Josh Ball, The Royal Gazette
This year's Cup Match petered out in a draw as the weather wrecked any hope of a result at Somerset Cricket Club.
Persistent, and at times torrential, rain throughout the day made play impossible, barring a two hour period early on, and brought a disappointing end to a match that had promised much on occasion.
The wettest Cup Match in recent memory was over as contest long before the umpires finally brought proceedings to an end just before 4 p.m., and if the players had returned to play a few overs at the end, it would have been for little more reason than to entertain the crowd.
So, St George's will keep the trophy for another year, and this fourth consecutive draw is the longest sequence of such results since there were five in a row from 1970 to 1974.
While the holders will have little complaint about the outcome, they might consider themselves lucky to have survived a Somerset fightback that meant the game was still very much in the balance when the rain first fell at 11.43 yesterday morning.
By that time, Somerset had claimed St George's' last seven first innings wickets for 89 runs, and kept a deficit, that at one stage looked like being in three figures, down to just three runs, finally getting the visiting team out for 223.
Malachi Jones had much to do with that, producing a fine spell of fast bowling that saw him take two wickets in his first over, and eventually finish the innings with four for 51. The only black mark against Jones, who also scored a brisk 57 in Somerset's innings, were the 14 no-balls he sent down, and his run-up is a disaster at the moment.
That aside, Jones' performance again underlined his claim to be the best fast bowler on the Island, and brought into question the way he was used, or not used as it turned out, by skipper Jacobi Robinson on the first day.
With St George's resuming their innings on 134 for three yesterday morning, Jones reduced them to 144 for five in the space of one eight-ball over. After having two no-balls dispatched for four, he got his next delivery to jag back viciously and trapped Anderson lbw. Three deliveries later Delyone Borden was heading back to the pavilion, also given out lbw, although the ball appeared to hit his bat first.
The holders began yesterday in a position where they could have dreamed of crushing Somerset on their own ground, and where a safety first approach would have done a disservice to their performance on the first day.
With OJ Pitcher unbeaten on 34 overnight, the plan should have been to pile on the runs early and get a chance to bowl at Somerset before lunch.
Jones ended that when his pace and bounce accounted for Lionel Cann in his next over, and the sight of the St George's veteran heading back to the pavilion for a duck fired the challengers once more.
Pitcher provided some brief resistance and reached his half-century when Jordan DeSilva dropped a delivery short and wide outside off stump, and Pitcher crashed him to the boundary.
The St George's man was out soon after though for 63, edging a Jones delivery to Janeiro Tucker in the slips, and at 191 for seven the holders were fighting to reach Somerset's first innings total of 220 for eight declared. They just made it, however, thanks to some clean hitting by Allan Douglas Jnr (19) and Rodney Trott (20).
With more than an hour to go before lunch, Somerset prepared themselves for a second innings and the chance to win a match that had become a straight one-day fight.
What might have followed is anyone's guess but a game that was evenly poised and could have gone either way was ruined by the weather. The game certainly deserved a result, and there is unlikely to be a stronger argument for a reserve day, or extending Cup Match to three days, than this.
However, the rain that denied either side the chance to win really rather summed up two days when not a lot went right for the challengers. And the fact that they got as close as they did yesterday masked some bad luck and bad decision making that had left them fighting to save the game.
There was little to commend in Somerset's performance on Thursday, and the optimism with which they had approached the game generally seemed misplaced after a day that St George's dominated utterly.
Things started badly for the home side when they lost the toss and the visiting team elected to field, in a position where they had to force the game, Somerset would have been hoping to bowl first. They didn't, but then Plan B didn't exactly work either.
Needing to score runs quickly, urgency turned into recklessness for Somerset's batsmen, and Kwane Tucker (11) and Chris Douglas (11) both fell cheaply, gifting their wickets to Justin Pitcher. Tucker got off the mark with a straight six and was trying to do something similar when he lost his middle stump. Douglas, meanwhile, made a mess of a backfoot drive and chipped the ball to Jason Anderson at mid-off.
At 24 for two, the home side were struggling, and although Stephen Outerbridge (19) and Deunte Darrell (72) put on 48 for the third wicket, Outerbridge's dismissal started another collapse that saw Somerset slip to 113 for five. Importantly for St George's, Janeiro Tucker was amongst the batsmen to fall, edging a Rodney Trott delivery to Cann in the slips for just one.
Cann took three catches, including the best of the game, and surely a Safe Hands Award winner, to dismiss Robinson. The Somerset skipper was trying to get his team's run rate moving when he got a leading edge to a ball from Trott that he was trying to hit out of the ground. The ball went straight into the air, and as Trott and Cann both raced to the ball, a collision, and drop seemed inevitable.
In the end though, Cann lept over the top of his team-mate, caught the ball, and held on to it as he landed, before jumping up and racing around the ground in celebration. At 138 for six, Somerset were staring down the barrell, and only Darrell and Jones stopped them from being completely blown away.
When Jones was finally out, Robinson made the brave decision to declare, cognisant of the fact that his side still had to force the issue and with 30 minutes still remaining before tea, it seemed an eminently sensible move.
What wasn't sensible was the decision not to use Jones in that 30-minute spell, and Oronde Bascome (23) and Chris Foggo (33) guided their side safely to the interval with the minimum of fuss.
Somerset's bowling throughout the first day was sub-standard, and even though Dwayne Leverock took two wickets and Joshua Gilbert one, the St George's batsmen, much like Somerset's, got themselves out with rash shots.
Too often the challengers pitched the ball too short, or too wide, or more often than not, both. The trouble for Somerset was that they thought that beating the bat with the batsmen going backwards was a good thing, but if the ball is sailing a foot over the stumps, the batsmen isn't going to be unduly concerned if it goes past him.
Such was the toothless nature of the Somerset attack that Pitcher and Anderson, who came together with the score 107 for three, were able to bat out the last 55 minutes of the first day largely untroubled and added a gentle 27 runs to the total in that time.
At that stage Somerset looked like a victory for them would be if they could scrape a draw, and St George's had as firm a grip on the trophy as they had done before the day started. But then came Jones, and the rain, and the questions and arguments about what might have happened will rage forever.