April 10, 2014

Surreal win as Glamorgan walk the walk

They have said all the right things in recent seasons but against Surrey, Glamorgan actually found a performance to match

It was the opening round of the County Championship. The first fixture for Glamorgan was away to newly demoted Surrey. The London mega-club were always going to be strong favourites to bounce straight back into Division One. They have England internationals, England hopefuls and the full time services of South African Test legend, Graeme Smith.

Glamorgan have no players on anyone's international radar. The only time the selectors visit Cardiff is when they are interested in one of the visitors or because they are fond of the free Welsh Cakes. Glamorgan have ambitions to replicate the on and off field success that Surrey have had in the 21st Century. This is still a work in progress.

Before the start of this season all the talk from within the club was of how there had been a change in approach and in attitude at the SWALEC. They were working harder than ever and have never been as well prepared. The difficulty for a club supporter is that this is what you hear every year. The real litmus test comes when the cricket begins.

I am by nature an optimist, so I believe them every year. 2014 was going to be the long awaited "Year of the Dragon." I booked the time of work, bought the train tickets and headed down to The Oval to have my dreams crushed once again. My wife was angry at my absence, and I was going to be in the dog house for weeks. It would be a futile journey full of needless expense.

Except this time it was different. All the things that Glamorgan had said that they would do started to happen.

They said that the bowlers would be patient and hardworking. During the first three days of this rain-interrupted match they did just that. There were partnerships from Surrey but they never let the opposition get away from them. Jim Allenby was excellent in using the overcast conditions to keep the batsmen honest. Youngster Ruaidhri Smith struggled on the first day but came back strongly on day two.

When Glamorgan batted in their first innings the old concerns returned. For all of last year the top order collapsed more often that a chair with two legs. As the season started with yet another middle order rescue job from Allenby I began to feel like I had been duped, again. Glamorgan had conceded a lead significant enough to make you think that a draw was all that could be hoped for. As a sun bathed Oval got ready for the last day of the match Surrey were 112 runs in front and bossing the game.

This season Glamorgan said they would fight in these circumstances. They would never give up and roll over to have their tummy tickled. Again, this time Glamorgan had told the truth. Graham Wagg took a wicket with the first ball of the day. Michael Hogan got one in the second over. The fight back was on.

Over the next hour I witnessed one of the best bowling spells a Glamorgan player has produced in my time watching them play. Wagg was unplayable. He was getting the ball to hoop through the air to dismiss batsmen lbw. He got the ball to hold its line to have them caught in the cordon. With Hogan acting as his supporting man, Wagg took a certain draw and turned it into a Glamorgan win.

There was still the run chase. Last year Glamorgan had a near identical target set at Colwyn Bay. Then it was 154 to win, at The Oval it was one run less. In North Wales in 2013 Glamorgan made a total mess of things. We were told Glamorgan would not let winning positions slip this time around. We were assured that the batsmen had been working as hard as they ever had on not giving away their wicket when well set. Despite these assurances the overwhelming emotion as Will Bragg and Gareth Rees walked out to bat was one of trepidation. How close would they get? How badly would they stuff it up? How many loop-the-loops would there be on the emotional rollercoaster.

Then Glamorgan just walked to victory. It was surreal to watch as two Welsh batsmen serenely put together a partnership of over 150 to win the game by ten wickets. The innings of Rees and Bragg were almost chanceless. Rees made me wince once or twice as he played some more extravagant sweeps off the bowling of Ansari, but there were no alarms and just one really big surprise.

Perhaps this is a different Glamorgan. Perhaps the arrival of the new coach Toby Radford and the return of Glamorgan legend Hugh Morris has ushered in a new era. Perhaps when I get home my wife will understand the amount of money I spent to come and watch this. I will leave you to decide which of those statements is the least likely.

Peter Miller writes for thearmchairselector.com. The two things he loves most are ugly runs and cricket stats. @TheCricketGeek