Our senior consultant and long-time Glamorgan cricket supporter, Andrew Weltch, looks at an unusual victory in an unusual year.
The summer of 2021 has been a very strange one for cricket in England and Wales. And I’m not talking about the launch of The Hundred. Well, I am, in a way, but this post is mainly about another unusual phenomenon – Glamorgan won a trophy!
One of the smaller clubs in First Class cricket, the Welsh county isn’t usually expected to win much, which has made its previous victories during my 25 years as a member (County champions in 1997, one-day champions in 2002 and 2004) all the sweeter.
The 2021 one-day competition, a 50-over contest, known by its sponsored name, the Royal London Cup, involved a group stage (two nine-team leagues) before a knock-out stage leading to the final.
Glamorgan, marking 100 years as a First Class county, finished top of its group, earning a home semi-final against Essex, which it won to face Durham in the final (another small county, which had topped the other group).
In most years, the knock-out games would have had a high profile – played at the weekend and televised live. There would have been a full build-up to the final at Lord’s, the home of cricket, in front of a packed crowd. There’d have been live TV for the game and highlights later for those who missed it.
And this competition really should be a big deal – England is the 50-overs World Cup holder, so its governing body might be expected to be keen to promote this format to fans and players.
But 2021 has been strange. The England and Wales Cricket Board scheduled its new, hugely hyped competition, The Hundred (whose launch was delayed from 2020 because of the pandemic), to clash with much of the RL Cup.
So, the counties were stripped of their star players to appear (or sometimes just, frustratingly, to warm the bench) for the new franchise teams, meaning the RL Cup was often filled with younger or second string players. That’s not all bad because it gave youngsters valuable experience, but it inevitably affected the standard and appeal of the competition.
And cricket’s TV coverage, not just on Sky’s Cricket Channel (temporarily renamed The Hundred Channel) but also on mainstream BBC, was full of the new format at the expense of the 50-over game.
The Hundred games were played in the evening and weekends, while the RL Cup was confined to midweek daytime slots, reducing many people’s chance to attend – a problem exacerbated in the compressed play-off stages, with games arranged at a few days’ notice.
This included the final, played last Thursday (August 19th) in Nottingham – a long trek for fans of both teams, yet more than 7,000 attended.
They saw Glamorgan, led by young stand-in captain Kiran Carlson, take a deserved victory – and resisting the temptation to bring in any of the big names now returned from The Hundred.
The game was shown live on Sky, but instead of highlights later, TV viewers had only reruns from The Hundred.
It wasn’t just little Glamorgan who overcame the odds. At times, it felt like the competition had to do so as well – struggling for attention as the ECB poured its resources into its new format, apparently desperate to show The Hundred as more popular than what has gone before.
As former England captain, now TV commentator and journalist, Michael Atherton, put it in The Times: “A bookseller sells two editions of the same book. The first he markets strongly, places prominently in his shop window and charges a quid for it. The second he puts in the recesses of the shop and charges a higher price. At the end of the year, the published accounts show far higher sales of the first than the second. The bookseller congratulates himself on his business acumen.
“Welcome to the world of those who run English cricket.”
It was indeed a strange summer of cricket. But in the end, there was a welcome triumph for my adopted county and for the 50-over format – in strange circumstances and against the odds.
Photos by Lawrence Hourahane.
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