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Rangers pair will decide league outcome

At a stretch: Burgess takes a flying catch while playing for his English club side Sleaford CC

The cricket season is upon us and it is time for my predictions for the season.

As 50-over cricket begins this weekend I want to take a closer look at both divisions, to see who the favourites are to win, and who could end up being relegated.

Unlike last year, when one team was automatically relegated, this year two teams get relegated and one team from the lower division is guaranteed promotion.

The fifth-place team in the Premier Division will then play the runner-up in the First Division, and the winner will play in the Premier Division the following season.

I think this season is almost too close to call, as teams have signed players in the transfer window to strengthen their squads. Bailey’s Bay, Cleveland County and Devonshire Recreation Club have bolstered their line-ups in an effort to achieve more this season.

Given all that, I’m still going to have a try and here are the positions I think teams will find themselves come September.

Premier Division

Seventh — Flatts.

They have shown that they will be no pushovers, as they defeated Willow Cuts last weekend in the Twenty20. However, there is a long season ahead, and I think in the end they will lack the little bit of extra quality needed to compete in the top flight.

Sixth — Willow Cuts

Cuts have lost a lot of good players and will find the going tough. They will have to rely on their senior players to score the bulk of their runs, as they look to groom some younger players. Regardless of what team Cuts put out on the field one thing they won’t lack is heart, as they will battle from ball one right until the end.

Fifth — Somerset

The one team I am not sure about. Somerset lack star players, but they have team unity and on their day, they are capable of beating anybody. Consistency will be the key to whether they survive or not.

Fourth — Cleveland

Like Somerset they have the potential to accomplish a lot more, but it will depend on their players’ commitment. On paper Cleveland have one of the most balanced teams in the league, but how badly do the players want it? That is the question.

Third — Bailey’s Bay

Although Bay went out and picked up the services of Malachi Jones and Zeiko Burgess to bolster their bowling, they are still lacking in the batting department.

Twice already Rangers have bowled them out cheaply, and they will not have Delray Rawlins this season, so the question is where will their runs come from?

Second — St David’s

I think the top two places will be decided by tactics.

St David’s are the defending champions, but I think they will come up short this year. Under Wendell Smith’s coaching, Del Hollis opened the bowling and was lethal, but this year in the Belco Cup finals I couldn’t help but notice that St David’s opened with two fast bowlers.

If they continue to use this ploy they could find themselves chasing a lot more runs than necessary. In George O’Brien and OJ Pitcher they have two potential match-winners, but do they have the quality in depth to win the title for a third year in a row?

Champions — Southampton Rangers

I’m picking Rangers for two very simple reasons, Janeiro Tucker and Dion Stovell.

In my mind they are the two best players on the Island and the rest of the Rangers team feeds off of them. Last year Janeiro had a quiet season by his standards and Rangers still finished second. If there is one thing Rangers are good at, it is accumulating bonus points. At the end of the season things will be close, and I’m predicting Rangers to win the league by less than five points.

First Division

Three teams standout in this league and they are: Western Stars, Devonshire Recreation Club, and St George’s. Last year there were quite a few surprises in this league, so it should not come as a shock if a team like Somerset Bridge are there, or thereabouts causing some havoc. PHC and Warwick are still in the rebuilding phase so there won’t be any high expectations from them.

The Bermuda Under-18 squad are also playing in the league in preparation for the ICC Under-19 World Cup Qualifiers here in July.

Ultimately, I think it will be a straight fight between Western Stars and Devonshire Recreation Club, and in the end I think Western Stars quality will come through.

In Chris Douglas, Devonshire possess one of the most potent batsmen on the Island, and he could single-handedly destroy Western Stars’ hopes of promotion yet again.

My dark horse team for promotion are St George’s. They have a nice young side with a bit of experience.

How soon they get Christian Burgess and Onias Bascome back from overseas could well determine their fate in the end, but do not count them out.