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?
Cambrian edge Ammanford in seven-goal thriller
CAMBRIAN and Clydach manager Scott Young was delighted to see his side come away from Ammanford with a thrilling 4-3 on Friday night (Oct 22).
In contrast the home side and their support will be very disappointed at least not to have come away with something from this game.
Ammanford got off to the perfect start after nine minutes when Ammanford’s midfielder Kai Whitmore broke free of his markers and slotted the ball wide of Cambrian & Clydach’s goalkeeper Jack Jenkins to give his team an early 1-0 lead.
The visitors responded well and started to pass the ball around the park and were causing problems for the home defence.
With twenty-nine minutes played, the visitors’ pressure on the Ammanford defence paid dividends and it was Cambrian & Clydach’s tall centre forward Ryan Prosser who rifled his powerful low shot into the Ammanford net despite a desperate diving attempt from Ammanford’s goalkeeper Craig Morris.
Cambrian & Clydach continued to press high but there were no further goals in the first half.
The second half saw Gruffydd Harrison Ammanford’s Manager make an early substitution by bringing on Brett Enoch in place of midfielder Dale Jones.
With an hour gone Cambrian & Clydach’s impressive wide-man Liam Reed beat the Ammanford defence and gave his team the lead by scoring a well-taken goal.
Ammanford’s response was almost immediate, in fact just four minutes later, as sub Enoch got himself free wide on the left hand side close to the visitors byline and took the ball into the eighteen-yard box and unleashed a low drive which sped into the bottom corner at the far post of the visitors net to restore parity at 2-2.
The home side were now looking to press on but the visitors were also not settling for a point and continued to press Ammanford as both their full backs Joe Thomas and Jay Woodford kept a high line and attacked at every opportunity.
After seventy-six minutes played a scramble in the Ammanford area saw Cambrian & Clydach’s centre back Connor Young score from close range as the ball seem to take a couple of deflections on its way into the Ammanford net.
Ammanford were left chasing the game and with three added minutes after the ninety, Ammanford were awarded a free kick some twenty four yards out from goal.
Lee Trundle stood over the ball as the visitors’ wall lined up to stop his attempt at goal. Trundle took aim and his low powerful shot went directly under the defensive wall and sped past keeper Jack Jenkins hitting the back of the net.
Trundle whirling himself around and made his way to the Ammanford dugout to celebrate with his manager as it seemed he had rescued a point from the game.
The drama, however, was not over as two minutes later Cambrian & Clydach’s Finn Jones found himself in front of the Ammanford goal with not a defender in sight and he calmly stroked the ball past Morris to restore his team’s lead at 3-4.
The atmosphere of the home team and support turned from joy to more solemn as the referee blew his final whistle.
A fine performance from the visiting team but a very disappointing ending for the home side.
Ammanford are at home again on Friday, October 29, against Trefelin.
Cwm Reserves share the points
CWMAMMAN came away with a point from a hard fought draw with visiting Goytre Utd on Saturday (Oct 16) continuing the pattern of extremely close matches for them in the FAW Reserve League.
Both sides looked to attack from the outset and Goytre took the lead in the 28th min through Lewis Taylor.
Cwm kept probing and Rhydian Jones equalised in the 40th minute.
The game became a little stop start with a number of injuries and substitutions and Brandon Sackey gave Goytre the lead in the 65th min.
Cwm kept battling and Kian Evans converted a ball from Jones for the equaliser in the 76th minute.
Both sides looked for the winner but it ended all square. William Jones, Paul Doorbar and Josh Jones stood out for Cwm while Ashley Twigg and Rhydian Jones caused regular problems for the opposition.
Cwmamman now sit 7th just above Goytre with Carmarthen Town next due to visit Grenig Park.
Last minute defeat sinks Cwmamman
CWMAMMAN United’s players trudged off the field at the final whistle in disbelief having conceded two goals in the last 3 mins against Ynyshir Albion on Saturday (Oct 16).
The game-winning goal came in the last move of the game as Cwm came away from Ynyshir Albion with nothing when it had looked that their organised and pacy performance had secured the 3 points.
It had been an entertaining match with two differing styles where Ynyshir played to a more structured physical approach Cwm relied on quick movement of possession and releasing their pacy wingers Kyle Ashford and Ryan Hurlow.
It was Ashford who opened the scoring in the 8th minute and shortly afterwards had a golden opportunity to double the lead but his shot flew over the bar.
This encouraged the Buns and they equalised in the 20th min through Carn Thomas. Cwm then suffered a major blow losing player manager Ryan Thomas to a nasty injury.
Ynyshir subsequently increased the pressure and just before half time Liam Eason gave them the lead.
Cwm continued with their attacking mind-set with Ross Morgan influential and Calem Rees continued his good goal scoring form making it 2-2 in the 71st min.
Shortly afterwards Ashford gave Cwm the lead to make it 3-2 and then just failed to convert a great chance for his hat trick.
Cwm seemed reasonably comfortable but disaster struck in the final minutes when Alex Rees headed home in the 88th min followed by Liam Eason converting another header with the last touch of the game to seal an astonishing win for Ynyshir.
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