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Match from the Day

A day for hymns and arias... Remembering Glamorgan's 1948 Championship success

With the completion of an innings victory over Hampshire at Bournemouth, Glamorgan took the pennant to Wales

Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards
Emrys Davies and Arnold Dyson step out to open for Glamorgan, 1948

Emrys Davies and Arnold Dyson step out to open for Glamorgan  •  Getty Images

August 24, 1948
Glamorgan 315 (Jones 78*, DE Davies 74, Dyson 51, Bailey 6-85, Knott 3-133) beat Hampshire 84 (Muncer 5-25, Clay 3-31) and 116 (Clay 6-48) by an innings and 115 runs
"That's out, and we've won the Championship," said Dai Davies when Charlie Knott was leg before wicket to Johnnie Clay at Bournemouth in August 1948. Davies was quite correct in both respects, of course, but the rich spice of this famous story is that he was the umpire sending Knott on his way and thereby sealing Glamorgan's first title. The official later protested he had merely raised his finger but there were plenty of witnesses and Knott confirmed that Davies was the guilty - some might say 'innocent' - party.
It is a fine tale, charmingly suited to one of the grander and more unlikely triumphs in the Championship's history. Glamorgan had never finished higher than sixth in any of their 21 previous seasons, some of which had seen the county struggle to survive, let alone prosper. So no one blamed Llanelli-born Davies in the slightest. He had played for Glamorgan in the 1920s when the county had needed to run whist drives and dances in order to soothe the imbalance in the books. He was also a regular in the 1930s when the county's finishing position in the 17-team table was in double figures far more consistently than some of their batsmen. Moreover, he was only one of thousands of Welshmen at Dean Park that Tuesday afternoon. Many supporters had booked holidays on the South Coast and some had been among the ten thousand or so who watched Glamorgan beat Surrey at the Arms Park in their previous game.
There were other respects in which this was a deeply Welsh success. No county has the same national responsibilities as Glamorgan and it was therefore fitting that the players who won the title came from most areas of Wales. The skipper, Wilf Wooller, whose leadership was a mixture of brotherhood and bollockings, was born in Rhos-on-Sea; Willie Jones, whose two double-centuries in the space of ten June days set up victories against Kent and Essex, hailed from Carmarthen; Clay was from Usk, while the side's most stylish batsman, Gilbert Parkhouse, had his home in Swansea. The offspinner Len Muncer, who took 139 Championship wickets in 1948, and the strike bowler Norman "Pete" Hever, who picked up 77, may have been vital recruits from Middlesex but it was only to be expected that victory over Hampshire would be followed by emotional anthems from the valleys. This was a hymns and arias day, no matter that Max Boyce was still a toddler in Glynneath. Never had genteel Dean Park radiated with quite so much hwyl.
"Our leading cricketers nowadays rarely seem addicted to song," noted John Arlott drily in 1975. "But anyone who heard the Glamorgan team burst into 'Land of My Fathers' after they won the Championship at Bournemouth in 1948 would have thought they were a male-voice choir."
It was just a shame that Allan Watkins missed the game against Hampshire after injuring his shoulder in the final Ashes Test at The Oval. Indeed, Watkins only heard news of Glamorgan's vital game against Surrey from the stop press scores in the hourly editions of London's evening papers. "Nobody spoke to me," said Watkins after his first experience of an England dressing room. "There was no joy in the side at all." This was particularly noticeable, of course, given that Glamorgan's dressing room at this time was filled with noise and argument, most if it involving Wooller. In fairness to his England colleagues, Watkins might have realised that Arthur Morris and Ray Lindwall generally did little for their opponents' joie de vivre.
None of which overly concerned Glamorgan's players as they travelled to Dean Park, knowing that if they beat Hampshire and neither Surrey nor Yorkshire achieved victories, they would be champions. Glamorgan had won that previous game against Surrey in Cardiff by an innings after Wooller had shrewdly opted to bat first on a wet pitch and let his opponents make what they could of Clay on a drying one. The answer was not very much. Surrey were not quite the power in the land they were to become a few years later and Clay - shades of Arthur Mailey - returned match figures of 10 for 66.
