It Ain’t Over…

William and Kate at Wimbledon

“One does not move during overs…”

I know what you’re thinking. It must have taken something deeply significant for this blog to spring back into life after nearly a year with seemingly nothing to say for myself, right? Well, no – not quite. For six of you who read this, it might seem like a pretty small issue. For the remaining three of you, it may strike a chord – a C# Minor in fact – and we may be in agreement. Who knows! I certainly don’t… that’s quite evident!

This is something I’ve thought about for more than a week. Since I got back from the Ageas Bowl and a ODI between England and NZ since you asked. Against the backdrop of dazzling sunshine and record breaking, a storm was brewing – if you can bring yourself to see past the angsty teenager-esque hyperbole.

It’s not often I find myself in among a crowd that warrants a “Sold Out” notice at a cricket match (or one in among one that is merely very busy). I’m more used to the sparsely populated Warner Stand and a more genteel spectator experience as Middlesex go about their business at Lord’s. It has, probably and admittedly, led me to have false expectations of watching cricket; expectations all too steeped in romanticism. That kinda thing has happened before.

As Martin Guptill unleashed a captivating knock of 189 against a lethargic home attack, I could just about accept an apparent reluctance to recognise his various, personal milestones from a largely England-supporting crowd. The 50, the 100, the 150… and the forlorn trudge off 11 short of his double ton. I am pretty sure I was one of just a few in my section of the crowd to get to my feet as he departed for the dressing room. It was surely worthy?

But what bugged me senseless all afternoon were those spectators who decided the first ball of an over was the right time to shift half a row of people and head to the bar. And then return four balls into the following over. At times, we were up and down like yo-yos as the match went on without us. If it was an elaborate game of Musical Chairs, it was not the best time and there wasn’t a winner…

In terms of “fings wot annoy me”, it’s up there with those kindly souls who will run for a Tube, making sure they take out a commuter or two in their sprint to avoid what must be an dire fate and squeezing themselves through the last two centimetres of space before the door closes. If only another Tube was a minute away from the station. Oh wait, there’s one now…

Am I moaning about nothing? Am I being too nostalgic for an era that I wasn’t even part of? Or am I talking a little bit of common sense? The over lasts just a few minutes – the bar will still be there, so will the toilets. And I’ll promise that your seat will not be missing on your return. So sit a little bit longer, don’t run for public transport and enjoy the cricket. Until it rains again.

Tom Maynard

The passing of a day has made it no more easier to comprehend the loss of Tom Maynard. The strength of emotion has been evident in tributes from those close to Tom, along with others from across the cricket-loving fraternity who knew him only as a great batsman and the tremendous player he was destined to be.

As a Glamorgan fan, it seemed inevitable he would prove to be a special talent. In the same mould of his father Matthew, Tom was a big-hitting batsman who could easily wreak havoc with any bowling attack. It seemed just as inevitable that Tom would become just as legendary for the Dragons as his father had become.

Tom’s decision to leave Glammy was a disappointing, yet an understandable one. At Surrey, he would continue to develop his career and England honours seemed a likely prospect. England selection decisions can have a tendency to polarise but I am sure there would have been a broad consensus in favour of Tom’s inclusion.

With that in mind, his loss makes no sense. Words are sometimes limited in their ability to explain things. And this is perhaps one of those times. RIP Tom.

Twenty20 Vision

A colleague of mine asked me on Thursday if I still did my blog. “Oh yes” I declared, before realising the last piece I’d written was in late April. It does not say a great deal for the events in May, where Glamorgan continued to find wins as elusive as Lord Lucan. Yeah, even now, digging up the old Lord Lucan gags.

I don’t really like hyperbole and rash predictions, but things are DEFINITELY on an upward curve. The annual trip up north to Colwyn Bay yielded the first win of the season against Durham, and now the Friends Life t20 is underway and things suddenly appear a lot brighter.

Which is more than can be said for the weather.

The crashbangwallop format will no doubt be dominated by the usual suspects in the hunt for a place at Finals Day. If we concede that Somerset will be turning up to the SWALEC to claim their silver medals, there’s three spots left and I’m of the belief that Glamorgan could nab one of ‘em.

And I’m not just founding this belief on blind loyalty. There are people – proper, real people – out there who believe Glammy are in with a shout, describing their prospects in hallowed terms such as “worth a punt”, “alright” and “Chelsea won the Champions League, didn’t they”.

