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?
Aber face must-win game
IN their fight for a Europa League Play Off spot, Aberystwyth Town now face a must-win game against Cardiff Met on Saturday (Apr 20).
A win against the Met would put them above the Students and put them in pole position ahead of their final game away to Carmarthen a week later.
On Friday (Apr 12), Aber were held to a 0-0 draw by Cefn Druids at Park Avenue, and the Met’s win on Saturday (Apr 13) put them into the coveted seventh place.
A large crowd of 495 responded to Aber Town’s “Footy for a Fiva” initiative to watch the Black and Greens gain a valuable point from an engrossing goal less draw with their bogey side Cefn Druds. In a match of remarkably few clear cut chances defences were on top.
Geoff Kellaway and Ryan Wollacott went closest for Town and despite a late power cut both teams held out for an honourable draw.
Kick off was preceded with a presentation as Aber Town Under 19s side received their Welsh Premier Development League (South) Trophy and medals, and the Black and Greens named an unchanged outfield eleven for the fifth consecutive game.
Druids took the initiative from the start and home keeper Terry McCormick was out well to deny Jack Kenny early on.
With the Druids buzzing around Town were mostly threatening on the break and Mattie Jones made a lung bursting run down the left before pulling out a super cross, but Druids’ Neil Ashton dived in to deny Kellaway a tap in.
Jones picked out Kellaway again minutes later but the striker was called offside.
Kenny then fired wide from a great position, set up by Rittenberg, but in general it was the holding players who were shining, with Paolo Mendes and Declan Walker prominent in Town’s good defensive shape.
Marc Williams lobbed just over for Aber, then Jamie Davies brought a save out of McCormick.
Wes Baynes set up half chances for Walker and Ashley Ruane with free kicks, and Mendes headed over from Jones’ corner. Kellaway curled a shot wide and Kenny headed over for the Druids and with shots on target at a premium the half ended at 0-0.
Into the second half, and Williams curled a header just wide from Baynes’ free kick, and McCormick again did well to deny Kenny and Davies.
Steff Edwards saw a rare effort drop just over the bar and home supporters in the Dias Stand started to make themselves heard with some super singing, echoed back by the tifosi on Narks’ corner.
The two in form sides were defending solidly and chances were at a premium. Another Baynes free kick whistled past the far post, and then a Ryan Wollacott header brought Druids keeper Michael Jones into action with a smart save.
A ball from Walker almost picked out Ruane and then with two minutes to go the floodlights dramatically cut out.
After five minutes of darkness, to cheers from the supporters, the lights mercifully came back on, and in injury time sub Niall Coleridge almost got his head on a Jones cross, Ryan Kershaw fired over the bar for the visitors and the game ended in a fair and honourable draw.
The result guarantees Aber an improved eighth placed finish this season but after Cardiff beat relegated Llandudno on Saturday, Aber now travel to the Cyncoed Campus knowing they must win to keep their Play Off hopes alive.
Saturday’s match between the two sides is a huge game and every single Aber supporter is needed to cheer the boys on to a dream end to the season.
Aber hold off Llanelli
ABERYSTWYTH Town took another huge step towards the UEFA Europa League Play Offs with a crucial 3-2 win over Llanelli at Park Avenue on Friday night (Apr 5).
Following Cardiff Met’s defeat to the Druids on Saturday it means that Aber now hold a one point lead over the Met who they play on Apr 20.
A stunning strike from Wes Baynes on 29 minutes gave the Black and Greens the lead, and quickfire goals from Ash Ruane (49 minutes) and Marc Williams (53 minutes) seemed to have the hosts cruising, but Llanelli, who were relegated last night by a Club announcement that they will not appeal their Licence failure, hit back through Lee Bevan (63) and Joe Clarke (83) to set up a thrilling ending, which ended with Aber’s fourth consecutive win.
Kick off at a chilly and damp Park Avenue was preceded by a minute’s silence to commemorate Club Stalwart Leighton Wall, who sadly passed away after Aber’s last home game.
Aber’s unchanged team started fairly confidently, taking the initiative and soon evergreen Geoff Kellaway was flashing a shot wide of the goal set up by the peerless Marc Williams.
The visitors however were showing signs of life themselves: Michael George sent an early effort wide, then home keeper Terry McCormick came out brilliantly to deny stand in striker Joe Clarke what seemed like a certain goal.
The chances kept coming and Kellaway was adjudged to have been offside, while scoring from Mattie Jones ball in – and the goal was disallowed. Williams saw a shot saved by Scott Coughlin, then a Mattie Jones humdinger screamed past the post.
