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?
Cup wins for Ammanford teams
AMMANFORD reached the next round of the SWCA T20 Knockout Cup by beating Carmarthen Wanderers by 6 wickets with 2 overs to spare.
Wanderers batted first and reached 91 for 9, thanks mainly to Tom Davies (37) and Iestyn Scourfield (23).
For Ammanford, Matthew Fisher picked up 3 for 17 while Owen Davies and Callum Croft bagged a couple each.
Ammanford took just 18 overs to overhaul the Carmarthen total for the loss of four wickets.
Josef Davies top-scored with 35, helped by Rhodri Davies (16) and Matthew Fisher (22no).
Ammanford’s third XI defeated Llanelli seconds by 82 runs in the SWCA Intermediate Cup at the Park on Sunday.
Batting first, Ammanford scored a creditable 144 for 7 from their 20 overs.
Steffan Wyn Williams top-scored with 41, whilst other contributions came from David Lumb (21) Sam Potter (17) and Neville Pritchard (29no).
Llanelli could only manage 62 for 6 in reply, Sam Potter picking up two wickets for 10 runs.
Ammanford lose again to Newport but seconds win
AMMANFORD slipped to the bottom of Premier One with a 20 run defeat to Newport in another high-scoring match at the Park.
Ammanford skipper Alun Evans looked to have made the right decision when he invited Newport to bat and promptly took the wicket of opener Morgan Bevans with the score on 1.
That was as far as their luck went, though. The next wicket didn’t fall for another 130 runs as Michael Clayden (58) and Callum Taylor (93) made the most of a friendly batting track.
A further setback for the home team took the shape of Mujahid Ilyas who blasted a rapid 68 which included 6 sixes.
Newport closed on a forbidding 277 for 5.
Forbidding, but not impossible.
Ammanford got off to their best start for several seasons as Alun Evans (73) and Matthew Fisher took the opening stand to 185.
When Fisher fell for a terrific 112, Ammanford still needed 90 runs at ten an over, and despite a quickfire unbeaten 41 from Dan Roberts, couldn’t make up the rate.
When Evans was dismissed for 73, that signalled the end of Ammanford’s challenge and they fell short of their target by 20 runs.
Ammanford have now scored 516 runs in their last two matches without a win.
Next week they face another tough trip as they travel to league leaders St Fagans.
Ammanford second XI
AMMANFORD seconds recorded their first win of the season with a well-earned victory at Gorseinon.
Put in to bat, Ammanford scored 204 for 6. Openers Adam Lyons (44) and Callum Croft (58) gave them a great start while number three Fin Jeffries chipped in with 22.
Gorseinon could only manage 179 in reply, opener Jamie Hill being their top scorer with 48.
Fin Jeffries turned in a good bowling performance with 4 for 38, supported by Iestyn Jones and Jac Davies with a couple each.
The victory enabled Ammanford to leap-frog Gorseinon off the foot of the table.
Ammanford well beaten by Port Talbot
AMMANFORD slipped closer to the foot of Premier One with a high-scoring defeat to Port Talbot Town at The New Mansel.
Ammanford were put in to bat on a glorious afternoon and made hay while the sun shone with an opening partnership of 61 between Matthew Fisher and Alun Evans.
When Fisher departed for 40, Daniel Evans took over and his partnership with his skipper took the score to 155 before Roberts was caught on 49.
When Evans fell for an anchoring 86, the Davies brothers, Rhodri (28no) and Rhys (22no) saw out the Ammanford innings, taking their total to a formidable 259 for 4.
Formidable it may have been, but Port Talbot’s batsmen were up to the challenge.
Glamorgan’s Nick Selman led the charge before he was dismissed by Fisher for 47.
The main partnership of 123, however, came between Joseph Voke (84) and Matthew Thompson (74no).
There were still three overs remaining when Port Talbot cruised past the Ammanford total for the loss of 3 wickets.
Things won’t get much easier for Ammanford next week when Newport visit the Park.
Ammanford seconds v Ynystawe
Ammanford seconds continued their miserable sequence of defeats with a 4 wicket loss to Ynystawe at the Park.
A promising start from Eirian Morgan (13) and David Lumb (17) preceded a middle order collapse which was rescued by a terrific individual performance from captain Jamie Evans, whose 76 helped Ammanford reach 167 all out.
Ynystawe’s middle order by contrast kept the scoreboard ticking over, an undefeated partnership between Rowan Evans (31no) and Arun Maurya (26no) taking them past Ammanford’s total with four wickets and 16 overs to spare.
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