‘We owe it to our fans to bounce back after last year,’ says St George’s coach Clay Smith
Clay Smith, the St George’s coach, says his players owe their fans a “good performance” as they bid to wrest the cup away from champions Somerset.
The challengers suffered a crushing ten-wicket defeat at Wellington Oval last year, having done just enough to force Somerset to bat a second time.
“I think we as a team as a whole, we owe our St George’s fans a good performance over the two days; we owe them that,” Smith told The Royal Gazette.
“Last year was last year. That’s behind us and we are coming with a renewed purpose.
“We have a lot of things that have happened over the last year that are really motivating our players. We have a lot more reason to perform a lot better than we have been performing over the last couple of years.”
The East Enders have made six changes from last year’s squad, with batter Jonté Smith and seam bowler Jordan Burgess set to make their debut in the annual two-day classic.
OJ Pitcher, Treadwell Gibbons Jr, Macai Simmons and Zeko Burgess have all been recalled.
On paper, Smith believes his squad possesses the firepower to put an end to Somerset’s dominant streak.
“The biggest challenge as you know is going up Somerset on a very flat batting track and getting 20 wickets,” he added. “That’s the main challenge.
“We have to bowl them out twice no matter how we look at it if we want to win the trophy, and we have picked a team that we think is very well balanced.
“Every single player in my team has the ability to bat and bowl. We have a lot of medium-pace, a couple of spinners and some fast bowlers, so I think it’s a very balanced team.
“The skipper [Onias Bascome] has a lot of options; it’s just about trying to get into Somerset early and pick up some early wickets to put them under some pressure.”
The former St George’s batter and captain has challenged his players to put Somerset on the back foot early, something that is crucial to their hopes for success.
“Somerset for years have been very consistent with their team and we have never really seen them react to being under pressure,” he said. “Losing two or three early wickets, how will they react? Will they be the same confident Somerset team? That’s my challenge to my players; let’s see if we can go out there and bowl the right lines and hold on to our catches and put them under some pressure.”
Smith said his players are well prepared and champing at the bit to get down to serious business on the pitch.
“For the last three weeks we have been having no less than 25 guys showing up for training,” he said. “We picked our team on Saturday and we had a training session first thing Sunday morning, which is something that I have never done before in Cup Match. We wanted to get an extra session. We rallied together and had a really good session on Sunday morning down at the Oval, so we are raring and ready to go.“
Somerset, who have held the cup since 2012, have made only one change to the squad from last year, with Khiry Furbert replacing Steven Bremar as wicketkeeper.