Glamorgan’s season is drawing to a close, but before then it’s worth pausing to recall a memorable milestone from two decades ago. Richard Thomas spins the clock back to celebrate a September day when the county conquered all before them.
So, we are just days away now from the 20th anniversary of Glamorgan winning the County Championship title. September 20th, 1997 to be precise.
It was in those late summer days at Taunton where Glamorgan added a third Championship pennant to the trophy cabinet and ensured a squad of 14 players – because that is all the county used that summer – became heroes.
Success was never ever guaranteed for Glamorgan but when, in the closed season, the club had the foresight to sign Waqar Younis then anything seemed possible.
Add to that a group of Welsh players who were all reaching full maturity after growing up together since figuring for Glamorgan Colts, and you had a balance of talent overseen by the undeniable expertise of coach Duncan Fletcher.
Glamorgan’s journey to that Championship title was certainly more marathon than sprint and the realisation that they could finish top of the pile did not come about until a period of 15 days that straddled June and July.
Despite two wins against Kent and Durham in May, any thoughts of lifting silverware suffered a mighty setback when Middlesex came to Cardiff and bowled Glamorgan out for 31 in 16 overs in their second innings.
But with stoic captain Matthew Maynard adopting a ‘it-was-just-one-of-those-days’ attitudes he made sure there was no mental fragility in the camp when they headed to Liverpool in late June.
A match against Lancashire that was heading for a tame, rain-affected draw came to life as Maynard and home skipper Neil Fairbrother engineered a contest on the final day with Glamorgan setting 263 to win from 60 overs.
Glamorgan only needed 14 of those overs as Waqar, with seven for 25, and Steve Watkin dismissed Lancashire for 51.
Waqar’s swing bowling that afternoon was all but unplayable and he continued that form the following week at Swansea as his eight for 17 saw Sussex dismissed for 54 in their first innings. They only managed 67 second time around as Glamorgan won by 234 runs.
Glamorgan achieved a St Helen’s double seven days later to beat Gloucestershire by 10 wickets and open up a 17-point lead at the top of the table.
Nothing was guaranteed at that stage and draws against Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and defeat to Worcestershire, saw the county slide back to third behind Gloucestershire and Kent.
The quaint surroundings of Abergavenny was the backdrop as Glamorgan got their campaign back on track when a Steve James century secured an invaluable six-wicket win against Northamptonshire.
That was followed by a gutsy win over Essex in Cardiff, setting up the legendary trip to Taunton – a victory set up by centuries from Morris and Maynard in a mammoth first innings total of 527.
It all came down to Glamorgan needing 11 to win with player of the year James, appropriately, striking the winning runs.
Cricket, of course, is a team sport but seven Glamorgan players had exceptional campaigns that year. Three players surpassed 1,000 runs – Steve James (1,775), Hugh Morris (1,262) and Maynard 1,170 – while four bowlers took more than 50 wickets – Waqar (68), Steve Watkin (61), Robert Croft (54) and Darren Thomas (53).
They said we would never see the like again. Unfortunately – for 20 years and counting – that has proved to be the case.