Dion Stovell produces a performance for the ages
Dion Stovell has garnered a host of honours during a glittering cricketing career, spanning more than a decade, representing his country, capturing league titles, scoring tons of runs and capturing wickets by the bushel, but there remained a glaring, empty space in the all-rounder’s resume … a century at Cup Match.
That gap has now been closed, as has been another, that of Stovell being named the match’s most valuable player, as no one was more responsible for Somerset being able to defeat St. George’s by ten wickets for a second consecutive year than the middle-order batsman.
Stovell took Somerset from an uncomfortable period, where they had lost three wickets in rapid succession, to fall to 113 for three, to a near-impregnable position of 295, remaining unbeaten on 111.
Not only was Stovell the most proficient with the bat over the course of the match, he also emerged as the leading wicket-taker, seizing three wickets in each innings with his tantalising right-arm off-spin variations.
Somerset’s cricket chairman, Michael Corday, was particularly effusive in his praise of Stovell for his ability to contribute in all phases of the game, but was keen to point out the player’s strength of mind as essential to his greatness.
“Dion Stovell is a class cricketer and people don’t realise how intelligent a player he is. And his performance is based on application, whereby the guy is just so mentally tough.
“When he went on the field today I saw guys poking at him, trying to get in his head and I sat here and watched, and quietly chuckled, because if you’re a sportsman, you know that there are certain guys, of which Janeiro Tucker and Dion Stovell are examples, you don’t poke,” said Corday as Somerset closed in on victory. “Because those guys, rather than allow their emotions to rise and become more greatly involved, are able to channel the chatter into their performance.
“Those guys channel that aggression into performance, so you can’t poke at those guys, it’s at your peril and Dion made them pay today. Some guys you can rile up and have them make rash decisions that may be out of normal character. Dion’s not one of those guys, he’ll make you pay for your actions.”
Literally knocked out and taken via ambulance to the hospital during the latter stages of the 2019 affair at Wellington Oval, Stovell delivered a litany of crushing blows to St George’s this time around, crashing boundaries and decimating batsmen’s guards in a performance for the ages, but told that his emphasis was always on the team achieving success, rather than personal achievement.
“It feels good to achieve personal goals, but victory for the team is most important,” said an ebullient Stovell, while soaking up Somerset’s victory. “As I’ve said, I’m not concerned about self-glory, it’s a team sport and team first, but to score my first hundred at Somerset, there’s nothing better than that. It feels good and I’m happy.
“I think the whole team played well. Everyone did their part. I took a couple wickets and scored a hundred, but it took everyone for us to get the success.”
Unlike many, who took a place in the middle with bat in hand, Stovell was able to adapt to the open format, combining patience with aggression, punishing anything wayward, while aptly defending balls that threatened.
Key was his ability to make scoring shots early on in his innings, when many batsmen struggle to find gaps in the field, while reading and adjusting to the pace of the pitch and are often lured into rash shots.
“With me, personally — I always say this with regard to playing club cricket — I look to get set while scoring,” explained Stovell, who turns out for Southampton Rangers in the Bermuda Cricket Board’s Premier Division. “I’m able to still score as I’m checking and adjusting to the pace of the wicket, and I’m able to rotate the strike, while getting myself set.
“I thought Picnic [Rodney Trott] and Allan Douglas bowled well for St George’s, but when balls were there to be hit, they got hit and when balls were there to be respected, they got respected.
“I just feel that I assessed the wicket pretty good and that’s the result.”
While giving credit to the fight St George’s brought to the table, Stovell intimated that it was not physical ability that was denying his opponents gaining possession of the trophy, but that Somerset’s superior mental toughness.
“I always give credit to St George’s because they do have some very good cricketers and they always come with fight,” said Stovell. “We had a period in the game where they were pegging us back and Somerset had to dig deep. We kept our cool and relied on the experience we’ve gained over the years.
“They had some good performances, but, at the end of the day, our mental approach is stronger in that we’re able to work through the tough moments that come during a match.”
One particularly proud of Stovell having registered a century was the team’s bowling coach, Mark Trott, who bears some responsibility for Stovell making it on to Somerset team in the first place during his time as the chairman of selectors.
“Dion was one of the first colts I picked to play for Somerset, so to see him get a hundred today was most satisfying,” Trott said. “I tell him and I tell Malachi [Jones] that they both owe me a century, and to see that hundred today was special.”