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Lord’s will be a battleground for ‘epic’ final

Outside of Cup Match, tomorrow’s Eastern Counties clash between Cleveland County and St David’s is the most anticipated match of the season.

St David’s will be determined to avenge their humiliating defeat to Cleveland last season, while Cleveland will be aiming to prove that victory was no fluke.

It will be like watching Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield fight. St David’s represent Tyson and will come looking to bully Cleveland and destroy them as quickly as possible.

Cleveland are like Holyfield, coming with a tactical approach to try and frustrate before looking for the finish. It will be a case of aggressiveness v tactics.

Last season, St David’s went into their Eastern Counties match with Cleveland as heavy favourites. I recall hearing a spectator telling his friend on the phone, “You better hurry up to the ground because Cleveland are batting and this game could be over early”. No respect!

St David’s came into last year’s county match having lost only once all season and looking invincible. Who could blame them for thinking that they would just walk all over Cleveland, as they had beaten them twice prior to the county match relatively easily.

Little did they know that they would face a different Cleveland; a Cleveland who were willing to fight, ball by ball, minute by minute, until the very end.

When St David’s realised they were in a fight it was too late, as Cleveland could smell blood and were like a pack of ferocious caged wolves just been set loose.

St David’s will come into tomorrow’s match with a very different mindset. They are humbled after having a rather ordinary season so far by their standards.

The loss of head coach Wendell Smith has been significant. They never really found a full-time coach, as various people have been filling the void. First it was Graham Fox, then they brought Dean Minors on board as a consultant. In the last two weeks they have requested the services of Western Stars coach, their former coach, Wendell Smith. This alone shows you that St David’s have learnt from their mistakes and at the very least have some respect for the champions Cleveland.

St David’s issue is who to select, as they have an abundance of talent to choose from. Do they go with their league players or will they opt to take guest players, such as Chris Douglas, Christian Burgess and Chare Smith.

Cleveland are very aware of the threat St David’s pose. Unfortunately for Cleveland, they will have to do without the services of Hasan Durham who has to play with Southampton Rangers in a rescheduled Premier Division game against Willow Cuts.

Considering what Rangers’ left-arm spinner Derrick Brangman just did to St David’s batting line-up, claiming eight wickets last weekend, Cleveland were hoping to have him or Peter Philpott available.

Unfortunately, neither is available. On a brighter note, Cleveland have Dennis Musson, their vice-captain back, who will actually take over the captaincy duties from Dion Stovell.

Stovell filled the role for Cleveland in the last county game against Flatts. Musson played a vital role in last year’s victory over St David’s, claiming four wickets. He is one player St David’s have to be cognisant of, for on his day he can be devastating and rip the heart out of their batting order.

Fans, if you are coming for a picnic, Lord’s is not the place to be. This match will be a battle from the first ball to the last. These two teams are coming to win and neither one of them is going to give an inch. This has the making of an epic final.

The atmosphere will be electric and one can expect Lord’s to be decorated in yellow and blue, as the home fans will surely show strong support, as they always do.

Cleveland’s strength lies in their community support and I have no doubt every Cleveland fan in Bermuda will want to be at this game.

I was away in England for the last county match, but was told that Bailey’s Bay fans stayed away.

I want to encourage Bay fans to come out and support this match even if it means you wearing your red and white.

Trust me, I understand your frustration, but cricket plays such a pivotal role in the lives of our youth in Bermuda, as it teaches them about teamwork, decision-making, character, time-management, problem-solving and so on.

While you have your differences with Eastern Counties, I can assure you that at the end of this series those changes that you long to see happen, can happen.

However, we must all come together and make decisions for the betterment of the sport and not our personal clubs, which is what has happened in the past. Only then will cricket and Eastern Counties flourish again.

Quote of the week: There’s always the motivation of wanting to win. Everybody has that. But a champion needs, in his attitude, a motivation above and beyond winning — Pat Riley