Jones then had a free kick tipped over the bar by Coughlin, and then finally a super move around the box saw Williams lay the ball back to Baynes who smashed the ball into the net for a super opener.
Steff Edwards then attempted a Cantona-esque effort from the edge of the area which dropped wide, and Llanelli were hanging on. McCormick pulled off another super close range save to deny Clarke at the other end, and headers from Declan Walker and Williams missed the target for Aber to ensure that a very entertaining first half ended 1-0 to the hosts.
Into the second half and the hosts started on fire. Four minutes in Kellaway delivered a perfect ball in from the left wing which fell perfectly for Ruane to score his second headed goal in two games.
Sub Emile Ngoy tapped in at the other end for Llanelli but his goal, like Kellaway’s earlier, was disallowed for offside, and then a simple ball up the park from the hosts was terribly misjudged by Coughlin and Williams nipped in behind him to score a third, and surely seal the game for Aber.
Ryan Edwards and Jones both curled further efforts wide for Town but credit to already relegated Llanelli, they finished the game strongly. When Lee Bevan headed home from a right wing corner to reduce the arrears there was still 27 minutes to go, and with the Reds flooding forward Ngoy headed over soon after.
Clarke sent a shot over the bar and Aber’s fans in the Dias started signing to encourage their side to hold out.
With seven minutes remaining a tricky run from George down the right saw the ball fall for Clarke who rolled his man and finally got his goal from close range for 3-2.
Ruane played a great 1-2 with Marc Williams before sending a wild shot into the new netting in front of the Dias Stand, and after a series of free kicks around Aber’s box Chris Jones’ set piece was headed over by the industrious Ngoy.
Back at the other end in injury time Marc Williams then held the ball in the corner, only to roll round a gaggle of visiting players and tickle the ball just past the post, and the job was done.
In the face of a spirited comeback Aberystwyth Town held on for what could be a priceless three points.
It was probably not a vintage performance in truth but such complaints are churlish in the face of four straight wins which have put Aber back on top of the Play Off Conference, and their UEFA Europa League dream continues on Friday night (Apr 12), at home to Cefn Druids (
Llandysul through to League Cup final
LLANDYSUL made it through to the final of the Ceredigion Costcutter League Cup on Tuesday (Apr 2), as they beat St Dogmaels 4-2.
Both sides were near full strength and it made for an exciting encounter between two of the league’s top sides.
The Saints just stole it 1-2 in Llandysul earlier in the season, but came into the game on the back of a 1-1 draw with Crannog while Llandysul had beaten basement side Bargod 5-0 so it really was anyone’s guess who would take the spot in the League Cup final against Crannog on Easter Monday (Apr 22).
After a few day of summer weather, the pitch benefited from the odd light shower throughout the day, making an immaculate surface at NCE – with the ball zipping about for both sides.
It took the Saints just ten minutes to break the deadlock as confusion in the box allowed them to strike an early blow to the Swallows after a fiery opening exchange.
Five minutes later Llandysul were level after a quick 1-2 between the immense Scott Mayes and Lewis Jones released on form striker Mathew Newbold, whose bullet cross was met by the head of the on-running Chrissy Harris.
Both sides kept looking to play, and some dogged Swallows defending conceded a throw in near the corner flag. The Saints full back launched a mammoth throw into the box, causing all sorts of chaos before the Saints prodded home to restore their lead.
The fiery affair continued with a few large tackles and some excellent football for both sides saw out the first half.
The Saints started the second half brightly, winning a corner within 30 seconds of the restart.
On 55 minutes, a handball just outside the Saints box gave Llandysul a chance to get back into the game. The free kick was rolled by Lewis Jones towards Captain Dean Jones who let fly an absolute rocket to make it 2-2.
The Swallows made a change to their top three with Ashley Summers, Jayden Lynch and Harri Wilson coming on for Newbold, Harris, and Ifan-Sion.
The change of pace up top changed the game and within two minutes Jayden Lynch found a gap on the edge of the box to fire the Swallows into the lead.
The game then returned to end to end action with the Saints having chances to level, only for Swallows ‘Keeper Nathan Jones to perform some outstanding saves.
With ten to go, tenacious striker Ashley Summers pounced on a through ball – causing panic between defender and keeper, stealing the loose ball and slotting home to double the Swallows’ advantage.
The Saints threw everything forward searching for a route back into the game leaving spaces vulnerable at the back.
Winger Harri Wilson’s pace meant they had to constantly be alert, causing all sorts of trouble down the right hand side.
Llandysul saw the game out however and will now look forward to their game with Crannog in the final on April 22.
Before that, St Dogmaels return to league action as they host Llanboidy.
Llandysul are in action in the first round of the Bay Cup as they travel to Maesglas.
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