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Cup Match clubs will have their work cut out to avoid relegation

After seeing the first round of the Belco Cup I have a clearer view of what to expect this year from teams in the Premier Division. This year the race at the top will be extremely close. So much so that I think bonus points could be the difference between a team winning and losing the league title.

Two weeks ago I gave a general prediction in my column, but today I will go into more detail as to where I think teams will place in the league.

Unfortunately, I cannot see Somerset avoiding the drop as all the other teams in the league have a bit more experience and quality. Somerset have one or two very promising youngsters who, if given time, will blossom nicely in years to come. They have a nice, young team full of potential and will only get stronger when their college players return from school. They are a team, though, who cannot be taken lightly because they have one or two match-winners. On their day, they could cause any team some problems.

In sixth place, I have St George's. This is very tricky because, at full strength, St George's have the ability to beat any team in the league. However, as shown last weekend against Western Stars, without their overseas players they are going to struggle. With most of their players due back next month, hopefully they will not be too far out of reach from the rest of the pack. Their position will be determined by the availability and the form of their overseas players.

Bailey's Bay are my choice to finish fifth. Bay, like Somerset and St George's, are biding their time and trying to get through a tough start while they await the return of their overseas players. I strongly believe that whatever happens in the first two games against Willow Cuts and Southampton Rangers will set the tone for their season.

In Stephen Outerbridge and Rodney Trott, they have leadership, but they will need other players to step up to the plate if they are to finish in the top four or higher.

Cleveland were the surprise team last year and were in the title race right up until the last two games. They are my pick to come fourth, as they have a well-balanced team. The loss of Chris Douglas will hinder them slightly, but it is their work ethic and strong bowling attack that will see them through. Damali Bell has already shown his match-winning potential with a six-wicket haul last weekend.

In the batting department, they have Jason Anderson, who is one of the league's most consistent performers, having already notched up two half-centuries. If they are to go any higher in the table, the other batsmen will have to pull their weight.

Southampton are my pick for third place. After a relatively easy start to the season, they finish the season playing Willow Cuts and St David's, which could decide their fate. They have a very strong batting line-up; however, it is in their bowling department that they will need to be at their best if they are to be true title contenders.

Derrick Brangman's left-arm spin will be crucial, along with Janeiro Tucker and Dion Stovell. But it is the rest of the bowling cast that will decide their fate. If they can find two bowlers who can do a respectable job week in and week out, they could end up winning the league.

In second place, I have defending champions St David's County Cricket Club. After going last season undefeated, this year could be a bit different. No doubt they have the best bowling attack on the Island as shown last year, when only one team scored more than 200 runs against them. If St David's have one weakness, it is in the batting department. OJ Pitcher had a rather quiet 2013, but if St David's are to have any chance, he and Fiqre Crockwell will have to be at their best.

St David's biggest problem will be finding a balance in selection. They have an abundance of bowlers who can bat a bit, but picking too many bowlers instead of specialist batsmen may prove to be their downfall.

Willow Cuts are no doubt the team to beat. They have the best player in Bermuda in Malachi Jones. He can do it all! The captaincy has only enhanced his game and the rest of the players have shown that they are ready to rally around him.

They have the most balanced team in the league: quality batting supported by quality bowling. Dexter Basden and Kavon Fubler may be used sparingly against the bigger teams, but their fate will lie in their fielding because that has been one of the weaker areas of their game in recent years. I have chosen them above St David's and Rangers because I think they want it more.

Willow Cuts, it is your time to shine.

This year should be very exciting and highly competitive. Teams who are tactically sound will prosper. There are an abundance of batting and bowling points for teams to get. A team can lose a game, but over the duration of a season make that loss up in bonus points if they are wise. Commitment, hard work and good coaching will determine the outcome of the league.

Quote of the week: “A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are”

– Ara Parseghian

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Published May 16, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 16, 2014 at 12:57 am)

Cup Match clubs will have their work cut out to avoid relegation

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