Glamorgan are finally off the mark, thanks in large part to Nick Selman and St Helen’s enduring capacity to inspire the county to heroics. Richard Thomas salutes both.
Glamorgan arrived by the seaside last week almost resigned to the fact that their County Championship season had already been swept out into the Bristol Channel on a tide of mediocrity.
But, on the final afternoon of their Division Two clash with Durham at Swansea, Glamorgan sealed a fantastic victory – their first four-day success of the campaign.
Following two desperate defeats at the start of the campaign the Welsh county’s graph of improvement has been on the up. Two draws – the second a brilliant rear guard performance against Nottinghamshire – followed and then Monday’s three-wicket win over the north easterners.
This column banged the drum last week insisting the county needed to nurture more Welsh talent, but we will put the Plaid Cymru stance to one side to hail Nick Selman’s match-winning century.
He is Brisbane-born, via Kent, but so what if he can get Glamorgan up the Division Two table – scoring an unbeaten 116, which included hitting the 14 needed off the final over off the first three balls – 6, 6, 2. What a game of cricket, which also saw South African Colin Ingram pass 1,000 runs for the season in all cricket.
But also fair play to Durham for making a game of it on the final day by setting Glamorgan 266 to win from 51 overs. Of course, when you are in negative equity (the county were deducted 48 points before the season started because of money issues) you need to get some wins under your belt.
But former England star and Durham captain Paul Collingwood was left a frustrated man, especially as his 116 and 92 not out – he selflessly declared the second innings when he was eight runs short of another century – had put his side in the driving seat.
It was another successful Swansea Festival for Glamorgan who 20 years ago had two very successful visits to St Helen’s. On their way to the 1997 County Championship victory, Swansea produced wins over Sussex and Gloucestershire.
The win over Sussex was one of the most dramatic in the county’s history as they bowled the opposition out for 54 and 67. In bowling them out for 54 in the first innings, Waqar Younis recorded career best figures of eight for 17 – only six days after helping Glamorgan to victory over Lancashire with figures of seven for 25.
Following up Waqar’s efforts, Darren Thomas notched up career best figures of five for 24 in the second innings. Four days later Glamorgan were back at the famous ground, this time beating Gloucestershire by 10 wickets thanks in main to a big century from Hugh Morris.
St Helen’s always throws up its important and memorable matches so it is doubly important Glamorgan keep up their western crusades which have been made possible by the work of the Balconiers and the indefatigable efforts by John Williams, who has helped to raise £360,000 for Glamorgan over the past 19 years.
John, who was a founder member of the Balconiers 45 years ago, spends 365 days a year fighting to ensure St Helen’s hosts at least five days’ cricket every season.
It’s a constant struggle but one that he and the Balconiers are determined never to relinquish. Because, as John warns, once St Helen’s is erased from the fixture list that will be it. “It will be like the Mumbles train,” John warns. “Once you lose it, it will never come back.”