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 earn first league win since November
ABERYSTWYTH Town’s season swung upwards on Friday night (Feb 8) at Stebonheath Park as a devastating three goal blitz in six minutes at the end of the first half put the Black and Greens in an unassailable position, and earned them their first League win since November.
Goals from Paolo Mendes (41 mins), Wes Baynes (43 mins) and two from the evergreen Geoff Kellaway (45+2 and 62) saw Town to the Top of the Play Off Conference with Joe Clarke (57 mins) and Joe Hunt (64 mins) responding for the Reds of Llanelli in vain.
After eight games without a win the magnitude of this match was huge for Aber and on a cold and blustery evening the home groundsmen had done a superb job to get the game on.
The Ceredigion men started well with Declan Walker and Wes Baynes putting dangerous balls into the box, and Ash Ruane having a shot blocked. The hosts were also creating chances though as Chris Jones’ effort from a James Loveridge pass was saved.
Mattie Jones’ superb left wing cross then saw Ruane straight through but home keeper Scott Coughlan pulled off a great save to deny the Green Goal Getter. Further quality crosses from Baynes and Jones caused consternation and then Ryan Wollacott, who was superb all night at the back for Town, brought another save from Coughlan with a header.
Loveridge curled a shot narrowly wide for Llanelli but then Baynes went even closer at the other end with a cross shot. Then a series of corners turned the game, and maybe even Aber’s entire season. First Jones’ corner reached Mendes at the back stick to head home.
Ruane’s shot was then deflected over for another corner, and Baynes’ cute delivery curled right into the top corner.
Four minutes later Aber were in dreamland as Kellaway found the bottom corner with a superb strike from the right hand side, and with the visiting fans signing for joy clinical Aber went in three goals to the good.
Playing against the wind in the second half the visitors continued to press without really creating too many openings. However, two former Black and Green players combined as Chris Jones crossed for Clarke to head Llanelli back into the game.
The next goal appeared crucial as the game opened up and Jones just failed to find Loveridge with a cut back which would surely have caused huge problems for Aber.
As it happens the hard working Marc Williams found the bye line at the other end and cut back for Kellaway to stab home a killer fourth, and surely the game was over?
However with the next move Joe Hunt’s free kick curled right into the corner of Terry McCormick’s net and it was 4-2.
A hugely open game continued apace and Aber’s Superb Singing Fans inspired their team forward. Kellaway burst through down the left but was denied a hat trick by Coughlan, and then Ryan “The Rock” Wollacott cleared off the line with the hosts threatening a comeback.
With five minutes of injury time indicated sub Joe Dyer sent a great chance over for Llanelli, and Aber held on for a priceless win.
Aber up to fourth after beating Llangwm
ABERAERON continued their march up the table as they earned a 55-0 victory at home to Llangwm on Saturday (Feb 9).
The Ceredigion side now sit fourth in the table just two points behind third place Haverfordwest with three games in hand as well.
As expected the outcome was never really in doubt with the bonus point win top of the agenda for Justin Lloyd and his coaching team.
True to form, it was the home side first out of the blocks, putting the visitors defence under considerable pressure in the opening phases.
They were rewarded for the enterprise with a try for wing Dyfrig Dafis with an excellent conversion against the elements by Rhodri Jenkins.
A competent Llangwm rearguard coupled with some unforced errors by the hosts reduced opportunities until midway in the opening period until no 8 Tudur Jenkins benefited from forward domination to cross for his 9th try of the campaign.
With forward play becoming more evident as the game progressed the front row of Ceri Davies, Sion Evans and Matt Roberts ably supported by second rows Daf Lloyd and captain Gethin Hughes paved the way for flanker Gethin Dafis to record his second double in a week with Jenkins adding a conversion giving Aberaeron a 24 point advantage at the break.
It did not take long after the restart for further scores with Morgan Llewelyn the benefactor again ably converted by Jenkins. With the result never in doubt the introduction of several subs brought immediate benefit as prop Owain Wozencraft bulldozed his way over the line after receiving his first pass.
The added conversion by Jenkins was followed by another double, this time by centre Ollie Sawyer, a due reward for a stalwart both in attack and defence.
The final score by wing Rhodri Thomas added icing on the cake and the conversion by Jenkins brought a tally of 10 points for the outside half.
It will be fourth versus fifth this Saturday (Feb 16), as Aber host Laugharne in what will prove a good test for the Ceredigion side.
Kellaway earns point for Aber
A SUPERB 30 yard volley from evergreen Geoff Kellaway thirteen minutes from time finally put an end to Aberystwyth Town’s seven match losing streak, and earned the Black and Greens a thoroughly deserved point at home to Llandudno on Friday (Feb 1).
On a chilly evening on the Ceredigion coast the hosts rang the changes, giving debuts to Marc Williams and Carwyn Jones, and recalling keeper Terry MCormick, Alan Goodall, Leigh Jenkins and Ash Ruane to the starting eleven.
The game struggled to get going but then Matthew Jones played a sweet ball across to Ruane, whose low goalbound drive was gathered by Shaun Pearson in the visitors goal. Les Davies blasted over for Llandudno then Jones was the next to test Pearson with a low drive.
Williams was prominent for Town, dropping deep to pick up and bringing others into play as he excelled in the number ten role. Toby Jones fired over for Llandudno but they then got a lucky break when Harry’s low drive from the edge of the area took a big deflection and nestled into McCormick’s net.
In response Jones sent in another cross which Williams glanced wide, Declan Walker aimed a long range drive straight at the keeper and despite creating more chances Aber went in at the break a goal down and under pressure.
The hosts pressed again after the break, with Matthew Jones again setting up a Williams header to bring another save from Pearson. Alun Webb sent a shot wide but then at the other end Leigh Jenkins had a shot deflected for a corner.
Kellaway then sent a superb volley inches wide from 30 yards, Williams hit the post with a curling shot and Matthew Jones fired wide as Aber upped the pressure. Town had a let off when Toby Jones’ goal was chalked off for offside, and then McCormick pulled off a great save to deny Webb down to his left.
Those of a nervous disposition feared that the game was going away from Town but then up popped the legendary Kellaway, who pulled out a brilliant low drive from 30 yards to equalise with a vital goal, before celebrating in front of an adoring Nark’s Corner.
In an exciting last ten minutes sub Ryan Edwards sent a volley just wide, Marc Williams saw a shot deflected for a corner, before Llandudno enjoyed some late pressure.
Harry sent a shot narrowly wide, and super Steffan Edwards denied Toby Jones at the death with a last gasp goal line clearance, to bring proceedings to a close at 1-1.
On a nervous night with defeat unthinkable for the Black and Greens, the game was not a technical masterclass, but thanks to Geoff Kellaway’s moment of magic Aber got the result they needed, which brings to an end their heart-breaking run of defeats.
Town will now look forward to more Friday Night Football, with a visit to Stebonheath Park, Llanelli on Friday (Feb 8), ko 7.45pm.
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