No Cup Match clause exists to strip Somerset for staying put in the west
Champions Somerset Cricket Club will not be stripped of their title, despite having refused the formal invitation from rivals St George’s Cricket Club to contest Cup Match at Wellington Oval on July 29 and 30.
Speculation began to mount as to whether or not the West Enders would be forced to relinquish the coveted showpiece after it emerged that they had withdrawn from the annual two-day classic.
However, Dawn Simmons, the Somerset secretary, confirmed that the club will retain the trophy despite refusing to defend their title.
“There is no clause in the rules that speak to relinquishing the cup,” she told The Royal Gazette.
Neil Paynter, the St George’s president, will finally break his silence on the matter at a press conference today.
Somerset said in a press statement that they withdrew with a “heavy heart” after “much deliberation” over health and safety concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the lack of cricket that they feel “impede the integrity” of the annual two-day match.
They also acknowledged the endeavours of host St George’s Cricket Club and other stakeholders who have been working tirelessly to formulate proposals for an alternative Cup Match experience.
Somerset were scheduled to host last summer’s Cup Match in the West End. However, for the first time in its 119-year history the two-day match was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The club’s decision has been met with mixed reaction from senior batsman Stephen Outerbridge and former captain Dexter Basden.
Outerbridge, the Bailey’s Bay Cricket Club president, said Somerset’s refusal to play is “really disturbing” and suggested that everything should be done to see that Cup Match is played this year.
However, Basden, who guided Somerset to victory in 1996 at Somerset, begs to differ.
“Here we are in June and no cricket is being played and to play Cup Match you have to be in tip-top shape,” Basden said. “People come to watch the best 22 players and that’s not going to happen if you haven’t played any cricket in June.
“For Cup Match, I always try to have my body in the best of shape and perform in whatever trial games leading up to Cup Match.”
He added: “To get the economy back up and running, Cup Match is the ideal thing.
“But then again we don’t know what the pros and cons with who is going to be allowed to go to Cup Match or how many people are going to be allowed to get in.
“The Government hasn’t come out and revealed the plan; meaning the public doesn’t know St George’s plan how they’re going to host it.
“Cup Match holds up to 10,000 people packed and you’re not going to be able to have all those people, so how many people are you allowed? What was St George’s plan that nobody outside of their membership has heard?”
Basden said Somerset’s decision did not surprise him in the least.
“I’m not surprised at all and it’s almost like you can’t give 100 per cent. And if you can’t give it 100 per cent, then it makes no sense playing,” he added. “Cup Match, you put yourself on display out there and if you’re not in shape, it’s not going to go down right.
“Obviously, people want to get out of the house to see cricket. But you might risk people’s health to go out — you just don’t know.
“I would say let’s try it next year, depending on the numbers again, obviously.”
Meanwhile, as per The Royal Gazette’s revelations last Friday, St George’s had outlined preliminary plans for a scaled-down Cup Match to their members at a Wednesday meeting.
It is understood that the new-look classic would have been open to only 2,000 spectators per day, not including players, coaching staffs and members, and without swaths of the traditional scaffolding.
David Burt, the Premier, had indicated that Cup Match would be 50 per cent occupancy at best and a SafeKey event, meaning that anyone in attendance would have to be immunised or be able to show proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the date of entry, while physical distancing would have to be observed throughout in keeping with continuing public health regulations.
It is unclear if the SafeKey requirements were to extend to the players and coaching staffs of both clubs – or even if it could have impacted squad selection on the grounds of non-compliance. All of which is moot now.