point, Sidmouth would have been declared winners, but it would have been a hollow victory because Plymouth's openers appeared to be laying a sound platform for an assault on their target.

In the event, the rain lifted and allowed the match to continue to a conclusion. Plymouth might have been expecting the part-time bowlers Sidmouth were obliged to employ to provide fodder for their challenge, but Matt Cooke and Nick Gingell proved as economic as the regular attack.

Indeed, Gingell posed something of a threat to Hancock's man-of-the-match credentials by taking a crucial 4-34. Hancock, however, reinforced his claim by taking a stunning catch off Gingell to remove Jack Little as he approached 50 and was beginning to score freely. He ran in 20 yards from the square leg boundary and dived full length to clutch the ball inches from the ground.

Vying for catch of the match was a one-handed effort at short mid-wicket by Will Murray, again off Gingell, to remove Burke and effectively end the Plymouth challenge.

Key to Sidmouth's success was their reduction of boundary hits. The rope was crossed 25 times in the Sidmouth innings, but only 13 in Plymouth's.

Typifying efforts to save runs were Gingell and Bess. They had to spurn catches when the force of the ball was destined to take them over the line, but had the presence of mind to push the ball back into play. These two efforts alone saved eight runs.

Scott Barlow took his third wicket to end the Plymouth innings at 183 with an over to go. At the presentation ceremony Francis Clark Devon League chairman David Gambie paid tribute to Sidmouth's dominance over an unbeaten season and their performance on the day. Man of the match adjudicator John Gauler decided Hancock should prevail. With the 1st XI's cup and league triumphs goes the 2nd XI's league title to complete a triple not achieved since 1987 when Barton were at the peak of their supremacy.

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