By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid) & David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Last Season: 10th Division 2. W2 L10 D2.
Last five results: Lost v Warwickshire (H), Lost v Derbyshire (A), Lost v Gloucestershire (H), Lost v Kent (A), Won v Leicestershire (H).
2018 leading run scorer: Chris Cooke, 606 @ 24.2 (0x100, 4x50, HS 69).
2018 top of batting averages: Usman Khawaja, 420 @ 52.2 (3x100, 0x50, HS 126).
2018 leading wicket-taker: Mike Hogan, 45 @ 22.5 (BBI 5-49, BBM 8-102)
2018 top of bowling averages: Tim van ter Gugten, 43 @ 21.8 (BBI 7-42, BBM 8-71)
Glamorgan had big wins in their first and last game of the season. In between, they lost ten of the remaining twelve matches and finished bottom by a distance. While there are some big changes in the backroom staff, the playing staff are largely the same as in 2018, which makes one fear for their chances in 2019. The form of the new Captain, Chris Cooke was one of the biggest worries. When your top run-scorer averages under 25, you know that the team has big issues. In the opening game, against Gloucestershire, centuries for Marsh and Lloyd set up a total of 526-9d and a big win but, even then, a collapse from 51-0 to 67-4, chasing 83, produced more than a few nerves in the closing stages. Lloyd and Marsh managed just two more fifties between them in the rest of the season and just twice more did Glamorgan pass 300.
Glamorgan will be waiting on Shaun Marsh’s fortunes. He is expected to be in the Australian World Cup squad, thus making him unavailable for the first half of the season. Whether or not he is selected in the Ashes squad is less certain. Marsh has dropped out of Test XI but, as a batsman with experience of English conditions, he will be hoping to have one of the batting reserve slots. If Marsh is again unavailable for much of the season, Glamorgan will be scrambling for a replacement who can hold together a flaky batting line-up. Aneurin Donald has rejected a new contract and left for Hampshire, for whom he played on loan after saying that he wanted to leave Cardiff, while Joe Burns, who has only played T20 for Glamorgan, has gone to Lancashire. They are replaced by Billy Root, signed from Nottinghamshire and Queensland batsman, Charlie Hemphrey. While neither is a big-name signing with stellar statistics to back him, both are solid players who management hope will solidify the batting. Two Youth signings join them – Callum Taylor and the delightfully named, Devon-born, Kazi Szymanski – and by MCC Young cricketer, Jamie McIlroy. Szymanski had some impressive 2nd XI performances, while Taylor has come through club cricket and is reckoned to be probably the best player in the South Wales Premier League, although all are on a Development contract and none of the three is expected to be a 1st XI regular this season.
Chris Cooke will have the massive job of being Captain, wicket-keeper, dominant batsman and One Day captain. No new Head Coach has been named since Robert Croft left in mid-October, with Matthew Maynard doing the job on an interim basis and Mark Wallace as Director of Cricket and Hugh Morris dedicating himself exclusively to the position of Chief Executive. It is hard to avoid the sensation that there is some turmoil at Sophia Gardens.
Prediction: Glamorgan are likely to struggle again. Their chances of success may rest on the availability of Shaun Marsh, but anything better than bottom three will require a significant turnaround in fortunes.
Last Season: 5th Division 2. W5 L4 D5.
Last five results: Won v Leicestershire (H), Drew v Middlesex (H), Won v Glamorgan (A), Drew v Northants (H), Won v Derbyshire (A).
2018 leading run scorer: Chris Dent, 851 @ 34.0 (1x100, 4x50, HS 214*).
2018 top of batting averages: Kieran Noema-Barnett, 323 @ 35.9 (0x100, 2x50, HS 73*).
2018 leading wicket-taker: Craig Miles, 56 @ 21.1 (BBI 5-50, BBM 8-90)
2018 top of bowling averages: Ryan Higgins, 48 @ 18.4 (BBI 5-21, BBM 8-54)
There was a moment before rain intervened at Hove on April 29th when Gloucestershire fans could contemplate possibly going top of Division 2, with two wins from three. The season went downhill rapidly from there as a succession of poor first innings performances left the side chasing the game, time and again. Things at Bristol then went from bad to worse as, first, overseas signing Dan Worrall went home injured after just four games, then stalwarts Craig Miles and Liam Norwell announced that they would leave Bristol and head to Birmingham, leading to unhappy fans to dubbing their side “Warwickshire 2nd XI”. Although the signing of Dan Worrall had been preceded by the same scepticism that had met the signing of Michael Klinger initially some years before, he rapidly showed himself to be a fine bowler and a shrewd pick, although all-too-briefly available. With Worrall gone, Liam Norwell injured for all but one game and David Payne and Kieran Noema-Barnett all missing a lot of games through injury, the batting misfiring badly and Captain, Chris Dent, looking as if he were batting with a stick of rhubarb, the season could have disintegrated totally.
