There is nothing like Cup Match in Bermuda. Nothing like it in the world. Nowhere else in the cricketing world, not England where the great game was invented nor in the cricket-crazy Caribbean does a whole COUNTRY celebrate a cricket game quite like Bermuda. The food, the fashions and the Crown and Anchor tables are as much a part of the scene as the cricket itself.
“Cup Match” someone once said, “is where we eat everything in Bermuda, drink everything in Bermuda.” And nowhere else in the world has a public holiday been created specifically for a cricket match.
The Thursday of the two-day sporting bacchanalia is actually Emancipation Day. Friday is now Mary Prince Day. But since 1944, Bermuda has had a two-day holiday on the Thursday and Friday before the first Monday in August.
Before the War, the match had always started on the Thursday so that people could take advantage of the then weekly half-day holiday when many sporting events were held. By the 1940s many businesses gave the Friday as a general holiday to their staff and those that didn’t often found staff suddenly taken ill on the Friday but well enough to watch the cricket!
So how did it all begin, this colourful cross between a carnival, test match and working man’s Ascot?
The First Cup Match
The first Cup Match was played in 1902 – actually there were three games that first year – but the match has its roots in the latter half of the 19th century. The game was introduced to Bermuda by British soldiers stationed in St. George’s and members of the Royal Navy at Dockyard. The first recorded cricket match in Bermuda was played in 1846 between British servicemen. Bermudians, and black Bermudians in particular, fell in love with the game.
Without proper cricket gear, Bermudians did what they always did- improvise. They carved bats out of oleander trees and wrapped a stone in cloth to create a crude ball. With the formation the all-black Bermuda Militia Artillery in 1890, cricket flourished as Bermudians took advantage of the proper sporting gear provided by the army and the keen opposition offered by games against the Navy and Army.
By the turn of the century – no one is sure exactly when – the St. George’s and Somerset lodges of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows had begun playing each other in an annual friendly cricket match as part of a yearly picnic to mark Emancipation Day (August 1, 1834). The matches grew in competitiveness and in 1901, after a particularly thrilling clash at the Garrison Field in St. George’s, where the home team won by a run with the last man in, it was suggested that a cup be played for annually.
The idea was formally adopted at a meeting in Market Square, St. George’s and Henry T. Cann of Somerset had the honour of ordering the original solid silver trophy from England for the princely sum of twenty guineas. Today’s teams actually play for a replica trophy. The priceless original is safely locked away in a bank vault in St. George’s.
It was agreed that the first match, in 1902 would be the best of three one-day games and the winner would then hold the cup and host the annual match on their home field until the challengers won it back. It was not until 1941 that the present format was adopted of switching the venue every two years unless the visiting side won the first year. Remarkably, there appears to have been few negative tactics employed by the cup holders as only four of the matches up to 1943 were drawn – and one of those was because of rain.
According to the late Cup Match historian Percival St. George Ratteray, it was not until the Cup Match was agreed upon that the two cricket clubs actually came into being.
In the 1983 Heritage Magazine, Mr. Ratteray wrote: “Although some of the best cricketers belong to the Lodges, there were many, and better, who did not. So, once the annual Cup Match was decided upon …they decided to form their own clubs for the competition of the game whereby they could pick the best players from their respective parishes.”
Although Somerset Cricket Club was formed in 1902, adopting red and blue as its colours, there had actually been an organised cricket club in St. George’s since 1892, possibly the Island’s first. Walter Darrell, a former member of the Corporation of Hamilton and a tailor by profession, had personally selected the club’s colours of light and dark blue.
The first pitches were rough, often made of clay or cinders. From the 1920s, concrete pitches overlaid with coconut matting were used before they gave way to the traditional turf wickets in the early 1970s. Cup Match has been played on the present grounds, Wellington Oval in St. George’s and the Somerset Cricket Club, since 1921 and 1949 respectively.
