Eastern Counties cancelled for 2020
The Eastern Counties Cup became the first of the island’s big two midsummer cricket spectacles to fall victim to the coronavirus yesterday when it cancelled its three-match series for this year.
With pressure mounting on the Cup Match clubs to make a decision on the Annual Classic, county cup cricket had virtually sailed under the radar — even though its first round was scheduled almost two weeks before the July 30 and 31 dates for the world’s only two-day holiday to stage a cricket match.
But Steven Douglas, president of the Eastern Counties Cricket Association, brought an end to uncertainty around the event.
He said: “After much deliberation, the association has decided that it is in the best interest of Bermuda to suspend our competition scheduled for 2020 and to immediately commence with preparations for 2021.
“The association acknowledges the disappointment of our loyal patrons, fans and community. However, we recognise our duty to ensure the safety and health of all spectators.”
Mr Douglas told the public: “We acknowledge the sacrifices all Bermudians have made during this pandemic and ask that you continue to practise social-distancing, along with the recommended safety and health protocols outlined by the Government.”
The first round was due to be held at Sea Breeze Oval, Bailey’s Bay Cricket Club, on July 18 — only nine days after Bermuda was expected to emerge from the phased reopening of the economy — with the second round on August 15 and the final on August 29.
County cup cricket can attract crowds of about 3,000 people and Sea Breeze Oval, unlike the more sprawling environment of the alternating venue at Lord’s in St David’s, is compact, so it is harder to maintain social-distancing.
Mr Douglas said Bailey’s Bay CC will retain its rights as host venue in 2021 when the series returns, and emphasised that the decision was taken in the best interests of the country in its collective fight against the pandemic.
He added: “The Government of Bermuda, Bermuda Health Council and other healthcare agencies have done a fantastic job in limiting the spread of the virus. The ECCA, taking a leadership role in our communities, has decided to place the lives and welfare of all Bermudians above holding the competition this year.”
The draw for 2021 will remain unchanged, with holders St David’s County Cricket Club facing Flatts Victoria Recreation Club in the first round. Cleveland County CC will contest the second round and Bailey’s Bay await in the final.
With the news from the Eastern Counties, the focus has now switched to Cup Match.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the chairman of the Government’s committee to reopen the economy, put the immediate future of the Annual Classic at the door of the host club.
“That is not a decision we will make,” Colonel Burch, an unabashed Somerset supporter, said. “Certainly, we have spoken with Somerset Cricket Club, the hosts and Cup Match champions emeritus, about Cup Match this year. What I will say is that the club is expected to make a decision this week.”
Somerset are expected to hold a meeting tonight when a number of scenarios could be discussed, including playing the match with fewer camps of spectators to assist physical-distancing, playing the match with no spectators and televising it through pay-per-view, and cancellation.
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