Cricket: Morris flourishing in a fertile land: Glamorgan's current crop push selection claims while enjoying the high life as Championship leaders: Martin Johnson reports from Swansea

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Glamorgan 304-8 v Nottinghamshire

AS FAR as the England selectors are concerned, Glamorgan is a place somewhere between Venus and somewhere else. You are as likely to spot the Loch Ness monster taking a dip in the Mumbles bay as a claim for the Severn Bridge toll on Ted Dexter's expenses form, and Glamorgan's current status as Championship leaders was not enough to tempt anyone here from Lord's yesterday.

The old jokes do not get so much of an airing nowadays ('I see old so-and-so has got a hundred against Glamorgan. . . 'ah well, doesn't count as first- class, then . . .') and yesterday morning's Western Mail was bullish enough to demand that no less than five of their men are chosen for the next Test match. What? More foreigners?

However, Wales represents fertile ground at the moment. Steve Watkin is the country's leading wicket-taker, and bowling better than he was when he played two Tests against the West Indies a couple of years ago. At least, that's the opinion of the country's leading run-scorer, Hugh Morris, who made his fourth Championship century of the summer yesterday.

The Glamorgan captain should get a mention at this weekend's selection meeting, although more likely choices are Watkin and the hugely talented Matthew Maynard. Also worth more than a cursory word are the off-spinner, Robert Croft, and Colin Metson, rated by many players as a better wicketkeeper than Jack Russell.

However, the prospect of the England dressing-room reverberating to the strains of 'Sospan Fach' next week remains unlikely. No one in this team speaks Welsh for a start, although the days when Glamorgan was a repository for old lags and other people's discards have long gone.

Morris said that much of Glamorgan's success was down to hard work on the fielding ('Matthew has taken 18 catches at slip this year'), Roland Lefebvre's signing from Somerset, and the early identification of local talent.

Most of the current crop has played Welsh schoolboy cricket, and even Viv Richards, who injects the glamour and the confidence into what is basically a home-grown team, is considered a local boy these days. When Viv phones from Antigua during the winter, the first thing he wants to know is how Mountain Ash's rugby team are getting on.

Richards is leaving at the end of the season, and Glamorgan plan to replace him with a fast bowler. Their search is rumoured to have ended with an unknown teenager from Barbados by the name of Otis Gibson, who will need to be both rapid and philosophical to cope with the local turf. Swansea is slow, while bowlers at Cardiff come over all emotional if they get a ball stump high.

Glamorgan's progress is even more impressive off the field, where they have launched such a successful drive for membership that has gone up, in under a year, from 3,000 to 9,500 - a figure surpassed only by Lancashire among the 18 first-class counties.

This they have achieved partly through financial inducement, cutting the price from pounds 45 to pounds 15, and partly through the players putting themselves about in pubs and clubs throughout the winter.

The on-the-field spin-off from this is that Glamorgan enjoy an experience not granted to many others on days like yesterday - playing in front of people. You could have poached an egg on the pavilion steps here yesterday, but instead of merely increasing the knotted handerchief count down on the beach, as it used to, yesterday it brought in a crowd.

It was a good day for Morris to win the toss, and he joined a few other Mumbles holidaymakers by booking in, so to speak, for bed and breakfast. Nottinghamshire's attack was minus Chris Lewis with back trouble (rumours of a modelling assignment proved unfounded) but it would be far from accurate to say that Morris dipped in against a bunch of pie-throwers, and there was just enough movement and slow turn (from a previously used pitch) to keep the bowlers interested.

Morris' century took him to 863 runs for the summer at an average of 57, but in four-day cricket the idea is to press on rather than give it away, as he did almost immediately after passing three figures by skipping out of his crease to Michael Field-Buss and getting himself stumped.

Maynard made a fluent 49 before receiving a good one from Kevin Evans, but Richards could have been out a couple of times before edging to first slip, Adrian Dale's extravagant leg-side pick- up resulted in a leading edge back to the bowler, and Glamorgan's descent from 258 for 2 to 304 for 8 was less a glimpse of the brave new dawn, than a trip down memory lane.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments