The seventh-day adventurers

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The Independent Online
THERE is crowd unrest at Glamorgan. The county's returns in the Championship are indifferent; Matthew Maynard has an irritating tendency to get out before completing his threatened plunder of opposition attacks; and last week they were twice bowled out for 122 by Warwickshire. But the trouble has nothing to do with any of these disappointments.

It is caused by the unruliness of rival groups of Cardiff and Swansea fans, which has led to more police to be drafted in on home one-day matchdays. Apart from the chance to antagonise one another, the football fans may also be regular attenders at Sophia Gardens on a Sunday because they know they have a chance, between pints and chants, to watch a winning team. Welsh rugby followers are probably there for a similar reason.

Glamorgan are once more top of the AXA Equity and Law League, a competition most cricket followers call unwanted and meaningless unless their county is winning it. Then it becomes a severe test of skill under pressure. Its critics might sometimes care to remember that it is watched by more people than the other county competitions. Glamorgan are also in the quarter-finals of the NatWest Trophy, only the 13th time they have reached the stage in 33 years of the senior one-day tournament.

"I have no complaints at all with our one-day form," the Glamorgan captain, Hugh Morris, said. "We've lost two Sunday matches but both were decided on the last ball. In some ways it has been the same in the Championship, where all our drawn games have gone to the last session on the fourth day."

Glamorgan are four points clear in the Sunday League and have a key match today with one of their five main pursuers, Warwickshire, a meeting which promises as much as 40-over matches can. Warwickshire, the holders, are on a roll of six consecutive victories. Glamorgan, who won it in 1993, the first time they had ever finished in the top three, are confident enough in their own abilities by now to fear nothing.

"The boys are relaxed and confident in themselves," Morris said. "We know what we can do. This is a good side with a pretty small first-team squad. The Championship has been mildly disappointing but we've got some time to rectify that in the second half of the season. There's no question of putting the one-day stuff first at the expense of four-day." It was perhaps unfortunate that he spoke those words barely an hour before Warwickshire pummelled their way through his top order for the first time. They proceeded to do it again on the next day as well.

That does not detract from the air of buoyancy surrounding Glamorgan's cricket. Next month they will complete the purchase of the pleasant Sophia Gardens ground (where they have played since 1967 when they moved from Cardiff Arms Park). The fillip to confidence that this alone will give is clear.

"It's very exciting but there won't be overnight expansion," the county's cricket secretary, Mike Fatkin, said. "We've got to order our priorities, but it does mean that our 12,000 members and our crowds can expect a more comfortable future. We don't envisage any planning difficulties."

Nor should there be many planning difficulties with the team. The batting order, led by Morris, is formidable. He and two others, Maynard and Tony Cottey, are in the the top 10 of the Whyte & Mackay rankings, which rate returns in all cricket by players eligible to play for England. Steve Watkin is prominent in the bowling table.

Morris, unlucky to play for England only three times (some would say he was harshly treated) has a first-class average of 50. Maynard's presence seems to defy the idea that he is an underachiever, although he has 13 times made more than 30 this Championship summer without going on to a century. Cottey, on the other hand, has scored five first-class hundreds. He is 5ft 5in and his compact, spectacular innings naturally invite comparison with Lancashire's former middle order batsman Harry Pilling. At 5ft 3in, he had similar, eventually unresolved, difficulties in successfully bringing himself to the attention of the England selectors.

Watkin, a beautiful bowler, and not only in English (or Welsh) conditions as has oft been hinted, has bowled beautifully this summer as 48 Championship wickets testify. "He always does," said his captain, and left it at that. Any neutral support almost certainly belongs to Glamorgan, and if the football shirts and bobbies are still around Sophia Gardens come September, the Sunday title will not be far away either.