The rain prevented a result at Northants, which was a frustrating start to what is going to be a glorious Friends Life t20 tournament for Glamorgan. Sunday is the day when we’ll finally (or perhaps not, weather) see whether my 35/1 punt on the Dragons is a worthy investment. Or as useful as a bailout to the Greeks.

So. Yes. Glamorgan are capable of doing something special this season. And I’m going to stick my head out of the parapet and insist that the Dragons will appear at finals day. And not as ball boys, before anyone gets cheeky. I believe it. And I am sure that, one day, someone else might do too…

The Only Way Is Up

The only way is up for Glamorgan. We could split hairs and admit that, actually, the Dragons aren’t bottom of the table in the embryonic stages of the campaign. But based on three results alone, Things Can Only Get Better – and if you can’t hear D:Ream playing at the back of your mind right now, you’re not trying…

The margins of defeat have been 52 runs, 130 runs and two wickets in that order. It’s tempting to jump in with an ill-conceived rant when things aren’t going well, but you can end up looking stupid. Just ask Tottenham fans when the gap between them and Arsenal was 10 points in their favour not so long ago.

But enough about football. It’s the cricket season, right?

A recurring theme so far this season for Glamorgan has been the inability to put runs on the board. Marcus North is currently the most anticipated Welsh arrival since Brunel brought the railway to town. And I’m pretty sure no-one was saying that as Australia came to the SWALEC Stadium for the 1st Ashes Test in 2009.

With a first-class average of more than 40, these are runs that Glammy are quite desperate to get their hands on. I am probably not alone in hoping that when he does file into the ranks, it will be like a shot in the arm for the Dragons’ batting. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he kick-started the UK economy while at it…

Of course, North probably isn’t the Saviour of all things Glamorgan as he is just one man, but his delayed arrival – for entirely understandable reasons – and the decision by Alviro Petersen not to return this year left the Dragons in a little bit of a pickle and evidently more so in the batting department than anywhere else.

Glamorgan’s six opening stands have accounted for a combined total of 112 runs so far this season. Take out the 59-run partnership in the second digs at home to Derbyshire, and you don’t need to be an Einsteiny-type chap to see how the total  falls short of Ben Wright’s second innings individual score against Hampshire.

However, it is that second innings against Hampshire that offers that hope. I’d quantify it if I could put my finger on it. Perhaps it’s an unconditional thing; an indictment of how a love of sport can impel you to think irrationally; positively; triumphantly – even when the stats conspire to paint the gloomiest of pictures.

That first win is out there for Glamorgan. It’s just about finding it now…

Anticipation

County Cricket

County cricket: Somewhere only we know...

Well, here we go again. It is almost time for another, as fantastic-as-it-always-is County season. It seems long ago, and conversely, not-that-long-ago since a pink ball was being pinged about amid Canterbury twilight as both Kent and Glammy ushered out the 2011 season. Now its time for 2012 to steal the show.

I won’t lie to you. I can’t say with any great conviction that I know the format for the season ahead. Last I heard, David Morgan had recommended there be a 39th game in the United Arab Emirates. Did I hear that right? Or am I again confused with cricket’s boorish underling that keeps us from freezing on winter nights?

This week’s weather has been lovely. It is, however, the conditions I would like to bottle and save in reserve for the inevitable rainy days that are coming our way in the next few months. Why aren’t they out there playing now when we have such fine weather? Remember that when the game versus the Unicorns is washed out.

I’ll also remember it if, in a week’s time, I’m left sitting atop the Warner Stand at Lord’s peering out of the bar to see a deluge of water and a palette of grey. But it is part of the English cricket summer; we don’t just tolerate it because it is going to happen; we embrace the prospect (sometimes) of being consigned to the bar.

So is making silly bets about whether Jim Allenby will outscore Gareth Berg.

For Glamorgan, the pre-season has been delightful in its ratio of wins to failures. The cautious person in me hopes that it isn’t emptying the reserve before the real stuff has even started, but the optimist thinks that Matthew Mott has got his feet well and truly under the table after a full off-season behind him.

It’s also the #yearofthedragon.

The moment when the anticipation really starts to impress upon you is when the Glamorgan squad is announced for the annual MCC University Match in Oxford. It’s coincidentally the moment that you start wistfully looking out the window in an attempt to work out how many working days you can sacrifice for the cause…

Cricket doesn’t have one of those buzz terms to signify the start of something. It’s not a kick-off, a starting pistol or anything like that. But once the first Duke clips the top of the bails (or smashes all three stumps 10 yards towards the keeper), it will have started. As it has and as it always will be. Marvellous.

