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Somerset excited to put on a show in Jeff Richardson’s ‘final year’ as coach

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Somerset Cricket Club are looking to mark their tenth straight year as Cup Match champions with another victory in the Annual Classic which turned 120 years old on Tuesday.

Dropped in it: Somerset coach Jeff Richardson’s plans to step away after this year’s Cup Match were let slip during the Hamilton Rotary Club luncheon (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Somerset won the cup from St George’s in 2012 and have kept it since, with four outright victories in 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2021. The last two wins for the West Enders were by an innings and 34 runs in 2018 and by ten wickets last year at Wellington Oval after needing just one run in their second innings to wrap up another lopsided win.

The Somerset dominance in the last decade is not something that is lost on former St George’s captain and coach Wendell Smith, who is keen to see the trend shift. He was a guest on the weekly Hamilton Rotary Club’s luncheon along with former players Jekon Edness, of Somerset, and Allen Richardson, of St George’s.

Chris Douglas turns the ball down the leg side on his way to a maiden century in last year’s Cup Match at Wellington Oval where the crowd was noticeably smaller because of the pandemic (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

Smith came into Cup Match in 1976 during a dominant period as St George’s went unbeaten between 1960 and 1979, when Somerset regained the cup under Randy Horton.

“There were two good periods for St George’s, 1960 to 1979 and 1983 to 1996,” Smith said. He became captain himself after Clevie Wade won the cup back for St George’s in 1983.

“Somerset are getting their turn back at us, and to tell you the truth we’re not enjoying it,” Smith said.

Smith stood down as coach last year to make way for younger brother Clay to take over, although the senior sibling remains on board as an assistant.

Edness, a former captain of Somerset, is one of those assisting coach Jeff Richardson at Somerset. He revealed that Richardson, the coach since 2012, will be stepping down after this year’s match, the first in Somerset since 2018 because of the pandemic.

“We don’t just look to hold on to the cup, we look to win,” said Edness, who was captain when the latest Somerset dominance began ten years ago. “Since 2012 this is our tenth year of holding the cup and we won it four times in the past nine years.

“The best way of holding on to the cup is beating St George’s. Now is our time and we’re looking to drive home our strength every chance we get. Obviously we’re looking to win, but by being confident without being arrogant.”

Smith acknowledged that the onus is on the challengers to bring the game to Somerset. That includes being bold in their team selection as they search for the right combination to beat a strong Somerset side.

Edness admits Somerset are just excited to play Cup Match at home for the first time in four years, with a greater relaxation of Covid restrictions allowing for a much bigger crowd this year than last.

“We’re very excited to get to Cup Match this year, it will be a full house at Somerset, something we haven’t seen since 2018,” Edness said.

“Last year was a scaled-down Cup Match and I’m sure everyone is looking to get up to the cricket again to watch Somerset play St George’s.

“This year I’ll be helping out Jeff who has been our coach since 2012. This will be his final year coaching. Myself, Janeiro [Tucker], Reggie Tucker and Mark Trott are helping out to ensure the team is prepared.”

When contacted by The Royal Gazette, Richardson would neither confirm nor deny the revelation about his future.

St George’s will get in two trial matches and Somerset just one ahead as Cup Match quickly approaches. St George’s were scheduled to train yesterday under new Bermuda coach Niraj Odedra.

“We have easily 18 or 19 players vying for 11 spots, so it’s going to be very difficult selecting the team, ” Smith said.

“I suspect there will be some surprises this year with a few youngsters coming through who you might not have heard of.”

Smith, who played his first Cup Match at just 16, has the distinction of being the first player to score 1,000 runs in the Classic.

“It’s a privilege to play Cup Match, people like Dennis Wainwright let that be known that it should be the best 11 players for each team,” he added.

“I think it’s important that we do that, irrespective of what part of the island you come from, that we honour the match for what it should be, which is a high-quality match.”

St George’s are still reeling from last year’s heavy defeat, which saw Chris Douglas score a century (128) as Somerset held a 130-run lead on first innings before then dismissing St George’s for 130 in their second innings. One run prevented a second successive innings victory for Somerset.

“You should expect to see a lot better performance by St George’s,” Smith said. “The key thing that has been lacking is players being disciplined enough to stay to the wicket when you start to get on top. You saw last year when Chris Douglas went on to make a century.

“That’s what I think has been lacking from the St George’s players; being disciplined enough to bat a long innings.”

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Published July 14, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated July 15, 2022 at 8:03 am)

Somerset excited to put on a show in Jeff Richardson’s ‘final year’ as coach

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