St George's v Somerset, Wellington Oval July 29, 2011

Cann's heroics give St George's victory

James Whittaker

Somerset 97 (Pitcher 5-42) and 248 (Kelly 6-73) lost to St George's 188 (Anderson 52, Hurdle 5-38) and 148 for 8 (Crockwell 54, Cann 49*, Gilbert 5-30) by two wickets

Ice cool Lionel Cann led St George's to a thrilling Cup Match victory in a nerve shredding finale at Wellington Oval.

Cann finished the innings in emphatic style with a six and a four to take St George's past their victory target with two wickets in hand. He raced to the boundary and pumped his fists in a victory salute after striking the winning runs. His audacious counter-attacking innings of 49 not out was the pivotal performance in the match.

Somerset's teenage spinner Joshua Gilbert had turned the game on its head demolishing St George's top order to give the west enders a scent of victory. Gilbert's superb five-wicket haul, including the crucial scalp of opener Fiqre Crockwell who had looked untroubled on his way to 54, had St George's teetering on 84 for 6 chasing 148 for victory in the final innings of the game.

At that point Somerset's tails were up. After being down and out for much of the match they were now the favourites, closing in on a first win in the east for three decades. But Cann had other ideas.

Two huge sixes off the spin of Gilbert pushed things back in favour of the holders. As Cann counter-attacked, west enders skipper Jekon Edness suffered a loss of nerve. He pulled off his game-changing slow bowler after one expensive over and resorted to an all-seam attack.

Malachi Jones and Kevin Hurdle continued to apply the pressure. And Delyone Borden, who blocked and parried for 20 balls, was soon back in the pavilion for just two, lbw to the pace of Jones. At that point it was 92 for 7, with 56 runs required to win the match and just Cann and the tail to bat.

But Justin Pitcher, the five-wicket hero for St George's in the first innings, stepped up to the plate alongside Cann. The two St David's islanders crashed thier way towards the target, senior partner Cann clearing the ropes again with another huge six off the bowling of Janeiro Tucker. By the time Pitcher was out for ten, St George's were 13 runs from victory.

With Kelly looking nervous against the pace of Hurdle and Jones, Cann took matters into his own hands once again. He dispatched Jones for a huge six and followed it with a hook for four to spark wild celebrations in the east.

An exultant Cann, stumps in hand, was quickly mobbed by crowds of youngsters as the blue and blue flags flew over Wellington Oval. Somerset were left to reflect on what might have been and the small consolation of having played thier part in one of the most exciting matches in recent history.

From the moment the west enders collapsed to 97 all out before lunch on day one it was clear that the dreaded draw was out of the equation. Somerset contributed to thier own undoing on day one. Justin Pitcher and Stefan Kelly bowled tidily enough. But they were gifted a percentage of the nine wickets they shared in the Thursday morning demolition job.

Jason Anderson showed them how it was done, batting sensibly to make an accomplished half-century that was the highlight of St George's response of 188 all-out. Cann also contributed 38 in that first innings total but the east enders were almost made to pay for a late order collapse that saw them fall from 165 for 5 as Janeiro Tucker's medium pace claiming four for seven late on Thursday.

Somerset made a better stab of their second innings. A solid 31 from Terryn Fray gave them a platform. But their top order had no answer to the relentless pace and accuracy of the tireless Stefan Kelly.

Kelly ran in all day, finishing with figures of 6 for 73 to claim a ten-wicket haul in the match. But with Pitcher unable to bowl after aggrevating an injury, it was largely a one-man job.

Kamau Leverock, the 16-year-old colt, led the fightback for Somerset with a bullish 43. And a defiant tenth wicket stand of 53 from Kevin Hurdle and Joshua Gilbert edged the challengers towards a respectable total.

Gilbert and Hurdle, looking organised and accomplished, showed the batsmen a thing or two about how to play two-day cricket. By the time the youngster was caught by Rodney Trott off the bowling of spinner Delyone Borden for 21, they had reached 238 all out, setting St George's a challenging victory target of 148. Hurdle finished unbeaten on 27.

Gilbert's innings was his first significant contribution in the match, but it wouldn't be his last. St George's had looked to be crusing to victory, despite losing Jason Anderson for a duck in the second over of the innings. A commanding half-century from Crockwell, supported by Oronde Bascome put them in control on 72 for 1.

But then Gilbert - a 17-year-old in his third Cup Match - changed the game. First Bascome was the victim of a smart stumping after coming down the track to the young spinner. Then key man OJ Pitcher was caught behind for 2. With the ball gripping and turning, St George's were on the ropes. Allan Douglas managed one straight driven four before falling victim to Gilbert's deadly off-breaks, skying a top edge to Jekon Edness.

Next to fall was Rodney Trott, chipping aimlessly to Hurdle at midwicket, leaving Gilbert on his knees in ecstasy. He wasn't finished yet. Crockwell, who had looked in supreme form on his way to 54, crumbled as the close fielders moved in and Somerset amped up the pressure.

He top edged to Fray to give Gilbert his fifth wicket. This time the teenager embarked on a solo sprint to the boundary before collapsing in a heap. The huge grin etched across his face told the story. Somerset were on their way to victory.

St George's had crumbled from 70 for 1 to 84 for 6. Could this be the biggest turnaround in Cup Match history? At that point anything seemed possible.

But Cann, who defied Somerset here two years ago with a match saving century, lives for pressure situations like this. He survived a dropped catch on four off the bowling of Jones, who jostled angrily with the batsman inbetween deliveries.

But he shrugged off the sledging, accelerating from a measured start to crash a game-winning 49 from 42 balls. Not the longest innings or the highest total in the history of Cup Match, but surely one of the best.