2012 – Year of the Glamorgan Dragon?

Chinese Dragon

Multiple batsmen are now permitted in CB 40 games following the Morgan Review

It is the Year of the Dragon. Not my words, but those of the Chinese and I would strongly advise arguing against them – the phrase “you and whose army” comes to mind. Ancient astrologers may not have given much thought to county cricket in the Shēngxiào (or Chinese Zodiac), but let’s clutch at a few straws here, eh?

Firstly, we need to be comfortable with an inescapable and rather crushing fact – Glamorgan have never “won” anything in past Years of the Dragon; not in terms of the current three formats. Mind you, Twenty20 was but a glint in the eye of an ECB official during the last Year of the Dragon (2000). The lack of precedent, thus, allows for your own interpretation.

With that reality check out of the way, we move on and look for omens – positive ones of course. Notable events from 12 years ago centre on Colwyn Bay, with 309 not out propelling Steve James to the top of the club’s individual batting records. We’ll come back to 2012′s batting prospects in a bit as I’m not done yet.

In compiling that triple-ton at the expense of Sussex, a 374-run partnership with Matthew Elliott also become a record-breaker. And with the help of the duo, 718 for the loss of three wickets (declared) was etched into the record books as a new highest team total. I told you there was something in this…

There is certainly a common theme if you look hard enough. Another Year of the Dragon was 1928, in which D.Davies and J.J.Hills shared a 202 stand – eighth in the list of the club’s highest – against Sussex at Eastbourne in 1928. It seems that the Sharks might be grateful for giving the Dragons a wide berth this year.

But, as promised, we come back to 2012′s batting prospects. Glammy won’t be in a position to call on Marcus North for the first month of the season as he and his wife are expecting a second child. Nor will Alviro Petersen be bringing his 1,000 first-class runs back to the SWALEC after committing to South Africa.

Ah. Hopes of 800-1 declared in the season opener at Grace Road now fade a tad.

It appears a temporary solution is being sought to cover North’s absence, but the news that Alviro won’t be returning has opened up a gap at the top of the order. I don’t think Matthew Mott was too pleased to hear about the decision either, with his descriptive term of ” incredibly disappointed” rarely used to positive effect.

Who do Glamorgan turn to? Unless there’s a surprise up Mr Metson’s sleeve, you would think little wrong of calling Mark Cosgrove and asking if he fancies taking some Division Two bowlers to the proverbial cleaners this season. But then it will also rather depend on whether Cossie is inclined to give up his Australian dream.

The southpaw’s boisterous approach to opening the batting would certainly offer a boost to his colleague, while meeting the Chinese characteristics of the Dragon. I’ve not given up this contrived trail just yet. If the Mayans and Nostradamus can be interpreted to justify the price of cheese, I’ll find Glammy glory in the zodiac.

After all, we don’t yet know how the Shēngxiào reacts to Twenty20 cricket, and it is Cardiff that hosts Finals Day this year. You never know…

Glamorgan – The 12 Innings Of Christmas (2011, Pt.12)

Stewart Walters, 147 (vs Kent)
LV County Championship Div.2| St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury | 13-14 September
2011

Stewart Walters - by Sarah Ansell

Walters by a Kentish night - (c) Sarah Ansell

After 11 shining examples of the Dragons’ batting prowess in 2011 – not easy to find either – we are  at the last one. The faithful mistress that is chronological order has dictated that it will be Stewart Walters who takes us into the Christmas festivities. It even comes with a pink ball to boot; a bauble being flayed around if you will.

The inaugural day/night County Championship game was contested between two sides that had long since given up hope of promotion.  Kent opted to bat first and posted a modest 237 – in reply, affairs were evenly poised with the visitors 121/3. For the Dragons, it needed someone to take things by the scruff of the neck.

Enter Stewart Walters. A delicately constructed innings brought up his first 50 in 85 deliveries. It took more than 100 additional deliveries to work his way to a ton and drive Glamorgan forward, with the Victorian untroubled by the pink ball, the autumn sunset on day two or the Spitfires’ attack.

Walters would be called upon again following an obstinate Kent second innings. With Alviro Petersen fluent in his determination to bring up the winning runs, a small cameo was afforded to Walters. A run-a-ball 19 ensured he was present as the Dragons made their target, and ensured a triumphant end to a ‘meh’ season.

Merry Christmas.