Budleigh remain in grave danger towards the foot of the Francis Clark Devon league top flight table after they lost by the narrowest of margins at their temporary home of the University CC grounds, Topsham.

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Defeat by three runs was desperately hard on battling Budleigh who had looked for so long, as if they were going to claim a major scalp and move well clear of the danger zone.

Sidmouth batted first and were restricted to a below-par 203-9. Such was the measure of control held by the Budleigh bowlers that the Sidmouth innings was built on two half centuries and a match-winning ninth wicket partnership of 72. James Hudson, Matt Plowman and skipper Joel Murphy each bagged a brace of wickets and, at 131-8 the visitors looked in real danger of being bowled out long before the end of their allotted 50 overs.

However, the ninth wicket partnership eased them beyond a fourth batting point and the innings closed on 203-9.

Gamindu Amarasinghe and James Burke then set about leading then run chase. The pair, almost effortlessly saw their side to 100 when the Sri Lankan was bowled for a splendid 56. James Hudson and Eliot Rice were soon joining Amarasinghe back in the pavilion and, with the total on 111-3 the smart money was back on the visiting side prevailing.

James Burke was then joined by young Jack Dart and the pair added 38 for the fourth wicket to put their side back in the box seat. Burke’s dismissal on 149 for a superb ten boundary 74 was probably the turning point.

Dart and Charlie Morris added 25 when Morris departed at 174-5 and Dart followed soon after with the total on 181-6. Hugh Parkin was next to go and, at 182-7, with Budleigh 21 runs from victory, the outcome was back in the balance.

Joel Murphy is the ideal man to send to the wicket in such circumstances and the skipper’s 32 minutes at the crease saw him edge his side ever nearer a famous victory. When the last ball was delivered Murphy was looking for a four to win the game for his side. Then bowler needed to deny him for Sidmouth to win. The ball knocked the stumps over and Sidmouth were home by just three runs!

The defeat leaves Murphy’s men just eight points above the drop zone after another set of amazing results which saw bottom side Heathcoat thump Exmouth whilst Torquay also toppled leaders Bovey Tracey.

With three to play there are now five teams fighting to avoid slipping out of the top flight.

On Saturday, Budleigh travel to Torquay who sit one place and eight points above them in the table. At the same time bottom side Sandford host North Devon whilst the former basement dwellers Heathcoat will look for a fifth successive win when they entertain Plymouth and Bradninch, the fifth of the relegation battling sides travel to Sidmouth.

It’s turning into one of the most exciting finishes in recent seasons at both ends of the top flight table!

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