The very first Cup Match was played on June 12, 1902 at Royal Naval Field, Somerset having won the toss of a coin for the right to stage the first game. The match ended in a resounding victory for St. George’s by seven wickets. Remarkably, the teams were tied after their first innings, both having scored 73.
The second match of 1902 was staged at the Garrison Field in St. George’s on July 12 during which Somerset were victorious.
And so it was back to Royal Naval Field for the third and deciding match on August 21. What happened next is something of a mystery. With no newspaper reports of Cup Match until 1912, there is little documented evidence of the early games and even sources and results can differ wildly. Suffice to say, there appears to have been some sort of brawl and the game was abandoned.
Happily, for cricket and Bermuda, Cup Match resumed and while it has seen sit-down protests and stumps being kicked down in anger, it has remained an annual institution to this day.
The folklore and traditions of Cup Match have been passed down through the generations and one imagines the game’s founders would be proud to see those traditions continued. However, former Somerset captain Thomas Durrant, who played in all three 1902 games and lived to see both sons Edward and Arthur play in the annual game, remarked in the fiftieth-anniversary booklet: “Times have changed and present-day cricket don’t compare any too favourably with the game during the period when I played.”
Cup Match and cricket are more than just sporting events. They are important cultural touchstones for many Bermudians.
Former Somerset captain Arthur Simons, one of the greatest bowlers Bermuda has ever produced and whose father Howard and uncle Virgil Simons played in the first games, wrote in his 1943 book Bermuda Cricket Reminiscences: “I think that apart from my prime necessities, cricket must have been one of the first things I grasped. It was from the time I knew myself that it was the most important recreation in our household. My father and uncles were sportsmen known by many. Cricket was handed down from my ancestors as far back as could be remembered.”
Alma (Champ) Hunt, Bermuda’s great all-rounder and journalist once wrote: “through the Cup Match, cricket still lays claim to the belief … that it is the most democratic of all games. It has the power to merge the community into one spirit – one mood – and why not one world? – for two days at least …”
Arthur Simons recalls his pride in stepping off the steamship Corona at St. George’s with the Somerset team in 1939 to be greeted by a crowd that followed the team bus to Wellington Oval.
“Many spectators arose”, wrote Simons, “several little boys crowding around the bus. I glanced over several of their faces. I could see various expressions, some appearing to say, ‘I wish I were a cricketer’.”
Video credit: Bermuda Tourism Authority
Cricket is played between two teams, each of which has 11 players. Each team takes turns batting and playing the field. In cricket, the batter is a batsman and the pitcher is a bowler. The bowler tries to knock down the bail of the wicket. A batsman tries to prevent the bowler from hitting the wicket by hitting the ball. Two batsmen are on the pitch at the same time.
The batters can run after the ball is hit. A run is scored each time they change places on the pitch. The team with the highest number of runs (typically in the hundreds) wins the match.
6 runs: A ball hit out of the field on a fly.
4 runs: A ball hit out of the field on a bounce.
Bowled out: Bowler knocks over (breaks) the wicket with a bowl.
Caught out: Fielder catches a batted ball on the fly
Run out: Fielder catches ground ball and throws it at the wicket, knocking it down before the batsman gets there.
Leg before wicket: Batsman’s body interferes with a bowled ball that would hit the wicket.
Circular, natural or artificial turf. Sizes vary from ground to ground. There are 11 players per team positioned around the oval.
Construction: Core of cork built up with string, has raised seams.
Size: Circumference around 9 inches (slightly smaller, harder and heavier than a baseball).
Construction: Made of willow wood, with a maximum width of 4.25 inches, and a maximum length of 38 inches.
The Game is Over When
Sides take turns batting and fielding. Each at-bat, called an “over,” comprises no more than six bowls per batsman. The fielding team must retire or dismiss 10 batsmen to end the innings (always plural). World Cup matches are limited to one inning per team and a limit of 50 overs per inning. Non-elimination games are limited to a single day. Elimination games are allowed a second day if needed.
Cricket explained, taken from chicagotribune.com
Read more from HSBC Bermuda’s Cup Match series, HERE!
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