Top two head for a winner-takes-all weekend
Irving Romaine was hoping for a Cleveland victory on Saturday so he could get some closure after Bailey's Bay's controversial loss in last year's Eastern Counties competition.
Instead, the Bailey's Bay coach watched St David's dethrone Cleveland with a thrilling one-wicket victory at Sea Breeze Oval.
That victory set up a big weekend for the island's top two teams, a meeting in the counties final next Saturday, followed by a Logic Premier Division game at St David's the next day that could decide the title race.
Bailey's Bay were denied victory by Cleveland in last year's first round of the competition, with time-wasting by Cleveland robbing them of the chance to reach 128 for victory. They had just levelled Cleveland's score of 127 when the umpires ended the match at the designated cut-off time of 7.20pm.
Fast forward one year and Bay's hopes of settling the score in the final have been dashed by Cleveland's loss, instead the St David's win sets up a mouth-watering clash between two top teams.
“Personally I wanted to play against Cleveland because it was never finished from last year, and even the year before that when we had the chance of winning the game and it rained,” Romaine said. “At Bailey's Bay two years ago we were on our way and the rain came down and stopped the game.”
That match was Cleveland's first defence of their title after beating St David's in the first round. They posted 228 for nine against Bay, with Dion Stovell leading the way with 102. Bay were just getting set for a late run chase at 98 for three with 17 overs remaining when a heavy downpour ended the game.
That game is forgotten, but last year's match still haunts some.
“Last year just needed closure, but either way it's the Eastern Counties and Cleveland did well holding the cup for two years, so hats off to them,” Romaine said. “Now we've got our arch-rivals St David's and it's a very big match. We just want to win, either beating St David's or beating Cleveland.'
Romaine admits it will be hard to match the thrilling finish that the two teams produced on Saturday.
“Those finishes are rare in cricket all round the world, but that's what people watch cricket for,” he said.
“It's very rare you get a last-wicket stand putting on that amount of runs. It was a pleasure to see and I'm sure every fan left there excited about watching that cricket game.
“I was studying both teams to see what we're going to be up against in two weeks time, looking at bowlers and looking at batsmen.”
George Cannonier, the coach of St David's, said Saturday's match will long be remembered for the way his team battled back from 61 for eight, chasing 145 for victory.
Rudell Pitcher carried his bat for 54 not out to be his team's hero along with youngster Cejay Outerbridge who had earlier taken five wickets.
“Even though it was a low scoring game it was an exciting game,” Cannonier said after the match. “I thought we were in trouble when we lost Delyone, but it was the spirit of the team, the purpose of why we were up here to play.
“I really feel overwhelmed, I came to tears when we passed the score. The reason why the game was so tight was because of the character that Cleveland showed, they fought hard.”
Thanks to Western Stars who inflicted a big upset over St David's in the league on Sunday, Bay are now back in the title race, though St David's still have the inside track as they meet Bay at home on August 28, the day after the county clash.
However, there was some disappointment for Bay as they didn't get the chance to earn bonus points against Willow Cuts on Sunday after their opponents did not show up at Sea Breeze Oval.
“The hardest situation will be that we don't have as many bonus points as St David's,” Romaine said. “Also when we got rained out against Rangers [June 19] and they got awarded the points against Cleveland because the pitch wasn't ready down at St George's.
“The bonus points thing is always a hard one, in one of the meetings in the beginning I was one of the coaches who wanted to go to football points, three, one and zero. However, now the league is wide open and anything can happen as was shown with Western Stars winning [against St David's]. But we still have to win also.
“That's going to be a big weekend with the county on the Saturday and then the league on the Sunday. It's coming down to that weekend, county cup and league against St David's.”