Only in Bermuda ...
Only in Bermuda could you have a two-day holiday for a cricket match. Cup Match is so quintessentially Bermudian that the holiday is not alone among the anomalies to be found.
Predominantly amateur cricketers who understandably do not possess the fitness of those in the professional ranks are asked to cram effectively three days of cricket into two. In Test cricket, the highest form of the game, the day is broken into three two-hour sessions. But for Cup Match, the three sessions are 2hr 50min in duration, for a total of 17 over the course of the two days. It’s no small wonder the party revellers aren’t the only ones out on their feet come 7pm on Friday.
In politics, there is no such thing as neutrality. Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, nailed it last week when he told the House of Assembly that there’s nothing worse than someone having no affiliation in Bermuda’s grandest tradition. “Pick a side!” There has been a succession of premiers in recent times who have done just that — largely in the red and blue of Somerset Cricket Club, the cup-holders. And the odd Opposition leader, too. Marc Bean hails from the Somerset Bridge area, so was destined to be in the camp of the West Enders. He is joined in that regard by the past two premiers, Michael Dunkley and incumbent David Burt. The latter, who has been bold in his premiership to date, took that sense of fearlessness with him to St George’s for their final trial on Saturday. Decked out in an inappropriately blazing red top, the Premier got out of Wellington Oval with his health, if not his faculties, intact only after donning a blue-and-blue jersey in honour of the home team.
So in keeping with the theme, only in Bermuda could you have the editor of the only newspaper serve as a selector for the greatest sporting occasion on these isles. While it is helpful that he was a former Cup Match player, and is now an umpire, this has a bit of the look of a small western town in the “gold ol’ USA” where the mayor is also the sheriff, postman and has an interest in the local watering hole.
There is an argument to be made for conflict of interest, but we return to the Wayne Caines mantra: “Pick a side!”
So we have. Cup Match since 2015 has been decidedly one-sided, and given that the editor is a former St George’s player, it stands to reason he does what he can to level the playing field. This time as a selector.
It has been a most trying season in which to judge long-form cricketers, unless you wish to put great stock in the short-form Twenty20 cricket that has consumed the bulk of the domestic calendar to best prepare Bermuda for international competition.
That said, the teams look very evenly matched. But until St George’s can show on the field that they are capable of ending a very poor run, culminating in a coruscating innings defeat last year, Somerset start the match as favourites.
Captained by Jordan DeSilva and coached by Jeff Richardson, Somerset took the bold decision to leave out the closest thing this match has to a professional player, after Kamau Leverock was deemed not fit enough to play merely as a batsman in the wake of a Friday bike crash.
The Royal Gazette’s Drive For Change campaign was not launched for no reason, and a quick check shows Somerset have been terribly affected by untimely incidents the past two years — Leverock and Tre Manders ruled out in 2019, Deunte Darrell and Dion Stovell in 2017, although the latter was fit enough to earn a recall.
Darrell has been snakebitten in the east again, but this time for an incident that he was allegedly involved in at St George’s Cricket Club. The banning order that was delivered on Saturday meant that the replacement for Manders, who broke an ankle, ultimately rested with the coach’s son, Alje Richardson.
Not always a comfortable position to be in, and it is to be hoped the youngster’s cricket speaks for itself so that the inevitable accusations of nepotism are rightly put in their place.
Each team has gone for only the one colt. As promising as young Richardson is after a summer honing his skills at Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales, Mackih McGowan could be anything for St George’s.
The Cleveland fast bowler has been a sensational find in the east — a surprise even to those dearest to him in the Harris Bay region and the closest thing Cup Match 2019 will have to genuine pace, now that Leverock has been ruled out.
With a spicy wicket expected, if Saturday’s trial is anything to go by when frontline batsmen were hopping around in the face of some hostile seam and pace, supporters are best advised to take their seats early in anticipation of non-stop action.
It may be a bit much to put such weight of expectation on the shoulders of a colt, especially given the surprise exclusion of Somerset destroyer George O’Brien for the second year running, but McGowan is young, strong and imposing, and could be the player St George’s have been waiting for to leap from the shadows of anonymity.
Malachi Jones is expected to lead the Somerset attack but there are question marks over his fitness after he played only as a batsman in the final trial.
Somerset’s experienced batting line-up may prove to be their trump card — and it may need to be on a distinctively bowl-first pitch. Their likely order of Terryn Fray, Chris Douglas, Stephen Outerbridge and Dion Stovell exude a degree of permanence at the wicket that the more stroke-playing St George’s can only aspire to.
Removing them twice, as well as Steven Bremar, the recalled Derrick Brangman and in-form captain DeSilva will be no mean feat.
It makes for a compelling spectacle, which, it must be remembered is owed for ever to those who came before us and paved the way towards emancipation.
Lest we forget.
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