Somerset go into big match looking to extend unbeaten run
Expectations are high within both teams as Cup Match makes a return after last year’s event was cancelled for the first time because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It wasn’t a match that the holders Somerset wanted to play, initially, the on-again, off-again match finally getting the go-ahead when the West Enders had a change of heart on June 22. That left the host club with just over a month to prepare for the summer classic, with both teams facing some challenges.
The atmosphere will be different somewhat with Covid protocols still in place and tickets required to be purchased in advance.
Somerset, who made just two changes, recalling batsman Tre Manders and all-rounder Kamau Leverock, will start as clear favourites to keep the trophy they have held since 2012 when they dethroned St George’s with a ten-wicket win in Somerset.
This year marks ten years since St George’s claimed their last victory, veteran Lionel Cann seeing them to victory at Wellington Oval in 2011 with 49 not out. However, a new year and new faces, especially for St George’s, who made six changes to their last team in 2019, will make it interesting as Cann is now retired and OJ Pitcher is out injured.
Macai Simmons and Treadwell Gibbons were not considered for selection after picking up injuries while fielding in a recent match against St David’s.
As the challengers, the onus is on St George’s to be the aggressors, and they responded by changing half their team. Oronde Bascome, another former captain, comes in to fill one of the top-order batting spots, possibly to open with Temiko Wilson, while George O’Brien, the vice-captain, wicketkeeper Sinclair Smith and Detroy Smith have also been recalled.
Jamar Stovel, a young all-rounder who plays for Warwick and Isaiah Greaves, a left-arm spinner, are the two colts in a new-look team that will also have a debutant captain in Onias Bascome.
Stovel, only 17 but already probably the team’s tallest player at 6ft 3in, is a student at Warminster School in Wiltshire, England, while Greaves, 20, is also studying in England.
Both were picked with an eye to the future, according to coach Wendell Smith. “The upside of things is that we’ve had good preparation in the time that we had, four weeks, because for a while it looked like Cup Match wasn’t going to happen,” he said.
“We’ve had three trials, which has helped us immensely to see some flaws that we needed to iron out. We spent a lot of time talking about that last night when we had a wonderful meeting.
“Rather than do technical stuff outside, we had a 75-minute team talk which I think was very fruitful because it was engaging and made people think about what we need to do.
“The other positive thing about this year is having Clay [Smith] on board [as assistant coach]. He’s been an immense help to me, as way before Cup Match was even talked about, he e-mailed a list of prospects — pace bowlers, batsmen, young players and spinners.
“He did a lot of work behind the scenes to check who was coming back to Bermuda and who wasn’t. So I was aware that a young, promising player like Marcus Scotland wasn’t available and staying in England, and that Chare Smith was also staying in England.
“Because he was the national coach and academy director, he had a lot of knowledge of young players who I didn’t know too much about.”
St George’s had a couple of surprise omissions in their selection with the fast bowlers Mackih McGowan and Zeko Burgess dropped, while former Cup Match seam bowlers Kyle Hodsoll and Charles Trott were also overlooked.
The two colts are expected to be key additions in the bowling department.
“St George’s are looking more to the future with these selections,” Smith said. “It’s always disappointing to leave out people who have a good work ethic, but you can only pick 11.
“Jamar has been picked for his bowling; he’s an up-and-coming medium-fast bowler and has a lot of promise. It’s good that the outside players feel that they have a chance to make the team.”
In their final trial match, the President’s XI scored 230 with Detroy Smith and Oronde Bascome sealing their recall with knocks of 73 and 60 respectively. The Vice-President’s XI replied with 90 for five when the rain stopped play late in the day, with Temiko Wilson scoring 48.
In Somerset, the President XI had a disappointing performance in their lone trial on Saturday, having been dismissed for a shocking 47 when batting first, as Leverock earned his recall with figures of six for 11 from nine overs.
The Vice-President’s team replied with 150 for five when the rain came.
Smith has praise for the St George’s executive for the preparation that has gone into hosting Cup Match after the many challenges. “What many people haven’t realised is all the hard work that has gone into this from everybody at St George’s,” he said.
“When you come to Cup Match, you are going to see a lot of scaffolding, much more than I imagined. The field looks immaculate; you have to take your hat off to the executive and management, who have done well.
“The big question mark is the wicket.”
Somerset will start as favourites, having won in 2012 by ten wickets, in 2014 by eight wickets after Terryn Fray’s maiden century of 121. Somerset won again in 2015, this time by eight wickets to seal a first victory at Wellington Oval since 1981 when Joe Bailey was their captain.
Draws in 2016 and 2017 were following by another big win for Somerset in 2018, this time by an innings and 34 runs, before the 2019 match finished in another draw.