Tomorrow’s midtable One Premier Division clash between Somerset and Western Stars will have plenty at stake as both teams look to consolidate their places in the top flight.
The clubs are the last two to be promoted to the Premier Division, with Stars surviving their first season up last year while Stars are hoping to do the same this season after winning promotion last season.
Both clubs will be without a couple of players because of the Under-19 World Cup Qualifier Americas Region, which begins on Monday in Toronto.
Somerset have batsmen Solomon Burrows and Alje Richardson in the team while Stars have all-rounders Dalin Richardson, the captain, and Jaiden Manders. All four have been regulars in their club teams this season.
Jeff Richardson, the Somerset coach and father of Alje, has strong connections to Stars as a former team-mate of Arnold Manders, the Stars coach. Stars pair Jekon Edness and Jacobi Robinson are former Somerset players, which adds an extra bit of interest to the match between the third and fourth placed sides.
“This will be the second time we’ve played them and we didn’t give them a decent game the first time,” Richardson admitted, referring to the season-opening four-wicket loss on June 4 at St John’s Field. “My team has had some pretty good performances since then and have developed a whole lot and it should be an interesting contest.”
Alje Richardson had a good knock of 73 from 90 deliveries in the loss to Southampton Rangers two weeks ago and the youngster will be missed tomorrow.
“Just prior to him having that good knock I approached him and told him ‘you’re batting at No 3, you need to start making some runs’,” father Jeff said. “After that day he went on and made 70-odd against Cleveland and then backed that up with 73 against Rangers, so he’s going to be a huge miss at No 3.
“But now it’s an opportunity for somebody else in the team to stand up and be counted.”
Both teams have two wins from five games with Stars holding down third spot with 34 points while Somerset have 29, just seven points ahead of Bailey’s Bay who occupy the relegation playoff spot. Survival is the priority, Richardson admits.
“That’s our plan and I’m sure that’s their plan as well, you looking at two teams who are pretty close as far as their aspirations for the season. I’m hoping to win this match but even if we don’t it won’t be the end of the season for us as we still have some other teams who I think we can nip some points off.
“I think if we win two of our last five we should be okay because there are teams below us struggling as well.”
Richardson concedes the late start to the league season makes it difficult for the Cup Match clubs to arrange trial matches in the few weeks before the big match.
“The season starts off pretty late and before you know it Cup Match is upon you and people tend to complain that players aren’t in any type of form,” he said. “The season is so short that by the time Cup Match comes it is difficult for batsmen and bowlers to be in an decent form.
“I think we could have planned things a little better. I’ve lost two players in the Under-19 squad and because of the relative young age of my team it puts us in a difficult position of trying to squeeze players in. I’ve lost an opening batsman and my No 3 batsman.
“Stars are missing two players, we’re missing two players, but the game could have been played the weekend gone, just before they left. I’ve made it quit clear that we’ve got players in the under-19 team who aren’t playing enough cricket.
“Some of the players are good but not good enough to make their first team squad and that has a negative impact on their performances when they go overseas.
“I think we have to be very careful about our expectations for this team because we’ve got kids in there as young as 14 and they will be coming up against some pretty good opposition.
“Hopefully they do as well as they can but lets not overshoot our expectations. Nirobi Mills is only 14 and may have the responsibility to do a bulk of the opening bowling. My son is the oldest in the team at 18!”
Tomorrow’s other matches will see bottom team Cleveland going up against unbeaten leaders St David’s at Wellington Oval while Rangers host Bailey’s Bay at Southampton Oval, hoping to repeat their victory at Sea Breeze Oval, where they won by three wickets last month.
n Regino Smith of Flatts was the One First Division Player of the Week after his innings of 45 helped Flatts inflict the first league loss on PHC last weekend in a low scoring match at St David’s.
Flatts scored 137 and dismissed PHC for 112, with Smith taking an important catch at mid-on to dismiss top scorer Dev Hanuman for 38.