Sport is often said to bring some countries to a standstill, but in Bermuda this is taken to another level as virtually the entire island shuts down to enjoy the annual cricketing contest between St. George’s and Somerset Cricket Clubs known as Cup Match. During this two-day public holiday, which takes place on the Thursday and Friday nearest August 1, Bermudians partake in camping, boating and swimming while thousands attend the match itself, the venue of which alternates between the two competing team’s home grounds.
Cricket is incredibly popular in this former British colony and the Bermudian national team compete at ICC competitions, most notably the 2007 Cricket World Cup where they lost all three of their games. Notable players for the island include former Glamorgan captain David Hemp and spin bowler Dwayne Leverock, who played for Somerset in this year’s competition. Four streets in Bermuda are named in honour of cricket; Fielder’s Lane, Bat ‘n’ Ball Lane, Cricket Lane and Grandstand Lane, which gives an indication of the importance that locals place on cricket. The Cup Match is the centrepiece of the domestic season as a carnival atmosphere descends on the island. Fans of the rival teams display their colours (Red and navy for Somerset and blue and dark blue for St. George’s) in the lead up to the game which attracts attendances of around 7,000 and is broadcast on both TV and radio.
The Cup Match has its origins in the celebrations that took place to following the end of slavery in 1834. A key feature of these celebrations was a cricket game between the lodges from the opposing ends of Bermuda and in 1902 it turned into an annual competition between Somerset Cricket Club in the west and St George’s in the east. The game captivated the island and many didn’t go into work during the match which led to the government declaring the two days on which the game occurred as public holidays in 1947.
This year’s match was held at Somerset Cricket Club on the 29th and 30th of July as St. George’s looked to defend the title they had held since 2005. Despite a strong start by the holders, Somerset fought back with the help of Bermudian international Malachi Jones, who earned figures of 4-71. Any potential comeback was ended by persistent heavy rain and little was possible on the second day of play which meant that game ended in a draw and St. George’s retained the trophy. The Royal Gazette declared it this year’s Cup Match as the “wettest in memory” and also argued that the game had been ruined by the rain and that this would only strengthen calls for a third day to be added to the match, or for a reserve day to be allocated. Despite this, many stayed to enjoy the festivities that are associated with Cup Match such as the concerts and local food. As the organisers are keen to stress the Cup Match is more than just a cricket match as it helps to mark the emancipation.
Another important event to note was the retirement of Dwayne Leverock from Cup Match cricket. The spinner, who achieved worldwide fame following his catch at the 2007 Cricket World Cup, made his debut in 1990 and took 44 wickets during his Cup Match career leaving him 16th in the all-time rankings. ‘Sluggo’, as he is known, won the “Safe Hands” award for the catch which ended the St. George’s innings, the second time that he was won this award.
The Cup Match represents a great tradition and one that is embraced by the people of Bermuda. It is also testament to the enduring popularity of cricket that continues to survive in this part of the world despite the threat of other sports.