Want more wins at Cup Match? Get on with the bloody game!
Now that the dust has settled on Cup Match and Somerset prepare for a future that does not include a run machine whose surname is amended by deed poll at this time of year to demonstrate his utter dominance of the annual classic, it is time to reflect on what might have been.
Unlike 2013, when rain, Lionel Cann and Rodney Trott — in no particular order — stood in the way of a sure Somerset victory, the draw this year in a match that was dominated by the cup-holders virtually from start to finish was wholly avoidable.
Somerset, who dropped a number of catches in a display of fielding that failed to match the standard of recent years past, have only themselves to blame.
They dropped Cann early in his innings on the first day when St George's were in steep decline and continued throughout to grass presentable chances, which if taken might have allowed them an opportunity to get back to bat on Friday evening to knock off the winning runs and to possibly give Janeiro Tucker a shot at adding the 1,500-run milestone to his many other achievements in the game.
Butterfingers aside, players on both sides, and the officials who are meant to oversee them, could use a healthy kick up the backside for their general lethargy in making every minute count.
Slow over-rates have been the bane of Bermuda cricket's existence for much of the past decade. With not one bowler of genuine pace on the island, the closest being Malachi Jones, of Somerset, and Stefan Kelly, of St George's, there is no real excuse for an over-rate of slower than 12 an hour.
But that's what we were served up at Somerset Cricket Club — cricket so slow at times that the tortoise could give it a head start and still win by a lap.
The lack of urgency appeared palpable. Right from the off, the match started several minutes late, owing to the pomp and ceremony. No excuse for that, even.
Then came the clatter of St George's wickets. Before you settled properly into your seat, they were 19 for four, with Cann having already been dropped. The prospect of a repeat of 2015 seemed very real.
Wickets falling lead to a break in play, but what followed as Cann and Allan Douglas Jr bludgeoned their century stand for the fifth wicket was the beginning of laid-back Bermuda cricket at its worst in terms of timeliness.
At no time in the match was the internationally expected rate of 15 overs an hour close to being matched; and at club level, that rate is supposed to be ramped up to 17 overs an hour. Nowhere near are we to that standard. This shows how much our cricketers lag behind, or are allowed to lag behind, in getting on with the game.
Much of this is about discipline, or the lack of it.
Having lost almost ten minutes over the duration of the St George's first innings — so that's three overs we can never make up — the start of the Somerset innings was nothing short of shambolic. The supposed ten-minute change of innings took an eternity, then — we kid you not — the first two overs took nearly 30 minutes to complete, and that was without Terryn Fray and Chris Douglas making a significant imprint on the scoreboard.
While the subsequent wasting of time was never as bad as during that particular juncture, there were several mini episodes that would have even the most lenient curmudgeon foaming at the mouth.
The traditional delays for crowd invasions that are brought by fifties and hundreds, perhaps a source of amusement for visitors, are one thing. But when people swarm the pitch with no intention of enriching the batsman but are simply there to be seen?
When water breaks take far more than the statutory five minutes to be completed?
When batsmen take an age to leave the wicket, even when they are so very obviously out?
When players from all directions swarm towards the umpire despite the “not out” signal having been given several seconds earlier?
When it takes an eternity to set the field, leaving the coach to wonder whether the blackboard sessions were a waste of time?
When bowlers throw their toys out of the pram after a dropped catch and take for ever to bowl the next ball?
When batsmen meet in the middle of the pitch for a fist-bump only seconds after the previous fist-bump?
When you have a water break only a half-hour after coming from lunch?
When players on opposing sides congregate before taking their position in the field as though they are out for a social?
When all this happens, and more, you are left with Somerset having four overs instead of perhaps 14 to chase 95 runs — the equivalent of 45 minutes wasted over the two days.
One online commenter, upon learning the match ended in a draw, said that it was a waste of time. It was a crude comment from someone who in all likelihood has little love for cricket, our national sport, but he wasn't half-wrong.
We could forgive so many things if play were speeded up so that spectators feel they were getting total value for money.
We could forgive the umpires for making a dog's breakfast of Janeiro Tucker's final dismissal in Cup Match; that is, their failure to have him “officially” recorded as bowled, even though he was initially given out leg-before. Oscar Andrade could not see the tracking ball but his partner at square leg, Emmerson Carrington, at the earliest opportunity should have confirmed that the ball went on to break the wicket. The Laws of Cricket clearly state that bowled supersedes any other mode of dismissal that would have been justifiably given otherwise.
Despite very clear television evidence, their error was compounded by both radio stations, one of whom had more in common with Larry, Curly and Moe than what might be expected of those entrusted with bringing the play-by-play and learned opinion to your living room.
For their pièce de résistance, the same trio made a Horlicks of the endgame, serving only to spread mass confusion when stumps were drawn with what they errantly believed to be seven overs left. Lacking the very basic knowledge that three overs would be lost in any possible change of innings, they failed not only to set the scene in the half-hour or so before the end, but then dug a hole so deep for themselves that it will take some time to resurface — or until the next Eastern Counties match. Pity the thought.
But we would forgive all that. We would forgive that and all the idiosyncrasies of the game here that elicit the resigned gasp “only in Bermuda”.
If only the players would just get on with the bloody game!