Cricket: Maynard's men grasp the prize

Somerset 252 and 285 Glamorgan 527 and 11-0 Glamorgan won by 10 wickets
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The Independent Online
The finish was not quite as glorious as they might have wished, but few would begrudge Glamorgan their first title for 28 years, except perhaps some down Canterbury way. At roughly the moment Kent crowned a fine, but cruel season with victory over Surrey, Glamorgan defied a soupy evening, some late defiance by the Somerset tail and their own nerves to take the Britannic Assurance County Championship back to the valleys.

In 1969, Tony Lewis's side won nothing for their efforts; yesterday, Matthew Maynard received a cheque for pounds 70,000, the biggest prize in domestic cricket, in front of a loyal group of supporters who roared approval every step of the way. There was plenty to cheer on a madcap day of 471 runs and 16 wickets.

Set 11 to win in a minimum of seven overs, with four lights visible on the scoreboard and rain not far distant, Steve James appropriately completed a memorable triumph for one of the unfashionable counties, flicking Graham Rose for four to long leg off the eighth ball of the innings. The clock showed 6.17pm, the long wait was over and well before they could reach the safety of the Taunton pavilion, the champions were engulfed. Within minutes, Robert Croft was conducting the singing, a cross between "Land of Our Fathers" and "We Are The Champions", and the pennant was flying from the balcony.

"We've had a brilliant team spirit all season," Maynard said. "We set out at the start to be more competitive and aggressive and we have achieved that. Some have called us a second-rate side, but I think we have proved a few people wrong."

Even in eight balls there was drama. Caddick, who had bowled with heart and soul and batted with common sense, had a good shout for lbw turned down and then had Steve James dropped at slip. His glare at umpire George Sharp penetrated the murk and might haunt the long winter nights.

For all the recent debate about standards, Glamorgan deserved their moment, not least because any side who can recover from the indignity of being bowled out for 31, by Middlesex in June, to win the title deserve a reward for perseverance. Glamorgan have been there or thereabouts for the whole season. Not even Lester Piggott could have timed their run to the line more expertly. Chastised for cowardice when rejecting a reasonable target at The Oval two weeks ago, Glamorgan responded with a thumping victory over Essex and profited from the hiccups of Kent, Gloucestershire and Yorkshire to put destiny into their own hands. This is not the time to question the merits of the new champions, but to laud their achievements.

Their cricket over the past three days has been aggressive and cohesive. Everyone knows their jobs; the team know their limitations. The attack is varied, the batting a neat blend of poetry and prose and there is no shortage of volunteers when a breach needs to be filled. Much of the credit for that should go to Maynard, who in his second season as captain has instilled confidence without resorting to the bonding huddles of Leicestershire, the previous champions. Like Leicestershire, who used only 13 players to win the title, Glamorgan have profited from a tightly knit squad. Apart from the XI on show yesterday, only three other players have appeared: Gary Butcher, Alun Evans and Mike Powell. Had Phil North not slept through his alarm call at Colwyn Bay, he would have joined the party too.

Somerset seemed determined to conspire in the frenetic denouement. Their cricket was by turns eccentric, verging on idiotic, and inspired. Their bowling in the morning was breathtakingly inept, Caddick excluded; their batting in the early part of the afternoon betwixt cavalier and suicidal. Until Mark Lathwell, Rose and Caddick lent some solidity, Somerset batted as if their sponsors' cars had already been handed in and their whites folded away. The hero of the hour was Darren Thomas, a young seamer who bristles with purpose. The morning brought 174 runs off 32 overs, the first three overs of the Somerset innings 40.

But when Thomas splayed Rob Turner's stumps, had Holloway and Burns caught behind and removed Mark Lathwell shortly after tea, Glamorgan were on their way. Only resistance by Caddick and Rose, who put on 95 in 14 overs, forced Glamorgan to bat one last time and prompt the second joyous Welsh assembly of the week.

Kent's heartache, page 22