St George’s playing catch-up, says Smith
Difficult as it is to say, Wendell Smith does not agree with Allan Douglas Jr’s recent comment that, talent-wise, the two Cup Match teams “are on the same page”.
However, the former St George’s captain does concur with the all-rounder that the challengers have much work to do to end Somerset’s recent dominance of Cup Match.
Douglas made the remarks last week after winning a second straight Safe Hands Award after a spectacular catch to dismiss Stephen Outerbridge and then a direct hit to run out Jekon Edness.
Smith, who never lost in his seven years as a St George’s captain, winning two and drawing five, observed the rain-hit two-day match as a radio commentator and watched a St George’s team struggle to be competitive on the second day after being dismissed for 89 before Somerset replied with 211 for seven declared in their first innings. St George’s were 104 for five when the game ended in a draw in fading light with nine overs left.
Smith, also a former coach and selector, questions why a second specialist opening batsman was not selected as well as the decision to choose the inexperienced Onias Bascome as new captain Macai Simmons’s vice-captain ahead of George O’Brien, Rodney Trott and Lionel Cann.
“One of the things he [Douglas] said which I didn’t agree with is that he feels ability-wise the teams are equal and I would definitely question that,” Smith said. “You have to realise that St George’s nearly suffered a ‘two-to-one’ inside one day, so how can he say the teams were of equal ability when one team totally dominated the other.
“From what was produced on the field, no way were they of equal ability. I would say there are a number of things that need to be done. Somerset were extremely well-drilled and appeared to be very fit.
“The St George’s running between the wicket was very indecisive, in fact St George’s had two key run outs, Treaddy Gibbons and Onias Bascome. Both of them should have been ‘wait calls’.”
Although only 6.2 overs were bowled on the first day because of heavy rain, St George’s lost two wickets with only 27 runs on the board, after makeshift opener Sinclair Smith was trapped lbw by Malachi Jones in the first over.
In the next over Gibbons, the other opener, took a risky single and was run out by Tre Manders.
“The key mistake St George’s made was that we didn’t select two opening batsmen,” Smith said. “Sinclair Smith was asked to play a role that I don’t think he is used to doing,” Smith said.
“This is only his second Cup Match and he isn’t someone who has opened the batting on a regular basis for his club.
“That put St George’s behind the eight-ball in both innings where they lost his wicket early, which gave Somerset the momentum.
“The other thing I didn’t understand from a leadership point of view is St George’s picked a new skipper and then Onias Bascome was selected as vice-captain. You would have thought that somebody who had more experience such as Rodney, George or Lionel would have been selected to lend the captain some leadership support.
“Onias is still learning the game, having only played two Cup Matches prior. Of course it’s easy in hindsight to bring these points up because of how they performed, but that probably surprised me the most.
“With Somerset having played the same team two years in a row and then only making two changes this year, you would expect their unity to be higher while St George’s are still searching for the right combination.”
St George’s, who previously won in 2011 at Wellington Oval, suffered a ten-wicket defeat in 2012 and lost by eight wickets in 2014 and 2015, their first loss at home in 34 years. Their preparations were not helped when OJ Pitcher, who recently stood down as captain, was ruled out because of an illness.
“A huge blow to St George’s was OJ Pitcher not being available, to be honest in the past few years the batting has been lacking for St George’s, somebody to stand up and bat extremely long,” said Smith, who also wondered why colt Nzari Paynter, picked as a bowler, was never used.
“Allan Douglas said that St George’s batted on a wet wicket on the first day, but what’s the rationale for the second innings when they batted on a dry wicket and were 58 for five and then Lionel and Rodney had to put up the shutters?
“What I will give Allan creit for is his performance on the field. He is probably the best fielder in Bermuda and is deserving of the award, so I congratulate him for that.”
Smith added: “Cup Match does seem to be going through a period where Somerset happen to have a much stronger team, so you can’t expect St George’s to always win. What people are disappointed with right now is the manner in which St George’s are playing, not so much that Somerset have the upper hand.
“People are questioning are we playing our best team? I have never had so many people stop me on the street as I have this year. People who I didn’t even know stopped me and made comments about St George’s, one a female taxi driver I had never even seen before.
“They were commenting about the substandard performances of St George’s and saying things like they need to get things in order down there.”
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