Sidmouth's title defence begins

STIFF tests await Sidmouth Cricket Club as they begin their defence of the Francis Clark Devon League championship.

STIFF tests await Sidmouth Cricket Club as they begin their defence of the Francis Clark Devon League championship with matches at Budleigh Salterton tomorrow and at home to Plympton next week.These opponents boast two of the strongest line-ups in the Premier Division and tomorrow's clash at Budleigh's Ottermouth ground has the added spice provided by the local rivalry of the two clubs.Sidmouth go into the opening league match with some good friendly work-outs behind them. Overseas player Chris Williams underlined his pedigree with 136 in Saturday's match against Exeter University. He reached 80 in workmanlike fashion, offered a straightforward chance that was dropped and then cut loose, hitting four sixes as he scorched on.Scott Barlow, Sidmouth's spy in the university side, for whom he plays when not performing for his home town club, advised that the students would prove tough opposition and doubted the wisdom of batting first against them.His reservations proved unfounded as Williams and Anthony Griffiths put on a century opening partnership which was the foundation for a 229-8 total in 40 overs. The university side were dismissed 45 runs short, Williams hastening their demise with two direct hit run-outs.Barlow and skipper Will Murray operated well in an opening seam attack and a spin quartet kept the shackles on the students. This was encouraging to Murray, who has a wealth of seam bowling options available to him, but will need spin for variety and to ensure no points are docked for failing to comply with the required over rate in league games.Williams is proving no mean off-spinner but another slow bowling option is needed and Matt Cooke, Miles Dalton and Saj Patidar all staked their claims. If Patidar was the choice it would be a return to the ground where he suffered a badly broken ankle in a fielding accident last season, but his recovery is now complete.First choice wicketkeeper Marc Jenkins misses the first two games of the season due to footballing commitments, leaving a gap for John Goodwin to fill.All-rounder Neil Hancock has not figured in the warm-up games, but readied himself for league action by hitting an unbeaten 78 as Devon piled up 242 to beat Cornwall by 44 runs in their opening match of the Minor Counties one-day campaign on Sunday.l A stutter in preparations for league action came on Sunday when B Division side Clyst St George recorded a comfortable win.They were set 154 to win and passed it with an over to spare. At 102-7 Sidmouth's innings was looking a little sickly, after runs at the top of the order from Cooke and Griffiths, but an unbeaten eighth wicket stand of 51 between new player Tom Mason and Goodwin perked things up a little.After Murray got an early breakthrough, Clyst consolidated and were never under any real pressure to accelerate their run rate. Any hopes that Sidmouth might restrict their opponents were dashed when Alex Blest came to the crease and dispatched his first and third balls from Williams for six. The damage was compounded by the second big hit smashing the sun roof of a car belonging to Fort Field Terrace resident and club member Dr Peter Fung.Mark Jasper had Blest caught behind soon after and Williams took Clyst's fifth wicket and his third victim at 152, but the match was lost as Chris Cook reached 37 not out after taking 3-18 in the Sidmouth innings. Cook featured in a third wicket stand of 62 with opener Tim Read who made 52.l On Sunday morning the Under-10 pairs team take on Clyst Hydon. Whimple are the Fort Field visitors on BH Monday.

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