It was still very much the era of three-day cricket on uncovered pitches. If you had a useful attack, the loss of six hours' play did not end any chance of a result. So even when only 10 minutes' cricket was possible on Saturday at Bournemouth, Glamorgan supporters had reason to hope something could be conjured. It was also a more God-fearing era, albeit most Glamorgan fielders found facing Wooller when they had dropped a catch to be a sufficient Day of Judgement. But Sunday remained a day of rest, not that many people noticed the difference in Bournemouth. So the Welsh supporters thronged the chapels and prayed for resilient batsmen and deadly spinners in that order.
Someone may have been listening. Fifties from Emrys Davies, Arnold Dyson and Willie Jones allowed Glamorgan to post 315 all out on Monday and Wooller exhorted his men to their greatest efforts in the hour or so that remained. "We want five of them out tonight," he told them, "We've got to get after them, I want to hear the ball hit Haydn [Davies]'s gloves every time you return it whether they run or not." A brilliant short-leg catch by Parkhouse disposed of Neville Rogers in Wooller's second over and Hampshire ended the day six down. It was entirely typical of Glamorgan's cricket during a summer in which the skipper had demanded his players become the best fielding side in the land.
"He'd always seen fielding as a prerequisite of success," wrote David Foot of Wooller. "His intrepid leg-side fields brought a new fashion to county cricket. The forward, square and backward short legs seemed to hold on to everything, without flinching. Wooller led by example in the forward position, wearing the bruises like a Pontypool prop's battle-scars. In some respects, he never spiritually divided the two games [rugby and cricket]. They were both physical, quite apart from the additional subtleties of cricket that he readily acknowledged; both were about courage and stuffing the opposition."
Chickens apart, "stuffing" was not really Bournemouth's style but Glamorgan did it to Hampshire all the same. "Hang on to Yorkshire, we can win here," read the telegram Wooller sent to George Woodhouse, his Somerset counterpart, at Taunton. "We will beat Yorkshire. Good luck!" was the reply. As it turned out, the match at the County Ground was drawn but that made no difference to Glamorgan. Asked to follow on 231 runs behind, the home side managed only 116 in the second innings, Clay taking 6 for 48. At Lord's Middlesex dispatched Surrey by an innings and Glamorgan were champions.
Amid the fizz and frolics the long moment of triumph was not lost on Clay; nor did it ever lose its significance. Glamorgan's success was wreathed in rich emotional contexts and many of them involved him. In 1948 Clay was the 50-year-old honorary secretary of the club. In the post-war team photograph he looks more like a prudent treasurer, which was precisely the role he had undertaken in 1933 when his beloved county was on its uppers. Before that, of course, he had played for Glamorgan during 1921, its first year in the Championship. In that season he had been a fast-medium swing bowler in a struggling side; later he decided his height and build were better suited to the slow stuff.
"In what dark winter shed or sunny autumn field he practised and perfected this mutation, I do not know," wrote RC Robertson-Glasgow. "Perhaps it was a throwback to schooldays and ballistic experiments against forbidden walls. Perhaps some slow bowler had taken a wicket and Clay, weary of his own fast-medium strivings and envious of the other's facile success, put those long fingers round the ball, trundled down a vast off-break, and saw the light."
Clay had been cajoled by Wooller into playing five games in 1948; he took 27 wickets. Another spinner, the left-armer Stan Trick, could only be spared from his father's garage for seven matches, but he dismissed 36 batsmen, 22 of them in the two games at Swansea. It was all so very Glamorgan, as was the welcome the team received at Cardiff General Station when they returned late that Tuesday evening and found thousands waiting to greet them. Wooller had already gone to London to play for the Gentlemen of England against Australia but Clay, urbane and thoughtful, offered other speeches to follow those he had made at Dean Park.
"This victory for Glamorgan will do a lot of good not only for cricket generally but for similar counties like Warwickshire and Hampshire," he said. "No longer is the Championship the monopoly of the few."
It was a wise saying albeit not a completely accurate prediction. Glamorgan had become only the third county outside the so-called Big Six (Surrey, Middlesex, Kent, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire) to win the title. They followed Warwickshire in 1911 and Derbyshire in 1936, whose successes were, if anything, even more unlikely than Glamorgan's. It would be another 13 years before a tenth county, Hampshire, joined the list but Wooller's men had shown the way. Probably none of which troubled them late that August evening as they hightailed it to the Cardiff Athletic Club, where the celebrations continued. Ar hyd y nos indeed.
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Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications