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Cup Match back on after Somerset make sensational U-turn

Vashun Blanchette and Neil Paynter, the presidents of Somerset and St George's Cricket Clubs (File photograph by Lawrence Trott)

Somerset Cricket Club rescinded their decision not to play in Cup Match over a host of concerns “for the people of Bermuda”.

The two-day classic seemed destined not to be held for the second straight year after the champions had initially declined St George’s Cricket Club’s formal challenge.

However, after having a series of meetings with their members to address a number of concerns surrounding their controversial decision, Somerset have done an about turn and will now defend their title at Wellington Oval on July 29 and 30.

“Following further dialogue with key stakeholders around previously raised concerns, Somerset Cricket Club has agreed to participate in the 2021 edition of the annual Cup Match Classic,” the club said in a statement.

“Most importantly, following the initial decision, team staff and the pool of players eligible for selection collectively determined that they wish to play for the people of Bermuda.

“This admirable position taken is to be commended, noting the sacrifices that will be made by all parties over the next five weeks and notwithstanding the challenges some may have encountered over the past year.

“Somerset Cricket Club acknowledges that Cup Match represents the history of a people, resilience through adversity and hope beyond the pandemic.

“Somerset Cricket Club wishes to thank the St George’s Cricket Club, Cup Match fans island-wide and sponsors for their understanding as we navigated through this sensitive matter.”

Somerset turned down St George’s formal challenge after the host’s members were in favour of staging the match at a meeting last week.

The champions subsequently 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 felt would “impede the integrity” of the annual two-day match.

Neil Paynter, the St George’s Cricket Club president, confirmed that Somerset had rescinded their original decision and accepted the challenge to defend their title on Tuesday night.

“We received a letter from Somerset Cricket Club late last night [Tuesday] and they accepted the challenge,” he said on Lew Simmons’s radio talk show.

“They have accepted the challenge and St George’s Cricket Club have accepted the challenge of putting on this event. We intend on putting it on to the best of our ability, I know that my team can do it.

“We met and there was a lot of disclosure and discussion about it but we realised that we have a responsibility. Not only to our members, not only to St George’s parish, but we have a responsibility to Bermuda to ensure that the event that has been going on for over 100 years continues in this light.”

Paynter added: “We want our community clubs to be a beacon not only of change but of future endeavours so we endeavoured to put on this Cup Match event this year.

“We just want to let the public now that we are putting on Cup Match and what that’s going to look like under the regulations we have already put that to the public now but now we can go full out and let the public know how we are going to make this thing happen for our people.”

As it stands, up to 4,000 spectators per day will be allowed to attend the match under condition they are vaccinated or can provide a negative Covid test 72 hours prior to the event.

Once inside the ground, spectators will be allowed to move around but will be required to wear a mask when mobile. Details on tickets, viewing plots and concession stands will be announced soon.

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.

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Published June 24, 2021 at 4:05 pm (Updated June 25, 2021 at 8:07 am)

Cup Match back on after Somerset make sensational U-turn

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