Cup Match retains its essence as Somerset romp to victory
The Cup Match Classic’s comeback marked a welcome return to normality for many at Wellington Oval in St George’s yesterday – and the revival of a sacred Bermudian tradition for those to whom Cup Match is everything.
“I’ve been coming here ever since I was a child, as long as I can remember,” said Somerset fan Devena Lightbourne, who counts West End founders of the match among her ancestors.
All of her grandmother’s brothers were Cup Match cricketers, and Ms Lightbourne missed the opportunity last year to come out as an ardent Somerset supporter when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the match for the first time in 119 years.
Although happy to be back in the stands, Ms Lightbourne acknowledged the game was perhaps not what it could have been - although Somerset’s ten wicket victory several hours later would have gladdened her heart, along with Chris Douglas’ 128 in the first inning.
Numbers by the afternoon were about half the 4,000 allowed under Covid-19 restrictions, and Ms Lightbourne noted that the cricket could have been a little more aggressive.
“I think it will be a draw,” she said. “My ancestors made the game exciting.”
Born in 1957, Ms Lightbourne remembers getting up at 5am on what was then known as Manchester Street – now Somerset Road in Sandys – to carry food with her family to catch the ferry to the East End for Cup Match.
She added: “When Somerset won, that boat was rocking coming back.”
Ms Lightbourne said she preferred Somerset Cricket Club as a venue, because the grounds there made it easier to walk around the field and meet with friends.
“I think, because of the Covid, a lot of people are still reluctant to come out,” she said. “I wasn’t going to because I’m a caregiver, which is why I am sitting away from the crowd.”
But having Cup Match back was worth it, she added: “It’s huge, more than Christmas, with family coming together, meeting up with friends.”
Up in the stands, David Burt, the Premier – and another diehard Somerset fan – danced to the railings every time the Somerset team added to its score, while the DJ played Ray Charles’ Hit the Road, Jack when the East Enders came up short.
Nearby, newly-arrived Robert and Laura, two months out of London, had brought their one-year-old daughter Jasmine along to her first sporting event.
“It’s our first Cup Match, and it’s nice because we haven’t been able to do much in the UK because of the lockdown,” Robert told The Royal Gazette.
Speaking at about 2.30pm, he added: “But it’s going to be a draw unless Somerset get more wickets soon.”
Kim Swan, a St George’s MP for the Progressive Labour Party, still held out some hope for his team.
“It’s not a typical Cup Match, but essentially it’s Cup Match,” Mr Swan said, noting there was “usually no space” at the traditionally packed venue.
This year’s Classic, relying on SafeKey proof of vaccination or a clear coronavirus test for admission, at least meant there was more space than usual to walk around and catch the sights, he said.
Cindy, his wife, said it was her favourite time of year in Bermuda.
She added: “It reminds me of the Caribbean spirit. Everybody gets together no matter which team you’re for.”
Daniel Stovell, chief of radiology at Bermuda Hospitals Board, said he had found a good place in the stands at 8am with his wife Rose-Ann Maxwell-Stovell, an hour before the second day of play got under way, leaving them time to eat breakfast.
Dr Stovell backs St George’s, while his wife is a Somerset fan.
Anticipating the question, Ms Maxwell-Stovell said: “We fight about it every year, but we love each other and we’re here.
“Last year without it was a real loss. It was disappointing.”
Dr Stovell admitted the atmosphere was not the same in a venue that would usually pack in up to 10,000 people.
“We have camaraderie – it’s about the people,” he added. “We’re enjoying it, but we would enjoy it more with everybody here.
“But we’re where we want to be and we don’t give a damn. We’re having a great day.”