Colin Thompson, The Royal Gazette
St.George's Cricket Club retained the coveted Cup Match trophy at Wellington Oval yesterday by way of a tame draw.
But it was challengers Somerset who stole the show in the final session of play by producing an awesome fireworks display of batting to give those who braved the inclement weather value for their money.
Chasing St. George's first innings total of 361 for nine declared, Somerset replied with 285 for six in 39 overs when stumps were drawn in fading light at 7.35 p.m.
The challengers found themselves in early trouble at 88 for four with their hosts pushing for a third straight win. But a breathtaking 143-run fifth- wicket stand between Janeiro Tucker and Dean Stephens (the second highest of all-time) knocked St. George's off course and put paid to their victory plans.
Tucker lead the way with a majestic 87 off 56 balls while Stephens contributed an equally robust 57 off 44 balls to record a maiden Cup Match half-century after being put down at long off just after the final drinks break.
The pair came together at the crease in the 20th over with their team in a spot of bother after the champions had made early inroads with the new ball on a tamed pitch. But by the time the partnership had been broken, Somerset were firmly back on course and the inevitable draw all but etched in stone.
Turning the clock back six years at the same venue where he produced the classic's highest individual score (186), a sense of deja-vu began to creep in as with each thrust of the bat Tucker put a wayward St. George's attack lacking the necessary penetration to bag the 20 wickets needed in the day's final session to the sword.
With a pull to the square leg boundary off off spinner Rodney Trott, Tucker took his overall Cup Match run tally past the 900 run mark and three overs later completed a brisk of half century off only 35 balls in 60 minutes.
Not to be outdone, Stephens achieved the milestone in the very next over as Somerset supporters enjoyed their finest moments in a match adversely affected by heavy rains on both days.
But both batsmen would fall in the space of 12 runs as the champions continued to chip away, Stephens in the 34th over when he was caught backward of square attempting another boundary and Tucker two overs later attempting to lift seamer OJ Pitcher over long on.
Stephens banged six fours and four sixes and Tucker ten fours and five sixes to set an overcast Wellington Oval ablaze.
Number three bat Azeem Pitcher led the resistance at the top of Somerset's order with an attractive 43 off 55 balls during a stroke-filled innings containing six fours and a six. Wicketkeeper/batsman Jekon Edness added 25 off 37 balls before he virtually gifted his wicket away in the 16th over chasing after a loose Trott delivery pitched well outside the off stump.
Pacer George O'Brien jr gave St. George's the type of start they were looking for when he combined with wicket-keeper Chris Foggo to send Somerset opener Stephen Outerbridge (0) back in the hutch with the second delivery of the innings. Outerbridge slashed at a wide delivery and was superbly gloved by Foggo who dived low to his left to complete the dismissal and pocket the coveted Safe Hands Award for his efforts.
O'Brien bowled three spells and bent his back to return hard earned figures of two for 84 toiling on a pitch that favoured the batsmen. St. David's team-mate OJ Pitcher also made the most of the placid conditions and was rewarded with impressive figures of two for 35 off seven overs with one maiden.
Middle order bats Jacobi Robinson (26) and Malachi Jones (15) remained unbeaten at the crease when stumps were drawn to pull the curtains down on another classic that had promised so much.
The bat also dominated the ball during a rain shortened opening day's play which saw hosts St.George's placed in the comfortable position of 258 for six with last year's MVP OJ Pitcher (27) and skipper Lionel Cann (25) unbeaten at the crease when bad light halted proceedings at 5 p.m.
Pitcher produced another marathon innings spanning six hours and 18 minutes and for the second straight year fell agonisingly shy of what would have been a deserved century.
The St. David's Islander stroked 94 runs off 132 balls and proved to be the backbone of St.George's innings after the champions were sent in to bat after a one hour and 42 minute delay due to a waterlogged pitch.
Pitcher hit 11 fours and two sixes and reached his half century in the 62nd over off 106 balls. He also featured in several fruitful partnerships that stopped the rot whenever Somerset made a breakthrough with the ball.
Pitcher added 99-runs for the fourth-wicket with veteran batsman Clay Smith, 33 runs for the sixth-wicket with Charlie Marshall, 71 runs for the seventh-wicket with skipper Cann, 29 runs for the eighth-wicket along with Trott and another 32 runs for the ninth-wicket with cousin Arthur Pitcher jr.
St.George's declared their innings at 4.10 p.m. after fast bowler Kevin Hurdle sent Pitcher's off stump cartwheeling in the 74th over after the batsman played loosely at an inswinger, leaving Somerset two hours and 20 overs to reply.
Veteran bat Smith also left his mark on Cup Match 2007 by becoming only the third batsmen in the classic's history to score 1,000 runs. Smith hammered 62 runs off 57 balls to set the early tempo against a docile Somerset attack and in the 29th over achieved the 1,000 run milestone with an inside edge off Hurdle that raced to the vacant fine leg boundary for four.
But Smith's enterprising innings came to a close in the 46th over when he spooned an easy offering to mid-on after being deceived by a slower Robinson delivery. Smith belted nine fours and two sixes.
Earlier, openers Oronde Bascome (24) and Chris Foggo (59) virtually knocked the shine off the ball to carry St. George's to the commanding position of 89 without loss at lunch.
Foggo was the dominant partner and he decorated the scoreboard with some immaculately timed shots on either side of the wicket and reached his half century off 51 balls as the Somerset bowlers struggled to find a good length.
But shortly after play resumed the challengers claimed three quick wickets in the space of seven- runs as St.George's slipped to 96 for three.
Foggo was the first to go in the third over following the luncheon interval after only adding another five -runs to his personal tally. The St. David's Islander hammered nine fours and faced 59 balls before he was bowled by a slower Malachi Jones' delivery.
Seven runs later colt James Celestine realised every colt's worst nightmare when he was caught at second slip after getting a top edge playing across the line of a Dwayne Leverock delivery for a duck.
Bascome, who curbed his aggressive instincts to play more of a supporting role, then departed in the next over when he edged one behind to wicket-keeper Edness to give teenaged seamer Jones his second-wicket.
Bascome stroked 25 off 69 balls and hit one four and two sixes, including the first of the match in the 16th over, before he came unstuck. Smith and Delyone Borden (0) then departed, leaving Marshall (30) and Cann (39) to spread the field with some aggressive strokeplay to lift St. George's to 223 for five at tea.
Marshall departed shortly after play resumed when he dragged a Robinson delivery onto his stumps just as he began to shift gears. Cup Match's all-time leading run-getter banged four fours and two sixes over the mid-wicket boundary.
St. George's, however, quickly got back on top of the bowling with skipper Cann - who was dropped at gully before getting off the mark - and Pitcher steadying the ship by adding 29 runs to carry St.George's to a respectable 257 for six before bad light halted play at 5 p.m.
Robinson seized three for 63 off 16 overs with three maidens to emerge as Somerset's best bowler while Jones and the larger than life Leverock had two for 69 and two for 78 respectively.