My Favourite Game - Phil Steele

24 May 2020 | Cricket

Legendary rugby pundit and Glamorgan member Phil Steele reminisces about his favourite Glamorgan game he's seen, and takes us to the mid-90s and a cup knockout game...

There’s nothing like reminiscing over a great year for Welsh sporting achievement. Unfortunately 1995 was nothing like a great year for Welsh sporting achievement.

True, the Jonathan Davies inspired Wales Rugby League team did win the European Championship – defeating England in the process, but generally '95 was a year in which our top sports teams set low standards and even then consistently failed to achieve them.

Wales suffered both a 5 Nations ‘whitewash’ and an exit at the pool stage of the Rugby World Cup, Cardiff City endured the ignominy of relegation to the lowest tier of the Football League and Swansea City were mid-table and mediocre in finishing 10th in the then League 2.

Glamorgan too were ambling their way through the summer like a dog that had buried a bone but couldn’t quite remember where. The heady days of celebrating the Sunday League triumph two years earlier (‘King Viv’ and all that) were in danger of being reduced to misty memories as the daffodil county languished in the bottom 4 of the County Championship, bowed out of the B+H Cup at the group stages and paddled around in the upper mid-table of the Sunday League.

For us Glamorgan diehards though, who were well versed in the annual following of the twisting thread of optimism, there existed a smidgen of hope in the team’s performances in the Natwest Trophy – then the Blue Riband one day competition.

Hugh Morris’ men had easily disposed of Minor County minnows Dorset in Round 1 and that was followed also at Cardiff with an impressive 6 wicket defeat of Leicestershire. So it was that on Tuesday, 1st August, Glamorgan welcomed Mike Gatting’s star studded Middlesex side for a quarter-final tie.

I remember it was baking hot even at 8:30 a.m. As I made my way along Cathedral Road joining the rest of the throng four-deep on the pavement. Then it was a case of manoeuvring myself and my cool box (beer, Ferrari’s corned beef pasties and Factor 50 in that order if you must know) into my favourite seating area just below the balcony of the players dressings rooms from where you could see whites of their eyes as they went out to bat and hear the mumbled obscenities as they endured the crestfallen walk back to the pavilion.

This, remember was the ‘Old’ Sophia Gardens, the old-school cricket ground rather than the international-calibre stadium it has since become.

Glamorgan batted first on a typical Cardiff wicket in those days – slower than a tax rebate and bounce lower than a Donald Trump insult and though stroke play was toilsome, openers Hugh Morris and Steve James were content to forsake craft for graft in putting together a useful opening stand of 71.

James went on to make his team’s highest score of 56 and though Matthew Maynard went for a whirlwind 6 ball duck and both Tony Cottey (19) and Adrian Dale (30) ran themselves out as if unhinged by the heat, useful contributions from David Hemp (37) Robert Croft (23 n.o.) and Colin Metson (20) enabled Glamorgan to close their innings on a respectable 242-9.

It had been enthralling rather than exciting viewing but never have I known a Glamorgan crowd (it was an 8000 sell out) to be so desperate and willing to see their batsmen succeed - they simply seemed to live and love every run.

The mid-innings interval was greeted by us faithful with an uneasy amalgam of relief and cautious expectation. Maybe it was the beer talking but some of the more “refreshed” spectators were mentioning The ‘L’ word – Lord's - even though we were only at the halfway point of a quarter-final! But hey, we were Glamorgan supporters and dreaming was part of the deal.

We needn’t have fretted. The Middlesex batsman looked as nervous as a postman at a dog show as Glamorgan’s opening bowlers Steve Watkin and Hamish (“is a Welshman”) Anthony went about their work.

Both ended with 4 wickets and in the process reduced the visitors to 16-4 with Mark Ramprakash bearing a blob and Mike Gatting making just 2.

Middlesex still needed 90 to win at 7 an over with their penultimate pair John Emburey and Mark Feltham at the wicket when an early evening cloud burst delayed matters by 50 minutes but by then, wet on the inside and outside, we were already singing in celebration.

It was 7:45pm when the final wicket fell heralding a Glamorgan win by 66 runs and wicketkeeper Colin Metson - “the best keeper in these parts since Johnny Morris” as one well-wasted wag dubbed him - was named man of the match.

Glamorgan were just through to the semi finals of The Natwest Trophy, and just Warwickshire stood between us and a trip to Lords!

In that semi-final at Sophia Gardens 2 weeks later Glamorgan were bowled for 86 and Warwickshire won by 8 wickets with 35.5 overs to spare.

Now what was I saying about that twisting thread of optimism?!


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