By Jonathan Twigg
DEBATE rages in Wales at present, where rugby has infiltrated the summer domain of cricket, which has held unparalleled dominance of the summer sunshine.
There has been a culture change, whereby summer tours and early season fixtures of the traditional winter sports means earlier starts.
Look no further than next seasons football league championship season for Swansea City, starting on Saturday (Aug 5) until Sunday (May 26) 2019.
The outcry from the boundary ropes comes more about how mini ruby has become a summer sport, bulldozered through, as opposed to negotiated.
WRU figurehead in this Ryan Jones, former Wales captain and British Lion parading the paraphernalia, Cricket Wales Development Officer Keri Chahal, having face to face meetings to form common ground.
The winner, undoubtedly now rugby as their mini game is happening in front of our eyes, but has cricket lost?
Not looking at the participation statistics in the new ‘All Stars’ programme, where children bestowed in blue attire are bouncing around cricket fields in the sunshine, the magic there to entice the next generation.
What sells it to parents, who undoubtedly influence their siblings? The paradox of ‘I played the game, so you must do also’ may live in both sports, but it’s more than that.
Attendances at international matches, in cricket’s case by supporting England, well the England and Wales Cricket Board side, the pathway? Saturday (Jun 16) saw them rock up in Cardiff, rugby capital of Wales, the Swalec Stadium to be precise, skirting the River Taff through Bute Park, the hosts leading a five match series against Australia 1-0.
Sell out you would think? Far from it; the Principality Stadium, bestowed with a retractable roof, unequivocally is, if Australia are the visitors, the Swalec attracted around 13,000, a fifth of their rugby rivals capacity.
Does cricket lack that panache to attract the floating spectator, often then with the family in tow? The game has stand out stars, opening batsman Jason Roy pulverising the Aussie attack, the Richardson’s, Jhye and Kane, of no blood synchronisation, a rarity in this sport for two with the same name to be sharing the new ball. Root 66, the featured face of the cricketing market, Joe, England Captain present, alongside former Glamorgan opening bowler Alex Wharf, making his ODI debut, as an umpire.
Coloured clothing, blue against yellow for the 11am start, the Aussie public back home having a choice of watching cricket, World Cup football against France, or rugby as the Wallabies welcomed Ireland to Melbourne.
Cricket is sensational down under, the viewing figures from Saturday would make an interesting comparative, lifting some of the ‘doom and gloom’ emanating from our ‘middle England’ type dulcet tones of the cricketing ‘I know best brigade’.
Food for thought, or is it time for the Blazers and prawn sandwiches to be confined to the attic, relics of periods passed? 100 ball ‘City’ cricket is another gurus dream, not welcomed by the current ‘Blazers’, where Saturday’s game produced 102 runs for one wicket, from just a third of the games total deliveries.
Believe me, there was a following of supporters, some perhaps beer monsters, in fancy dress but the majority of paying punters here, at £65 were from a generation brought up on John Arlott, a commentator remembered with fondness, his soupy‑thick Hampshire vowels drawling “we take life too lightly and sport too seriously.”
‘Wise up or weep’ is the cry for cricket, as this game on paper had everything, including the proverbial rain, which has so impacted the winter sports programme to influence the thinking of the WRU game management board.
England’s batsman rattled up for the first time in history five consecutive 50 plus run partnerships with stand in skipper Josh Butler ‘ramping’ sixes over the wicket keepers head; text book they are not but part of the modern game as he brought up his own 50 in the forty first over, with 17 runs in five balls!
What are the indicators for success? Tactical understanding from a blooded skipper Tim Paine, Jason Roy 120, Josh Butler 91 not out and Johnny Bairstow 42, in England’s highest ever ODI total of 342-8, where the expectation nowadays is 300 plus. Certainly, making sunshine on a rainy day sings Zoe, although those in the know were drumming Mambo number 5 with a cucumber sandwich during the interval.
Australia, looking to save some grace on a day when their rugby and football comrades were dispensed made a fist of it, Maxwell striking 31 alongside Glamorgan star Shaun Marsh.
Marsh handled the pressure but the crowd sensed the game slipping into the memory bank, in the lowering sunlight, buoyed by the beach ball antics of amongst others, Baywatch, tennis players and the Smurfs who embraced the evening’s ambiance, before the jobsworth lumbered in.
Marsh passed 2000 white ball runs on his way to 131, the end coming through Roy’s match winning catch to secure the star player award as over 600 runs were chalked in the scorebook. Something was missing, no pyrotechnics from which to salivate. Down to the pitch maybe, a slow burner typifying middle England in the centre of Wales, or is the product label just too predictable. Maybe a famous son of Yorkshire can answer that, after all he was called upon to ring the five minute ‘bell’ to signal the start of play.
That Yorkshireman; Neil Warnock; the irony, Manager of the newest Premier League football team, Cardiff City, promoted last season from the Championship, brought in for ‘iconic value’. Can the traditional sports share the space before time is called one wonders, with no frills, no fuss, depicted serenely by Arlott.
