July 28, 2002

Dragons' fire chastens Bears

It was second against fourth in the top division of the Norwich Union League as Glamorgan Dragons - backed by their vocal coterie of supporters - did battle with Warwickshire Bears at Edgbaston.

And it was the Dragons who emerged victorious as they defended a daunting total of exactly 300 to win by 62 runs and draw level with the Bears on points in the table. The Bears remain second for the moment, courtesy of a marginally superior run-rate.

The Dragons, inserted by Bears' skipper, Michael Powell, made a bright start until Croft missed a drive at Neil Carter (63-1) in the eighth over. It hardly halted their progress however, with the new man David Hemp, returning to his former county, soon picking up Richardson for a six over square leg as the Bears missed the bowling of the injured Pollock (thigh strain).

Powell's gamble on calling Neil Smith's off-spin into the attack as early as the 12th over, with only two fielders allowed outside the ring, backfired with the impressive Thomas striking successive fours back over the bowler's head. The left-handed opener brought up the 100 up in just the 15th over with a pulled six off Brown.

But in the same bowler's next over he dismissed Hemp, pulling a ball that was too close to him to mid-on where Neil Smith clung on to a tricky chance well above his head (103-2).

Ian Thomas batted beautifully. Only in the team in place of the injured Steve James he went to 50 in 42 balls (8x4 1x6) with a push off the legs, and celebrated with a delightful late-cut, a shot he played well several times, off Smith that raced to the boundary.

He was furious with himself after perishing for an excellent 72 (65 balls 1x6 11x4), well caught by a diving Richardson off Powell on the mid-wicket fence.

But Maynard was soon into his stride, crashing a brace of boundaries over mid-wicket off Smith before treating Powell to the same punishment. It wasn't long before he brought up his own half-century with a dismissive six over mid-wicket off the suffering Carter (9-0-67-2). But Maynard fell to a poor ball, clipping Powell straight into the hands of Knight on the square-leg fence.

Adrian Dale (63 from 48 balls, 7x4) continued the momentum, accelerating well thanks in part to a loose over from the rusty Mark Wagh (one over for 17). But when Dale fell (280-6) the Dragons lost some impetus with Wallace and Mike Powell (caught by his namesake) sacrificing themselves in the search for quick runs.

Indeed, 300 was fewer than they had looked capable of with 10 overs to go, And, on a good batting pitch and with the Dragons missing Kasprowicz (hamstring problem) the Bears were far from out of it.

They needed a good start to their reply however, and promoted Carter to the pinch-hitting role. But it didn't work out as he drove Wharf straight to mid-on. Worse was to follow as the in-form Nick Knight departed to the same bowler for just six, in what was probably the key moment of the game.

Knight gave Wharf (who dismissed the top three in the order) the charge, but in trying to turn the ball to leg succeeded only in chipping the ball up to Powell at a short-ish mid-on. Wagh and Ostler - smartly caught by Wallace standing up to the stumps - soon followed as the Bears looked to be heading for a heavy defeat.

But a fine partnership of 104 between two of the brightest batting prospects in the domestic game, Ian Bell and Jamie Troughton threatened to turn the game on its head. Both players found the gaps in the field, and were harsh on any error of length from the Dragons bowlers.

The experience of off-spinner Robert Croft proved crucial however, and when Troughton succumbed to the wily Welshman for 48 and Powell followed, there was a great deal of pressure left on Bell.

He recorded a career-best one-day score of 86 (77 balls; 10x4 1x6), but found the requirement simply too great. And, when he fell, lbw to Thomas, with almost 100 still needed, the writing was on the wall.