Wainwright: we didn’t have the bowlers to win
Dennis Wainwright knows what a “two-to-one” feels like. He experienced it four times in the 1960s as the wicketkeeper of captain Cal “Bummy” Symonds’s all-conquering St George’s team.
However, it was a lot different watching it from the sidelines as Somerset achieved the feat for the first time since 1948, dominating St George’s over the two days of Cup Match.
Wainwright, also a former captain of St George’s, reflected on the Somerset victory at yesterday’s Safe Hands Awards, which was won for a third straight year by Allan Douglas Jr, of St George’s. He said things worked in Somerset’s favour the moment they won the toss and opted to bat.
With the first hundred coming up in just 83 minutes on an easy batting wicket, Wainwright knew it was going to be a long first day for the East Enders. The first four St George’s bowlers, Chare Smith, Zeko Burgess, Douglas and Onias Bascome, all went for more than 60 runs in their spells as the home side piled on the runs at Somerset Cricket Club.
“When I heard the Somerset president [Vashun Blanchette] say they won’t lose the game, I knew from experience that the wicket was going to be fixed and when I saw the wicket I shook my head and said: ‘we won’t do well’ because we didn’t have the bowlers,” said Wainwright who played with quality bowlers like Clarence Parfitt, Jackie Durham, Alfred “Fleas” Hall and Kenny Paul.
“If we’re talking about beating a team, we’ve got to have at least one bowler that can guarantee us three wickets. And of course we bowled very badly, in that first over we gave up 16 runs. Fellas were bowling half-volleys and getting hit to the boundary.
“They did not adjust and realise they were pitching too close to the batsmen. And not having an experienced captain; [Macai Simmons] was in no position to advise them.
“I knew the Somerset batsmen, once they got their heads that they could perform. I consider Chris Douglas the best batsman on the Island. He played very sensible and when the ball was there he took advantage of it
“Our batsmen, when they went out there, I don’t think one of them looked at the scoreboard. They seemed to be playing for themselves. We could have drawn that match easuly, if they had been given instructions ... ‘gentlemen, we can’t win this match but we’re not going to lose it’.”
He added: “I was very disappointed in some of the players’ performances, I don’t think they played for the team. Some of them didn’t perform well. Somerset played very sensible, had a mission and knew how they were going to execute it.
“A lot of people like to see wins but a draw is a part of cricket and can be an exciting. Somerset had some good bowlers, the openers, if they weren’t getting wickets, were on the spot.”
Wainwright, never a player who questioned an umpire’s decision, said he thought Onias Bascome’s leg-before decision soon after reaching his hundred looked questionable.
“His left foot was down the wicket, I could see it from the side,” he said. “I don’t question the others, but I know it has happened to us before.
“In 1959 when Somerset beat us umpire Allan Bristol gave six lbw’s against St George’s and we lost be a few runs.”
Wainwright, now in his 80s, never misses a Cup Match and is regularly at training sessions in the build-up to the annual classic, offering advice if players want it.
“I go to St George’s during the cricket season at least once a week, sit on the porch and observe and those players who want to talk to me I tell them to come out on the porch,” he said. “And I won’t go out onto the field unless the coach asks me to come out there.”
One player who drew praise from Wainwright was Nzari Paynter, who was dropped this year.
“He’s in an academy in England, is the best fielder in the league team and is a potential leg-break bowler,” Wainwright said. “We’ve got to stay behind this youngster, he could be one of our leading players down the road. I watched him, he went through gruelling training that Wendell Smith has sometimes, and when it is all over he would run around the field five times. [He is] the only player who did that, which shows where his heart is.”