By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
BOVEY Tracey paceman Hugo Whitlock performed the hat-trick for the third time this season in his side’s 89-run win over Exeter.
Whitlock took back-to-back hat-tricks in successive overs when Bovey skittled Cullompton for just 18 earlier in the season.
And Devon’s new-ball operator did it again on his way to five-for-19 haul in the win that keeps Bovey (19.25pts) just three-quarters of a point behind Bradninch (20) at the top of the Premier Central table.
Bradninch entertain Bovey Tracey this Saturday in the final round of qualifying games for the Premier play-offs, which start next week. Already through in this half of the draw are Heathcoat.
Whitlock had already taken the prized scalp of Exeter opener and Somerset staffer Ben Green and the wicket of Ed Middleton before going into hat-trick mode.
Tom Richardson went first, followed by Alec Holifield and Pete Hensor. All three were bowled.
Ben Abrahams (44) and Sam Read (29) had helped Exeter reach 106 for four before Whitlock set about them. With skipper Toby Codd (4-14) joining in, Exeter were all out for 107.
Said Codd: “Hugo was the match winner once again.
“It's very nice as a captain to be able to throw the ball to him when the match is in the balance and ask him to win us the game.”
With three hat-tricks under his belt this season and a regular place in the Devon county side, what does Whitlock have to aim for now?
“I would like to try and break into single digits in the batting order,” said No.11 Whitlock. “Some runs would be nice.”
Bovey Tracey’s 45-over total of 196 for nine proved there were no easy runs in the Recreation Ground pitch.
Only Lewis Hammett of the first nine players on the scorecard failed to reach double figures, but no one made more than Taylor Ingham-Hill and Matt Golding (both 31) or James White (30).
“I always felt our score was competitive as the pitch was playing a few tricks,” confided Codd.
Ed Middleton (3-32) was Exeter’s most effective bowler in terms of wickets and economy. Read and Hensor both claimed two wickets each.
BRADNINCH are on course for an all-or-nothing clash with Bovey Tracey for a place in the title play-offs after beating Cullompton by six wickets in Premier Central round five.
With one game left to play in the Premier Central, it could not be any closer at the top of the table.
Bradninch are top with an average of 20 points per game with Bovey right behind them on 19.25.
The two sides meet at Bradninch this Saturday in a game that will decide who goes through to the knock-out stages of the Premier Tier competition.
The winners will face North champs-elect Heathcoat in the semi-final round; the losers’ season ends there and then.
Eliot Acton, the Bradninch captain, said: “I am really pleased to be able to make the last game a meaningful one against Bovey.”
Mitch Pugh (3-24) and Acton (3-18) were the main wicket takers as Cullompton were bowled out for 90 in the 27th of their 45 overs. Josh Farley and Ankit Badwal had two wickets each.
Brendon Parr made (26) which improved Cully’s situation after they had been 34 for five. James Shere (15) was the only other batsman to pass 10.
Pugh stroked an unbeaten 60 off 56 balls, 12 of which he hit for boundaries, as Bradninch chased to win inside 22 overs.
No one else apart from Will Burley (10) reached double figures, not that it mattered with Pugh in faultless form.
For Acton one of the plusses from the game was winning it without a handful of regulars, including leading run scorer Gary Chappell.
“We were woefully short, missing four or five including Gary, so delighted with the way we played,” said Acton.
“The bowling effort set the game up and I was pleased we chased positively and didn't give Cullompton an early sniff on a tough track.”
Cullompton’s season winds up at home to Exeter, the side they defeated in round one of the Premier Central season.