That memory is worth a toast, of his favourite Beaujolais tipple, for this is cricket as we know it, but for how much longer?
Clayton comeback stuns Van Gerwen
PONTYBEREM darts ace Jonny Clayton pulled off one of the shocks of the Grand Slam of Darts as he came from three legs behind to beat world number one Michael Van Gerwen 5-4 on Sunday (Nov 11).
The 44 year old Welshman looked to be down and out with the score at 4-2 but he never gave up and went on to claim one of the biggest victories of his career.
Van Gerwen has won the last three Grand Slam tournaments and was firm favourite to pick up another win going into the second of their three game group.
Clayton threw first in the first to five legs match but it was the Dutchman who hit the first 180 before going on to break with a 94 checkout.
The world number 17 hit back though and after Van Gerwen missed the bull for a 128 checkout he took out 64 to level the game up.
However, Clayton could not back that up opening up with just 26 in the third leg before Van Gerwen hit 180 and 171 to leave just 16 which he checked out at the second attempt.
The Welshman had an excellent average of 115 at this stage but that was trumped by his opponent, averaging 122.
Van Gerwen then increased his lead with a 16-dart leg but Clayton seemed unfazed.
He hit his second 180 in the fifth leg and checked out on 80 to pull a leg back but a bounce out at the start of the next leg set him back again.
MVG hit another 180 and although he missed a 64 finish he took out double ten to make the score 4-2.
Clayton only opened the seventh leg with a ton followed by a 60 but Van Gerwen did take full advantage hitting a 140 before responding to Clayton’s 60 with a score of 58.
The Welshman then hit 168 to leave himself with just 16 and after Van Gerwen missed on 114 he closed the leg out to make it 4-3.
More low scores in the eighth leg from Clayton looked to put MVG in control but he then missed check outs of 76 and 16 to allow Clayton in to check out with 58 to level the game at 4-4.
Clayton had the throw in the final leg and hit 140 with his second throw before Van Gerwen hit just 97.
The Pontyberem-born Clayton then hit 137 to leave himself with 40 but MVG put the pressure on leaving himself with 74 if Clayton slipped up.
Clayton needed just two darts as he hit double top to secure a memorable comeback victory.
The Welshman said he was ‘Over the moon’ following the win and took to Twitter to thank those who had sent him messages adding: “Made up with that! Incredible to be part of a match like that and then to win it against a class act (Michael Van Gerwen) playing like that is absolutely brilliant.”
Clayton now plays the BDO’s Gary Robson in his last match of the group tomorrow (Nov 13) with qualification for the next round not yet secure.
Trallwm, Trostre and Bwlch through to round three
TRALLWM went through to the third round of the West Wales Cup on Saturday (Nov 3) as they beat Pwll Athletic 5-2.
Kris Brown scored a hat trick for the Tigers while other goals came from Rhys Watson and Luke Nicholas.
Carmarthen Stars were knocked out of the Cup as they were beaten 3-1 by Giants Grave. Richard Barnes, Dean Evans and Ross Hudson all scored for the Neath Premier League leaders.
C K Swiss Valley were also knocked out beaten 3-1 at home by Sandfields.
Pontlliw earned their place in the third round with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out win over Pontarddulais Town after their game had finished 1-1 after extra time.
Trostre Sports also eased through to the next round as they thrashed West End United 9-1.
Johnstown also earned their place in the next round of the tournament with a 6-2 win at home to Wern.
Bwlch Rangers came from behind twice to book their place in the third round of the West Wales Cup.
Opponents Penclawdd, who play in Division 1 of the Swansea League, took a two goal lead before Blwch pulled a goal back before half time.
In the second half the Rangers levelled matters only for Penclawdd to retake the lead at 3-2.
However, Bwlch showed their class to score twice more to see themselves into the next round.
Matthew Hughes scored twice for Bwlch while Mathew Williams and Jason Morris were also on target for the victors.
FC Carmarthen bowed out of the competition, beaten 3-1 by Loughor Rovers despite taking the lead in that game.
Seaside’s run in the competition also came to an end as they were beaten 7-3 by last year’s champions Goodwick United.
Dafen bow out to Maltsters
DAFEN Welfare bowed out of the West Wales Cup on Saturday (Nov 3) as they were beaten 3-0 by Maltsters Sports.
The Swansea League Division 1 side have won five, lost five and drawn one of their 11 games so far this season and they came up against a Dafen side who have just two wins and three draws from their nine games.
Kyle Morgan, Sam Keefe and Chris Hughes all scored for the visitors while they also did well to keep a clean sheet.
Maltsters’ Gareth Morrell was named as the man of the match for his side following an excellent display.
Dafen will now turn their attentions back to the Premier League and on Saturday (Nov 10) they are away to Evans and Williams.
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