Matthew Maynard

It was September 20, 1997; dusk was approaching fast; and all Wales was staring to get a bit irritated. The Somerset tailenders were delaying Glamorgan's march to the County Championship, and the umpires warned the captain, Matthew Maynard, that they might have to offer the batsmen the light. Then the game would go into the Sunday. It might rain. Kent could yet steal their title. Maynard had to take off his quicks, and bring on his young slow left-armer Dean Cosker. That was not Plan A. But Cosker took the wicket, Somerset were all out, and Glamorgan needed just 11 runs to be champions. Maynard knew they had done it: "It was the biggest moment of my sporting life by far," he said.

And Glamorgan had a third title-winning captain. Unlike the other two, Wilf Wooller and Tony Lewis, this one did not go to Cambridge. He is not even Welsh. He is notoriously nervy. Until 1997, he had a reputation as something of a cricketing wastrel. No one in the modern domestic game - not even Wayne Larkins - has converted so much talent into so few England caps: just four, with a batting average below 11.

Yet Maynard was the man whose firm, positive, unselfish and sometimes surprisingly thoughtful leadership turned Glamorgan, no-hopers for so long, into champions. Steve James was Glamorgan's main run-scorer in 1997. But, when the chips were really down in the last two matches, it was Maynard who played two very different but equally decisive match-winning innings: a steadfast 75 not out against Essex, a breathtaking 142 against Somerset. He is the embodiment of Glamorgan's triumph.

MATTHEW PETER MAYNARD was born on March 21, 1966, in Oldham. (Lloyd George was born in Manchester, so this is no bar to heroism in Wales.) Eight years later, his father took a pub in Anglesey. Dad was a useful cricketer; so was Matthew's elder brother Charles and, at 11, Matthew began to get the odd game in the Menai Bridge village team. At the time, Charles looked the better player. But he became increasingly interested in classical music - he is now a composer. Matthew went in the other direction: he packed away his trumpet, forgot his days as a boy soprano at Bangor Cathedral and concentrated on his cricket. He joined the Bangor club, where the groundsman-pro Bill Clutterbuck became his cricketing mentor.

Maynard began getting games for Kent's Second Eleven. But they were batting him down the order and he made little progress. As he made the long journey home in 1984, the future seemed very bleak. Academically, he had been a washout. He thought his only career option was eventually taking over the pub.

Then Glamorgan rang. In 1985, he was leading scorer in their second team. Late in August, with Glamorgan's season drifting into its customary mediocrity, they thought this 19-year-old was worth a go in the first team, against Yorkshire at Swansea. The game was rain-affected. He did not get a bat until Glamorgan were already on the way to defeat. He scored 102 in 87 minutes, the last 18 of them by hitting successive balls from Phil Carrick back over his head into the terraces. "There can have been few more remarkable maiden centuries in first-class cricket," said Wisden. The next June, Maynard scored another quick century at Edgbaston. That cemented his place. He scored 1,002 in the season. In 1987 he upped that to 1,626, and was top of the national list of both catches and six-hits (30 of each). At the Oval in 1988, he was in the Test team aged just 22. It seemed like a natural progression. Here was a young batting star to take on the world.

And then, of course, it went wrong. Maynard might be a case study for England's failures of the past decade. He came into an already demoralised dressing-room at the fag-end of a disastrous series against West Indies. People told him to play his natural game. So he took on Curtly Ambrose, and was caught behind for three (a rash stroke - Wisden), failed again second time round, and got dropped. No one said a word.

But two people did the following year. Maynard was in nick, and the England manager Micky Stewart told him: Just keep going and you'll be in. So he did keep going: a brilliant unbeaten 191 against Gloucestershire at Cardiff followed. Nothing. The next call was from David Graveney, recruiting for the last rebel tour to South Africa. Maynard and his wife Sue had a new baby, and he said yes: "This tour was my pension, that was the way I looked at it." He still thinks he was right. "Look at Rob Bailey. He said no. England never showed him any commitment."

So he was banned from Test cricket and, though his game solidified with the encouragement of Glamorgan's new recruit, Viv Richards, it would be 1993 before England were in touch again. He was recalled at Edgbaston, Mike Atherton's first Test in charge. At 3.40 a.m. on the morning of the match, Sue rang to say he now had a baby daughter. A few hours later he was caught at silly point for a duck. Quite a day. This time he played three successive Tests, including the first next winter at Kingston. But 35 in the first innings there was the nearest he came to success. He was dropped again and, when he realised he was not coming back, spent the rest of the tour in a non-approved manner. "I hit the booze button," he admits.

He had a terrible season in 1994, and it took a period out with injury to convince him he wanted to carry on. In 1996 came the Glamorgan captaincy, and a recall for the one-day internationals. But batting mid-order in these games is no shop window. Last year, David Graveney - in his new, official eminence - did not get in touch. At 32, Maynard takes some comfort in Graham Gooch's career. In the meantime, he has his own national team to worry about: the Welsh team.

At school in Anglesey, Welsh was one of the many subjects at which Matthew Maynard was hopeless. Now he can sing "Land of My Fathers" as loudly and lustily as anyone. And on the night of September 20, 1997, he did.

© John Wisden & Co