Cricket: Maynard puts one hand on Championship

Glamorgan 361 and 150-3 Essex 169 and 340 Glamorgan won by 7 wkts
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The Independent Online
It was fitting that Matthew Maynard, as captain of Glamorgan, should have hit the winning runs in Sophia Gardens yesterday. The shot off his toes, which sent the ball through square-leg to the boundary, took the Welsh club to within sight of their first County Championship since 1969 and only the third in their history.

Maynard's role was crucial in achieving the win, and scooping maximum points. He came out facing the prospect of having to bat on a wicket whose pace had quickened since Glamorgan's first innings, with his side - chasing 149 off a minimum of 69 overs - teetering at 13 for 2. There was a further wobble another 13 runs later, before Maynard settled down with the experienced Tony Cottey to knock off the remaining runs.

There was none of the usual Maynard mayhem. The man who has ripped apart world-class attacks singlehandedly, applied himself for almost two and a half hours, picked his spot and shot and underlined his determination to lift the Championship.

He had his share of luck, being dropped behind before he had scored. He rode that and now Glamorgan's destiny is in their hands. They do not have to rely on any other county stumbling in this most tense of run-ins. They just have to do their stuff one more time against Somerset in Taunton this week.

On the evidence of a difficult season this is a side well capable and indeed deserving of the title. Glamorgan have been less fortunate than most on the weather front. There have been plenty of clouds but few silver linings during an atypical summer; the cost to Glamorgan has been high - 1,850 Championship overs lost to meteorological whimsy.

While there has been an inability to produce a clinical finish in one or two games, rain certainly forced a draw in a couple of others. For all that, Glamorgan have remained there or thereabouts. Such consistency, the hallmark of quality, has been due in part to the fact that this is more of a collective than a team.

Everyone has contributed. While Steve James has dominated the run-making, there has always been room for others to do their bit. Hugh Morris and Adrian Dale can be relied upon to come good when it matters. Maynard, of course, has been in particularly good form, during yesterday's responsible effort he passed 1,000 runs in a season for the 11th time in his career.

The bowling has been astonishing. No fewer than three members of a well- balanced attack have topped 50 wickets in the Championship. Waqar Younis leads the way with 64. Steve Watkin, the ideal foil to Waqar's swing, has now taken 55 with his accurate seam bowling; of late he has experienced the proof of Ogden Nash's wry couplet: "Life is like a ketchup bottle; first none'll come, and then a lot'll."

Watkin had not claimed five wickets in an innings for two years until the trip to Leicester last month when he had a return of seven. The Essex second innings saw him achieve the feat for the second time in three matches as he winkled out the last two batsmen in 35 minutes.

The England off-spinner Robert Croft has also topped 50 and Darren Thomas is close to his half century. As for their fielding, it is of a very high standard; Cottey particularly pulls off near miraculous stops and catches.

So to Taunton where all Glamorgan have to do is to beat Somerset by enough points to maintain their slender lead and line a cloudy summer with some silverware.