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?
Street hammer Churchstoke
AFTER a disappointing start to the season, Mid Wales League Division 1 side Bow Street registered their first victory with a comprehensive 5-0 win against Churchstoke on Saturday (Sept 22).
Boosted by their late victory in the Welsh Trophy the previous week away in Llandrindod, the home side wasted no time in setting about their opponents, and took an early two goal lead.
First, new signing Josh Krowl put over an exquisite cross from the left which was superbly headed home by Ben Jones.
Then from a corner, Callum Ferreira stroked the ball home from a corner.
Despite relentless pressure from the home side, and the odd breakaway from Churchstoke, there was no further addition to the score.
Steff Richards scored early in the second half with a right foot wonder shot, and further goals were added by the evergreen Dean Evans, and the young substitute, Shaun Jones.
There could have been more, but the Bow Street management will be more than happy with two consecutive victories, and especially with the three points.
Team: A Pennock, S Richards, M Pemberthy, R Evans , TW Roberts, G Nutting, B Jones, C Ferreira, J Krowl, T Williams, D Evans. Subs – S Jones, Joe Williams, J James.
Bow Street will look to pick up another win when they travel to Llanidloes Town tonight (Weds, Sept 26).
Walker earns point for Aber
ABERYSTWYTH Town earned a valuable point on their travels as they clawed back a two goal deficit to draw 2-2 with Carmarthen Town at Richmond Park on Saturday afternoon (Sept 22).
In a miserable first half, goals from Luke Bowen (10) and Liam Thomas (38) put the hosts in firm control, but a spirited second half performance saw the black and greens claw their way back thanks to goals from Ash Ruane (64) and Declan Walker (78) to earn a valuable JD Welsh Premier League point on the road.
Aber named an unchanged side from the one which beat Bala Town at Park Avenue last weekend, but they got off to a slow start at Richmond Park as Declan Carroll fired an early warning sign within the opening five minutes with an effort over the bar.
Soon after, Carmarthen were in behind Aber’s defence as Luke Bowen was brought down outside the area by Leigh Jenkins, resulting in a booking and Sean Hanbury’s free kick going over the bar once more.
The visitors failed to heed the early warnings and Carmarthen took the lead on 10 minutes as Luke Bowen pounced on a defensive error to slide the ball beyond Jenkins and make it 1-0.
The black and greens tried to find a way into the game, but continued to struggle, with Ryan Edwards and Geoff Kellaway seeing their efforts drift wide of either post.
Meanwhile Carmarthen continued to threaten, with Leigh Jenkins producing a good save from Tyrrell Webbe’s long range strike, before young centre half Lee Jenkins produced an outstanding block to deny Bowen another goal.
Then, on 38 minutes, the hosts doubled their lead as Liam Thomas collected a loose ball on the edge of the area before firing a half volley over Jenkins and into the top corner for 2-0.
Half time approached with the visitors somewhat fortunate to be two goals behind in an utterly disappointing first half.
Aber’s first half performance merited a double substitution at half time, with Rio Ahmadi and Paulo Mendes being introduced in place of Geoff Kellaway and Lee Jenkins as the seasiders searched for a way back into the game.
There was a marked improvement as soon as the second half started, with Aber playing at a higher tempo and forcing the hosts deeper into their own half.
On 50 minutes, wingman Joe Phillips went close with a half volley before dragging a left footed effort just wide from a corner kick moment later.
On 64 minutes, after a sustained period of pressure, Aber found their way back into the game as Ryan Edwards produced a pinpoint cross for Ashley Ruane to flick a header into the net at the back post and make it 2-1.
Suddenly the seasiders were a different side, and sensed it was time to push for the equaliser.
On 68 minutes they went close once more as Mathew Jones darted into the penalty area only to see his right footed strike go narrowly wide of the post.
Then, on 78 minutes came the moment the Aber fans had been sensing as the visitors took a quick free kick, and Declan Walker picked up the ball on the right flank before cutting inside and unleashing a left footed effort into the bottom corner to make it 2-2.
Hosts Carmarthen dropped deeper and deeper into their own half as the black and greens suddenly saw all three points there for the taking.
On 82 minutes, Walker cut inside once more before firing over the crossbar, before Wes Baynes drilled his free kick narrowly over the bar. The visitors continued to push for the victory into the dying moments, but were unable to find that third goal as they were forced to settle for a hard earned away point.
It was a tale of two halves for the Seasiders, who to their credit showed great desire and character to get themselves back into the game from such a daunting position at half time. Director of Football, Nev Powell and Assistant Manager Gavin Allen will be delighted with Town’s work over the past week – picking up four points from two difficult games and currently lying in 7th place in the league table.
Town now welcome Barry Town to Park Avenue in the JD Welsh Premier League on Saturday (Sept 29).
