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Romaine: we cannot afford to lose

One to watch: OJ Pitcher, the St David’s captain, will be key to his side’s chances of success at Sea Breeze Oval (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

After the dust has settled on tomorrow’s Eastern Counties encounter between Cleveland and Flatts, two other counties rivals will battle at Sea Breeze Oval on Sunday in a match that will have a huge bearing on the Logic Premier Division title race.

Overshadowed somewhat by the counties build-up, Bailey’s Bay and St David’s know the importance of their clash as the top two teams meet for the fourth time this season.

Bay beat St David’s in the Twenty20 and Belco Cup final, while the Warriors got one back on them in the league last month, even rubbing it in by copying Bay’s “circle of friends” celebration, adopted from a soca dance, after taking the winning wicket.

“Last year Rangers did it too when they beat us up there in a league game,” Irving Romaine, the Bay coach, said. “They love to hate us! Our junior teams do it, too.”

With the third meeting between the sides likely to be the season-ending title decider on August 28 at Lord’s, Bay will be determined to make the most of home advantage.

It is a must-win situation, Romaine acknowledges.

“We really have to win this one to keep the points close,” he said. “If we lose this one we’ll have to bank on another team beating them so it’s basically do-or-die.

“We lost the first one and are 2-1 in the season to them. It always is a close game with St David’s so we’re really looking forward to this game on Sunday.”

Bay, with their big squad, had the luxury of resting some players last Sunday against Western Stars as Coolidge Durham came in for his first match.

Stephen Outerbridge should return to the side while Jordan Smith, the spinner who claimed four for seven in a St George’s trial match last weekend, could play his first match after returning from school in England.

“We have a surplus of players, with 20-something in training so with games like Western Stars — not to take them for granted — we can rest some players and give other players a game,” Romaine said.

“It’s good selection headaches, though, it keeps guys on their toes. It’s super competitive now with Cup Match coming up and a majority of our players have played in Cup Match and are looking to play again.

“Picking the final 11 will be a headache and it all depends on the wicket we use, whether it will be a second-day wicket from county cup the day before or will it be the wicket on the side, grassy or worn away.

“It should be a good crowd, some people will probably leave their camps up and stay there for two days of ‘county’. It should be a good weekend of cricket, this is the type of game the guys wait for. We have young Jordan Smith who we haven’t used and he’s looking for selection.”

Tre Manders scored 36 not out against his former side as Bay easily chased down the 73 posted by Western Stars. He batted at No 3 as Malachi Jones opened the batting with Terryn Fray.

“I didn’t realise this was the first time he had played against them since he left and he was super excited to go out there and play against them and had a good hit,” Romaine said.

“He’s looking to score some runs to get into form for Cup Match.”

Stars, too, are anxious for a victory after losing their last six league matches. They host Cleveland County at St John’s Field in a battle of two of the three bottom teams. Cleveland also lost a low-scoring match last weekend, to Willow Cuts after scoring just 65 at Wellington Oval.

In the other match Cuts will play their Western Counties rivals Southampton Rangers in what will be a preview to their third round counties match on August 6.

In First Division action, Devonshire Recreation Club meet Warwick Workmen’s Club at Southampton Oval while Somerset Bridge play leaders Flatts at White Hill and St George’s host rivals Somerset in a timely clash at Wellington Oval that will have huge bearing on the promotion race.

• The Logic Premier Division player of the week is Christopher Douglas, the St David’s batsman.

Douglas scored a valuable 75 runs out of his team’s total of 264 last weekend against Southampton Rangers in an innings that helped St David’s secure their seventh win of the season and retain their unbeaten league record.

Meanwhile, Joshua Gilbert has been named as the Logic First Division player of the week.

The Somerset Cricket Club all-rounder scored 94 runs out of his team’s total of 238 and rescued them from being 68 for five early in their innings against Devonshire Recreation Club.

Gilbert’s performance with the bat was a critical factor in a win that narrowed the gap at the top of the First Division, leaving four teams well positioned to compete for the automatic promotion place.

Flatts Victoria are top with 72 points, just two points ahead of Devonshire Rec, who are second.

Somerset, meanwhile, are third on 56 points, with St George’s just four points behind them.