Cricket: Morris's men on the up: Glamorgan have been the cricket season's most unlikely success story. Rob Steen reports

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The Independent Online
THE world's largest daffodil can be found propped up against a wall in the commercial offices at Sophia Gardens, an 8ft monument to the flowering of Welsh cricket. The hwyl, certainly, has never been more profound.

Friday morning, though, was chock-a-block with mixed emotions. 'Baby joy, but Test sadness for the Maynards', exclaimed the front page of the Western Mail. Matthew Maynard had made a duck on his England come-back, Steve Watkin, scandalously, had been omitted from the Edgbaston squad and Harry Brind was due in to scrutinise the grass-laden pitch that had claimed 17 wickets on the opening day of Glamorgan's Championship game against Warwickshire. To cap it all, Viv Richards had been detained by a car breakdown.

In the event, the pitch inspector returns a verdict of not guilty while a grinning Richards is soon frolicking in the field and bringing off a staggering catch. 'Bicknell's bowling like a drain,' cackles a besuited chap in a floral tie as Watkin makes a mess of the Warwickshire middle order.

Those endless summers of inferiority are over, usurped by a steely self-assurance. 'That's right, give him a taste of his own medicine,' Darren Thomas, the stocky, heavily sideburned teenage pace prodigy, mutters at long- leg as Watkin strikes Paul Smith on the shoulder. 'He bounced me, a No 10, five times in six balls,' Thomas turns to explain to the woman with the clacking knitting needles.

On Tuesday, Glamorgan venture to Hove for a NatWest Trophy semi-final, the last stop on the road towards a seemingly pre-ordained Lord's farewell for Richards, the icon who, according to his county captain, Hugh Morris, 'lifted us out of the Cinderella era'. The Cardiff postal strike delayed the arrival and dispatch of the 1,800-ticket allotment - barely one for every six members - and queues have snaked around the club offices for the past two days.

The affable Morris has no difficulty in assessing the reasons for the revival. 'We worked hard in South Africa in the spring and the confidence grew from there. The youngsters are coming through, we're a better all-round side, we bat deeper and when Ottis Gibson joins next year we'll probably have the best pace attack in our history. The other Sunday we required 212 to beat Nottinghamshire and slumped to 98 for 5. In previous years we would have capitulated but Matthew (Maynard) played a very responsible innings, the lower order did their bit and we eased home. When we walk on the field now we expect to win.'

This is Morris's second stab at the captaincy he relinquished in 1989 because of the adverse effect he thought it was having on his batting. 'I was concentrating too much on the captaincy but now I think I've got the balance right. I know how to prepare myself.'

So, unquestionably, do the commercial department. In an enterprising if risky move to boost membership last winter, the basic fee was slashed from pounds 50 to pounds 15, prompting a surge from 3,100 affiliates to 10,500, the second largest core support in the country behind Lancashire.

'The 8,000 supporters who went to Northampton for last season's NatWest quarter-final made us aware of our enormous passive support,' Tony Dilloway, the club's commercial manager, said. 'Because we are a nomadic club and lack good facilities we felt it was better to give value for money. If the trend continues, we estimate making pounds 100,000 more than last year.'

Not bad for a concern that has failed to show a trading profit for a decade. Not that anyone is getting carried away: drinkers still have to pay a 50p glass deposit.

A pre-season promotional jaunt round 80 Welsh venues also played its part. Carting that immense daffodil wherever they went, Morris and his men pressed flesh as Dilloway puts it, 'instead of sitting in their ivory tower'. Andersen Consulting formulated a business plan, the next target for which is the million Welsh exiles residing on the other side of the Severn Bridge. That the present squad contains a preponderance of home-grown talent testifies to the success of the coaching network set up five years ago via the patronage of ASW, one of Cardiff's biggest employers. Among those basking in the reflected glory is Wilf Wooller, the fiery soul of Principality cricket who piloted Glamorgan to their first Championship title in 1948 and still serves as club president at 80. 'Dennis Amiss tells me he is going to recommend Adrian Dale for the West Indies tour, so there could be three or four of our boys out there,' Wooller boasts.

Looking every inch the mad professor beneath that wispy grey mane, Don Shepherd is also lapping it up. Indeed, the man who spearheaded Glamorgan's charge to the 1969 title, is almost beside himself. 'Not in my wildest dreams,' he exalts, 'did I imagine eight Sunday wins in a row.' Those dreams, moreover, may only be in their infancy.

(Photograph omitted)

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