Aber seal thrilling win
ABERYSTWYTH Town secured a massive 3-2 victory over JD Welsh Premier League contenders Bala Town in a thrilling game in front of the Sgorio cameras at Park Avenue on Saturday (Sept 15).
Aber made two changes to the side defeated by The New Saints on Tuesday evening, with Geoff Kellaway and Joe Phillips replacing Alan Goodall and Rio Ahmadi.
The hosts made the brighter start to the game, with Ashley Ruane threatening early on, before Wes Baynes fired an effort well wide of the post.
On 12 minutes, Aber missed their first clear opportunity of the game as Steff Edwards strode forward before putting a low cross into the six yard area where Ruane was inches away from converting.
Visitors Bala struggled to get into the game, but did create an opening on 16 minutes when Steven Tames crossed for Ian Sheridan who was unable to convert, before Aber were forced to defend a succession of corners from the Lakesiders.
On 23 minutes came the game’s opening goal, as Geoff Kellaway controlled Wes Baynes’ throw in on his chest before swivelling and delivering a teasing left footed cross into the penalty area, where Ash Ruane did enough to fool goalkeeper Morris, which allowed the ball to bounce into the far corner of the net for 1-0.
It was a lead that Aber’s early play just about deserved, as goalscorer Kellaway continued to cause bedlam in the visitors defence with his pacey runs and inviting crosses. Bala continued to struggle to find any rhythm, often bypassing the midfield and opting for the more direct route to goal with aerial balls towards lone striker Tames.
Meanwhile, Aber did their best to get the ball down and play, and on 36 minutes very nearly doubled their lead as the energetic Joe Phillips cut inside before sending a right footed effort inches wide of the post.
On 43 minutes, the visitors registered their first effort on goal as Henry Jones unleashed a powerful strike that was excellently tipped over by Leigh Jenkins, before Joe Phillips again went close at the other end with a long range effort, but Aber would take a slender one goal advantage in to the break.
The second half began at a more frantic pace than the first, with Bala evidently having had some harsh words said to them by manager Colin Caton at the break.
On 49 minutes, Steven Tames got his head on the end of Andrew Burns’ cross only to be denied by an outstanding reaction save by Leigh Jenkins. Aber’s keeper was called into action once more just seconds later as he got a strong palm on Henry Jones’ curling free kick, as the hosts were forced to weather the Bala storm.
The visitors went close once more on 53 minutes as Stuart J Jones missed a guilt-edged chance from 3 yards out when it appeared easier to score, but as the second half wore on Aber began to get a grip of the game once more.
On 67 minutes, Alan Goodall replaced Joe Phillips in midfield, but just seconds later the visitors equalised as Mike Hayes latched on to Sean Smith’s header before finishing brilliantly over Leigh Jenkins to make it 1-1.
Despite that setback, Aber appeared to grow in confidence and began to play some of their best football all evening.
Wing man Ryan Edwards continued to threaten down the left flank, and very nearly contributed to Aber re-taking the lead on 72 minutes as he played in Goodall, who flicked the ball through for Kellaway only for goalkeeper Morris to smother the ball at his feet.
Soon after, Kellaway was replaced by Rio Ahmadi, and within minutes of his entrance into the game, the Aber number 9 put the hosts back in front; Ryan Edwards provided a deft back-heel for Mathew Jones on the left flank, who then delivered an inch-perfect cross with his weaker right foot for Ahmadi to chest the ball down and drill the ball into the bottom corner to make it 2-1.
It was evident how much the goal meant to Rio himself, as well as Director of Football Nev Powell who jumped for joy into the arms of Aber assistant Gavin Allen! But the hosts weren’t done there, as on 87 minutes Ahmadi turned provider when he cut in from the right flank and delivered a sublime cross for Ashley Ruane to control, swivel and slam the ball into the roof of the net and make it 3-1 with his first goal for the black and greens.
As the game entered stoppage time, Henry was adjudged to have thrown himself to the ground too easily by the referee, before the linesman’s intervention resulted in the awarding of a penalty kick for the visitors. Jones stepped up and converted to make it 2-3, but it proved insignificant as Aber saw out the final minutes for what was a massive victory at Park Avenue.
It was a fantastic night for Aber under the Park Avenue lights, and an especially emotional evening for many associated with Aberystwyth Town and the Welsh Premier League, as the club unveiled the opening of Lolfa Emyr James before kick-off. It was a touching moment as Emyr’s family and close friends were on hand to officially unveil the opening in Emyr’s name, and it was fitting that Aber produced such a spirited and determined performance in honour of a great man who did so much for the club.
Aber climb to 7th place in the JD Welsh Premier League table, and will be keen to continue their push for a top six position as they face Carmarthen Town at Richmond Park in the JD Welsh Premier League on Saturday (Sept 22).
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