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Cup Match a massive hit even though my team lost!

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DOWN through the years I have stated many times over and over that I love to tell and retell the Cup Match Story.

It's an old, old story that goes far beyond the 110 years Somerset and S. George's have been battling for that priceless silver cup which symbolises cricket supremacy in Bermuda.

Cup Match first and foremost is deeply rooted in the emancipation on August 1, 1834 of slavery. It was a day of great rejoicing then, and accentuated by Cup Match down through the decades. It celebrates the freedom gained by black people after being held against their will for hundreds of years, providing free labour for their captors, masters and mistresses.

An estimated four million blacks did not make it to the New World. They lost their lives in the Middle Passage, while being transported in chains and shackles from Africa.

In fact, we should all know by now that the first day of Cup Match by Act of Parliament is Emancipation Day, and the second day is Somers Day, commemorating the landing of Admiral Sir George Somers and other survivors from his wrecked ship Sea Venture. Their arrival July 28, 1609 marked the beginning of the permanent settlement of Bermuda.

I was glad to note that of all the flags and banners decorating Wellington Oval last week the biggest and highest was the one on the southern side of the field hailing FREEDOM DAY.

Bermuda could justifiably lay claim to our Annual Somerset-StGeorge's Cup Match and Emancipation Celebration as being the presage, or even the template for the Twenty20 cricket fever now sweeping the Caribbean, and indeed, the world. And I would suggest it's about time we staked out that claim!

Legends sojourning here from all quarters of the world of cricket have for generations written about the mesmerising impact Cup Match cricket has had on them. We can substantiate that by quoting the great Sir Julian Chan, Gary Sobers, a host of former Governors of Bermuda among others.

Aside from the cricket, there's the gaiety of the thousands who flock to the game, their utter excitement, lavish hospitality, the music, the soul force that's a salute worthy salute to our ancestors.

Slavery ended in the British Empire on August 1, 1834. Emancipation Day is widely observed in the British West Indies during the first week of August. In many Caribbean countries the Emancipation Day celebration is a part of a carnival.

In Barbados, Emancipation Day is part of the annual “Season of Emancipation” which runs from April 14 to August 23. The season, includes the anniversary of the Slave Rebellion led by the Right Excellent Bussa, National hero, in 1816, National Heroes' Day on April 28, the Crop Over Festival, the Day of National Significance on July 26 (in commemoration of the social unrest of 1937) and International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on August 23.

Emancipation Day celebrations usually feature a walk from Independence Square in Bridgetown to the Heritage Village at the Crop Over Bridgetown Market on the Spring Garden Highway. At the Heritage Village, apart from a concert, there is also a wreath-laying ceremony as a tribute to the ancestors. Traditionally, the Prime Minister, the Minister responsible for Culture and representatives of the Commission for Pan African Affairs are among those laying wreaths.

THE thrilling, drama-filled never-to-be forgotten two-wicket victory by St George's over Somerset last week was just what the historic classic needed, particularly for the present generation, who had seen nothing like it before.

I have to confess my red-and-blue Somerset team put me through many melancholy moments on both days, when it seemed St George's were going to win easily after bowling them out before lunch in the nfirst innings. But we survived. And we gave St George's and their superstar Lionel Cann full marks for their good sportsmanship in the last hour or two of the match.

When our star all-rounder, 17-year-old Joshua Gilbert, was beginning to run through the East Enders like a dose of salts (as the old timers used to say), claiming five good wickets in a tight spell of bowling, the cup holders resisted the temptation as they might have done in past games to play for a draw and hold on to the cup. Cann instead 'opened up' going for the boundaries like my all-time favourites Champ Hunt and Chopper Hazel.

It really was exciting and nerve-racking for the thousands packing the double- and three-decker bleachers, listening to their radios at Cup Match camp sites around the country and watching television in their homes.

My pictures show spectators going wild at Wellington Oval moments after St George's won the cup outright. It was a great moment for St George's president Neil Paynter (right above) and his management team who were justifiably in their glory at presentation time; they did a most efficient job hosting the 2011 edition. Paula Cox (top middle) made no display at neutrality as Premier of Bermuda, standing by her Somerset team all the way. Spectators engrossed in the game included Osrola and May Smith, daughter Selina Simons and Natasha Tweed. Hospitality was lavish for Governor Sir Richard Gozney, Cabinet Ministers and other VIPs at the clubhouse. Scottish-born Arthur (Art) Balmer, sporting Somerset colours, and rank St Georgian Joan Moore teamed up for the lunch break. Art, a protégé of Champ Hunt and Chopper Hazel and now a successful Washington consultant, made is first visit to Bermuda in May, and came back for Cup Match. Visiting from Turks and Caisos were Bermudian lawyer Arnold Todd, Jr and wife (bottom left) and Arnold's sister with her South African husband, lawyers who practise in London.

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Published August 06, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 06, 2011 at 9:24 am)

Cup Match a massive hit even though my team lost!

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