Cricket: Waqar the catalyst for conquest

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Somerset 252 & 285

Glamorgan 527 & 11-0

Glamorgan win by 10 wkts

It could have been a scene straight out of the old Arms Park, when Welsh rugby ruled the roost. But instead of the oval ball, it was the hard, red one they had come to rejoice in, the massed voices singing "Land of my Fathers," proclaiming an event that only two generations - father in 1969, and grandfather in 1948 - had witnessed before them, the sight of Glamorgan lording it over all England, as cricket's county champions.

To win a five-month long competition by only four points can be a harrowing experience. For the players, however, especially the captain Matthew Maynard, it was a profound and moving moment, and one that exonerated his much criticised decision not to chase the tough target set by Surrey a fortnight ago - a decision, that brought an unbridled stream of criticism from Dave Gilbert, Surrey's Australian coach.

"I'm completely overjoyed," said a champagne-soaked Maynard on Saturday, his young son by his side. "We've been quoted as not being the best side and not deserving this and I thought the recent remarks made by Dave Gilbert, after our game with Surrey, were immature. Mind you, although we've always known what we had to do these last few games, I think those comments have helped us by giving the guys that extra focus."

Having played with, and for the last two years presided over, a gifted but unpredictable side, Maynard was quick to point to the galvanising effect of Waqar Younis, whose 68 wickets made him the summer's third highest wicket-taker behind Mike Smith and Dougie Brown.

"The buzz in our dressing-room at the end of last season when we knew we'd signed Waqar was tremendous," Maynard said. "We felt all along that he could be the catalyst we needed.

"Right from the outset we've planned well and we've played well. We knew we needed to be more aggressive and we've done that too, though not in a slag-the-batsman-off kind of way. Whatever the situation, the lads just never let the game go and the camaraderie has been fantastic. In Wales, the 1969 team are legend, perhaps now, we will be as well."

Just how important this title is to Welshman everywhere was evidenced when one drunken supporter, believing the game to be over when Somerset were bowled out, decided to make off with a souvenir stump. As he ran away clutching his memento, a posse of other Glamorgan supporters broke ranks and wrested the stump from him, returning it to the bemused groundsman to set up for the eight-ball finale.

The Championship is a long haul and Glamorgan, with their rock solid opening batsmen and balanced bowling attack, are deserved winners. Like last year's winners Leicestershire, who used just 13 players, they have remained virtually unchanged throughout the season, using only 14 players, despite the ignominy of being bowled out for just 31 by Middlesex.

Of a talented side, only Robert Croft was called away to England duty, though both opening batsmen, Hugh Morris (at the start of the summer) and Steve James (towards the end of the Ashes series) were probably close to joining him.

Seemingly set in stone (James was the country's leading run-scorer) the opening partnership that contributed over three thousand runs to Glamorgan's cause this season may plunder together no longer. With Mickey Stewart due to retire at the end of September, Morris, on a shortlist of four, may about to be appointed as the English Cricket Board's new director of coaching.

However, the comings and goings of Croft apart, disruptions were few, and only the weather threatened to undermine a side visibly steeled by the signing of Waqar.

But while the captain is right to laud his overseas star, no side can win the County Championship without having a varied and potent backup. With the old head and nous of Steve Watkin to compensate for the improving tearaway Darren Thomas, and Croft's wily off-spin to embellish Dean Cosker's promising left-arm tweakers, Glamorgan had an ideal attack for all conditions.

The batting beyond the opening pair was a perfect mix too, a combination of aggression and caution. In their bold and astute captain, Maynard, they have, as Somerset's devastated bowling attack will willingly attest, one of the most destructive batsmen in the competition. With Adrian Dales' stylish grit and Tony Cottey's pugnacity to complement him in the middle- order, the bowlers nearly always had a total to work with.

Glamorgan have now won the pennant three times, which is three more than Somerset, the team they finally needed to beat to clinch the much cherished title ahead of Kent, their only rivals in the competition's final round of matches. By the time dusk fell, and Steve James had whipped Graham Rose for four, Kent's victory at Canterbury over Surrey, was only good enough to take second place.

After Glamorgan had taken a full complement of bonus points, Kent had needed to win, which they duly did, though their timing - 20 minutes before James hit the winning runs - was not enough to give Glamorgan any untoward palpitations.

Indeed, once Somerset had been bowled out for a second time with a lead of only 10 runs, all thoughts of a sleepless night spent imagining a cluster of Atlantic lows beating their way towards Taunton, vanished. In their place, the highs of deserved celebration as Wales found something far more tangible than a Welsh Assembly to party over.

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