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Imperious Dion Stovell strokes second successive Cup Match century

Dion Stovell looks to cut the ball on his way to century (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Somerset’s Dion Stovell became the second Bermudian-born cricketer, and the third overall, to score consecutive centuries in the Annual Classic.

The right-hander matched the feat achieved by South African Saleem Mukuddem in 2003 and 2004, and Lloyd James in 1961 and 1962.

Stovell followed up his maiden hundred — 111 not out — last year in Somerset, with another ton as he tore the hearts and hopes away from St George’s, cutting, pulling and driving into oblivion an attack that had little success beyond a short portion early on in the morning session.

Even a painful injury to the inside of his right foot that precipitated a period of retirement, failed to hinder the charge of the middle-order batter, who was the last man out but not before his 139 placed Somerset in what appears an unassailable position going into the final day.

Tired and hungry by the end of his innings, Stovell was anxious to rest and refuel overnight with his team-mates, before returning to try to bowl St George’s out twice for a potential innings victory.

Centuries don’t come easy or often for players in Cup Match and, unlike last year, when Stovell entered the match on the heels of a dominant season with the bat, this year had seen the talented all-rounder make more headlines for his bowling.

There were even whispers of his being a somewhat diminished threat this time around, but to underestimate his talent is perilous.

“I always think positive,” said Stovell when asked if he had entered the arena with the belief that he could match last year’s feat.

“I’m mentally and physically fit and know the role that I have in the team, so in order for us to build I have to sit up and carry out my duties as a senior player.

“It’s an honour to get back-to-back hundreds, but I don’t look at records. I just play the game as it presents itself and do what’s required for the team. I’m in some good form right now and just take every ball as it comes.”

Stovell entered the day’s proceedings after the loss of Alje Richardson for 44, with Somerset standing in a reasonable, if not dominant, position at 94 for three, and took up a partnership with vice-captain Terryn Fray (70).

The pair proceeded to put on 67 for the fourth wicket while slowly erasing the hopes of the players, staff and supporters of St George’s.

“It’s easy batting with Fray,” said Stovell, who will likely be asked to play a key role with the ball as well.

“I take my hat off to Terryn Fray, because we had a plan and batting with him and a couple of the guys is easy to do, because they’re all on the same page.

“It’s all about communication and Fray is the type of guy to explain exactly what’s happening.”

Yet, even as he understood the plan he had to battle a traditional mid-summer heatwave made more uncomfortable by enhanced humidity following heavy rains the day previous.

Added to that was the pain of injury, with Stovell having been speared in the foot by a sizzling Zeko Burgess yorker in the 51st over and having to go off the pitch for treatment after he had reached 48.

Resuming, Stovell had a noticeable limp, but rather than change tactics and resort to boundary-hitting, he showed tremendous grit, fighting through the discomfort and continuing to place pressure on the field with adroit running between the wickets.

While many Somerset supporters returned to their homes and camping spots entertaining visions of an innings victory, Stovell was not underestimating the resolve and ability of his opponents, with a draw appearing the most likely result, as long as proper responsibility is exercised at the crease.

“It’s tough,” said Stovell. “St George’s have a good batting line-up that is competitive every year.

“They come. They fight and it’s tough. It’s cricket and some days you come and you get off and sometimes you get out, but at the end of the day it’s cricket.”

Even as Somerset captain Jordan DeSilva had high praise for all of his team for an innings well played, he had particular regard for Stovell’s courageous performance.

“First of all it’s one off the best first days we’ve ever had,” said DeSilva, who noted that it was always his desire to bat first on a wicket he believed would rapidly deteriorate as day two progresses.

“Our goal was to go in and just bat them out of the game,” DeSilva said.

“We feel the wicket is not going to last the two days, so we don’t want to have to bat on it again and the 404 runs might be enough, but I’m a little upset that we didn’t bat the entire day and we’re looking to go and get 19 wickets tomorrow.

“Of course, ‘Bang’ [Stovell] is class every year. He took a while to get in to Cup Match and people took for granted that he wasn’t initially getting a lot of runs, but since his first 50 I don’t think he’s failed since.

“He got 70-odd down here and now he has back-to-back hundreds; it is a serious feat.”

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Published August 05, 2023 at 8:04 am (Updated August 05, 2023 at 8:05 am)

Imperious Dion Stovell strokes second successive Cup Match century

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