However, wins in four of the last seven matches led Gloucestershire to pass from being wooden spoon contenders to their best finish for several seasons and boast more wins than defeats. The reasons for the resurgence were not hard to find: Ryan Higgins and Craig Miles showed some excellent form; Chris Dent produced, at last, huge, match-winning innings and several of the young players such as Ben Charlesworth and Bobby Bracey had their moments. Higgins, a fringe player at Lord’s, had a wonderful season, showing himself to be a destructive bowler and scoring a century – Middlesex fans wondered why they had let him go. And Craig Miles, who has struggled since touring with the England performance squad, signed-off at Bristol with some huge performances. One cannot not mention Kieran Noema-Barnett, who has attained legendary status at Bristol: his roly-poly appearance and an attitude described as “if it were any more laid-back, he’d be asleep”, has endeared him to the fans and, before his crippling injury, he was showing some fine form in organising low-order resistance.
The end of the 2018 season at Bristol has resembled the end of 2011, then, almost all of the first-string attack left. At the end of 2018, Craig Miles and Liam Norwell went to Warwickshire. Kieran Noemi-Barnett returned to New Zealand, accepting a major job offer at home, and although he remains the nominal overseas signing for 2019, Dan Worrall has had such an injury-plagued winter that his chances of a return must be deemed slim and, if fit, may be in the Ashes squad anyway. Gloucestershire’s only signing to replace the losses has been Stuart Whittingham, brought up from Sussex, where he got few chances to bowl much. The fans are hoping that someone will be signed as cover for Worrall but, as yet, there is no news of a replacement.
Prediction: The loss of the majority of the bowling attack from 2018 could be a crippling blow, but there is some optimism around Neville Road given that a group of good, young players are showing their ability. Realistically, repeating the fifth place of 2018 would be a fine result and mid-table would be no disgrace.
Last Season: 5th – Division One: 4W, 5D, 5L
Last Five results: Lost v Lancashire (H), Draw v Yorkshire (A), Win v Somerset (H), Win v Worcestershire (A), Lost v Essex (A)
2018 Leading run scorer: James Vince 1,101 @ 44.04 – (3x100, 2x50, HS: 201*)
2018 Top of the Batting Averages: Hashim Amla 492 runs @ 54.66 ( 2x100, 3x50, HS: 112)
2018 Leading Wicket Taker: Fidel Edwards – 54 wickets @ 26.72 (BBI: 6/50, BBM: 7/112)
2018 Top of the Bowling Averages (min of 10 wickets): Dale Steyn: 30 wickets @ 19.10 (BBI: 5/66, BBM: 7/71)
Hampshire will hope a change at the top will bring much-needed success after a couple of years of disappointment. Indeed, if the Hawks had a walkout tune to the middle, it would ‘The Great Escape’ admittedly last season wasn’t as hairy as 2017 but will still be deemed a failure in the eyes of the Ageas Bowl faithful.
For a team stacked full of international experience, particularly with the ball, it is somewhat baffling that they so severely underachieved in recent years. Fidel Edwards and Kyle Abbott alone have a shed load of test wickets between, while the tweaks provided by Mason Crane (who is looking for a big year in 2019 with an outside chance of an Ashes Call-Up) and Liam Dawson should be enough to take 20-wickets regularly. So often is the case though that they fall short and that is the first issue on the whiteboard of fixes for new coach Adrian Birrell.
Second on that list in big, bold capital letters will be runs on the board, only James Vince came out of last year with any real credit hitting an impressive 1,101 runs as he continues to carry the load for his side. The arrival of Aiden Markram (a late replacement for Sri Lankan Dimuth Karunaratne) should help add some stability, but the likes of Sam Northeast and Rilee Rossouw need to improve on last year’s outlay of 451 and 489 runs respectively. A concern for Birrell’s men is the potential loss of James Vince to Ashes action; the Hampshire Skipper harbours hopes of opening for England in the Ashes and a long spell without the talismanic leader could prove problematic for the Hawks.
