My favourite game - Nick Webb

13 May 2020 | Cricket

Nick Webb, BBC Wales' rugby and cricket commentator, reveals all about his favourite game of cricket and where his love for Glamorgan comes from...

What a picture to remember. The Glamorgan players out on the balcony at Lord’s, acknowledging the cheers of thousands of Welsh spectators singing their hearts out. We danced on the hallowed turf after the match, while Middlesex’s squad had to make do with a more restrained reception from their less vocal backers.

All in all, an outstanding first visit to the English HQ for a young Welsh cricket fan such as myself, apart from one minor detail - the result...

The seventies had not been an outstanding decade for Glamorgan, despite the heady promise of that 1969 Championship triumph - hardly the material to prompt a later career following the county for the BBC. But then in 1977, the 60-overs competition (yes, it was played in one day) brought the promise of Welsh silverware.

At least, it was meant to be played in one day, but the semi-final win over Ray Illingworth’s Leicestershire actually took three days to resolve at St Helen’s as rain swept in from over Gower to fall on David Gower and his team-mates.

The ludicrously slow scoring rates compared to the modern day become apparent as the records show that Glamorgan passed their target of 173 in 57.3 overs, thanks to a solid 63 from doughty opener John ‘Ponty’ Hopkins. And that was far from unusual, as Glamorgan had successfully chased down opposition scores of 213 and 199 in their earlier games.

No coloured clothing, and there was little difference in style from “proper cricket”. That sort of frivolity could be saved for the non-stop action of the 40-overs Sunday League, the brash noisy upstart of seventies cricket.

So it was off to Lord’s with my brother, and a place in front of the Tavern where I could broaden my vocabulary even if I was too young to enjoy the liquid fare that was driving up the noise levels.

With Alan Jones’s men being put in to bat in damp conditions and three wickets going early, it was not exactly a glorious start for Glamorgan as their future recruit Mike Selvey struck early against them.

Hopkins and Mike Llewellyn brought hope to the invading thousands as the noise levels rose, and Llewellyn provided the champagne moment of the day as he rattled the upper echelons of the pavilion with his legendary straight six soaring above the heads of the bacon-and-egg MCC tie brigade.

All primed for a finishing flourish? Well no, the part-time spin of Norman Featherstone, who also headed for Wales late in his career, saw the innings totter to a limp 177-9.

Glamorgan would have to perform out of their skins in the field- and again provided a moment of hope as the professorial Middlesex captain Mike Brearley nicked Malcolm Nash’s first ball through to keeper Eifion Jones. Uproar again, and number three batsman Clive Radley was soon in trouble as he edged one into the slips...

And that’s where the fairytale hit reality. Down went the catch, and on and on went Radley. Welsh spirits were briefly lifted by the chance to comment on the less than svelte physique of then England newcomer Mike Gatting. “He’s fat, he’s round, his (rear) is on the ground,” we cheerfully chanted in the days before political correctness.

His contribution was less than chunky, but with such a modest run-rate requirement, Radley could afford to take his time as spinner Gwyn Richards conceded less than two an over.

With four overs to spare, a Middlesex win could be seen coming- no pyrotechnics, but they didn’t need them. And we didn’t need a cup to celebrate, as Alan Jones led his troops out onto the balcony to acknowledge the support of the thirsty thousands who’d made the trip up.

Jones was not to match the achievement of my BBC colleague Edward Bevan, who two years earlier had lifted the Village Cup at Lord’s with his Gowerton side. But remarkably for Glamorgan fans, it was a moment to savour - whatever the emotions may have been in the dressing room.

And afterwards - well, I’ve been lucky enough to work on two Glamorgan title wins as part of the BBC coverage of the one-day league victories in 2002 and 2004. I was wielding the pitch-side reporter’s microphone at Colwyn Bay for the second of those.

As for Lord’s, I was sunning myself in the stands for the 2000 defeat against Gloucestershire, and in the commentary box for the loss to Notts in 2013.

But commentating on a title at the microphone at Lord’s.. that’s one for the career bucket list. Over to you, boys! 

Nick Webb - BBC Wales