Tipper emerges as front runner in quest to find youngest bowler to take 100 Premier wickets

Jon Tipper - an early 90s action shot of the Exeter paceman

WHO is the youngest bowler to take 100 Premier Division wickets in the Devon League? That was the question posed this time last week.

Plymouth’s Matt Petherbridge, who won’t be 19 until the end of August, is on 95 Premier wickets going into Saturday’s game against Exmouth on the Maer Ground.

What no one knows is whether Petherbridge will be the youngest bowler to reach 100 Premier wickets in the history of the league?

Exeter's Orlando LeFleming bowling in 1992League records are not comprehensive – up to 1986 they are virtually non-existent - so it isn’t a case of adding up figures in a yearbook to find an answer. If only it was that simple.

Scanning through old scorecards and league records has offered some clues as to previous candidates for the youngest-to-a-hundred wickets tag.

Top of the list at the moment is Exeter’s Jon Tipper, nominated by Glenn Lammonby, but his true figure won’t be known until records from 1991 have been tracked down and consulted. He has at least 120 by the age of 20 and two months.

Right behind Tipper is his former Exeter team-mate Orlando LeFleming with 90 confirmed wickets by the time he was 19 years and a couple of months old. His missing years are 1990, 1993 and 1996.

Other candidates to emerge are Paignton’s Tim Ward, who was only 15 when he burst on the scene in 1986 with a nine-for-40 haul against Bideford. Records for 1986, 1987 and 1989 will either rule him in or out.

And Bovey Tracey’s Adam Gribble is up in the 90s, but with no figures for 1990 to factor in… yet

Old scorebooks are being hunted at Paignton from the late 1970s and early 1980s to see how many wickets spinner Keith Benton took. He started wheeling away in 1976 aged 15.

And enquiries have commenced at Exeter, Torquay and South Devon to tot-up the wickets taken by Paul Brown in the early 1980s.

Brown had only just turned 16 when he made his Devon debut in 1981 as an up-and-coming fast bowler.

If you think you have a candidate for youngest to 100 wickets, drop me an email at conradcopy@btinternet.comwith a few details.