Should their bowlers fire though they could yet enjoy a solid season, and a new coach with fresh ideas could turn their fortunes but, I do not expect to see them challenging at the top, expect them to survive (again) but be in for another season of mid-season mediocracy at best.
By Mark Kidger
Where: SSE Swalec, Cardiff
Ins: Shaun Marsh (Australia)
Outs: Jacques Rudolph (Ret), Will Bragg (Ret)
Key man: Nick Selman
2017 season: Championship 7th, RLODC 4th, T20 Blast S/F
2018 Odds: Championship promotion: 20/1, RLODC: 18/1, T20: N/A
Our West-Country correspondent Mark Kidger sees the Welsh side as being highly competitive in white-ball cricket, but likely to be, once again, in the battle of the also-rans in the Championship. He pens his views below.
Despite modest returns in the County Championship, any side that reaches Finals Day in the Blast and misses out on the knock-out stages of the One Day Cup by a single point, can look back on the season with a degree of satisfaction, if not full-blown pride.
It comes as a surprise to many people that Glamorgan have managed to do three times what their local rivals over the Bristol Channel, Gloucestershire and Somerset have never managed in over a century – win the Championship. However, since the split into two divisions in 2000, Glamorgan have only spent one season – 2001 – in the top division. Division Two of the County Championship looks to be brutally competitive once again in 2018, with six teams that will feel that they have real chances of promotion. To match the 2015 result of fourth in Division Two – the highpoint of recent years – would probably be seen as a magnificent over-achievement.
The loss of long-term servant and adopted Welshman, Jacques Rudolph will be felt within the club. Michael Hogan remains Championship captain, while Colin Ingram takes over for the white ball games. Glamorgan have made what looks to be an excellent signing in Shaun Marsh, who will reinforce the middle-order, although with five batsmen averaging 35+ and two 40+, runs were not Glamorgan’s biggest worry in 2017. Young dual Anglo-Australian national Nick Selman led the run-scoring, with 872, including four centuries. At 22, this was his second season with Glamorgan and, after a promising first season, avoided the “second season syndrome” that plagues many young players after a fast start. Currently, he is recording a First Class century every 4 matches, but an average in the low 30s hints at too much inconsistency (his last four innings in 2017 were: 0, 142*, 0, 70 – which tells its own story). If he can add consistency to his ability to make big scores, runs will not be an issue for Glamorgan.
Glamorgan’s issues were more to do with bowling depth. Michael Hogan was magnificent with his 50 wickets at 20.9, but had little back-up save in the small fraction of games when Tim van der Gugten provided potent support. Carey averaged over 30 with the ball, de Lange, almost 40 and Salter, mid-40s. Glamorgan even became one of the three counties to sign Middlesex’s Harry Podmore on loan, although without solving their fundamental problems in the bowling department.
Without reinforcement of the bowling resources it is hard to see Glamorgan doing better than playing their part in what looks likely to be a four-way dog-fight between Derbyshire, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire & Leicestershire for the title of “best of the Division 2 also-rans”. Making competitive totals should not be a problem: converting them into wins will be.
Things look brighter in the white-ball. Glamorgan topped the South Group in the Blast and, despite more games being washed-out than any other side, had the equal best win-loss record with Nottinghamshire – the eventual winners. Having annihilated Leicestershire in the Quarter Final, they were unfortunate to come up against an inspired Warwickshire, who gave them too much to do in the first semi-final. The runout of Jacques Rudolph in the fifteenth over left the tail too much to do, although they went down bravely. The One Day Cup was a case of what might have been. Although no games were rained-off, the lottery of Duckworth-Lewis played a major part in their games: just one more win would have seen Glamorgan through to the knock-out stages.
Without Jacques Rudolph and with no second overseas player yet signed, success is not guaranteed in 2018 in white-ball cricket, but Glamorgan will be disappointed if they cannot make the knock-out stages in at least one and, preferably, both of the competitions.
Championship – 8th
RLODC – Q/F
T20 – Q/F
You can follow Mark on Twitter @MarkfromMadrid or at http://spanishturn.blogspot.com.es/ and, talking about space, at https://openspacescience.blog/
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