The fact that the highlight of last season at the SSE SWALEC stadium came from the Ashes Test it hosted tells you all you need to know from Glamorgan’s 2015. Underwhelming despite expectation, the Welsh county underperformed, failing to progress in any limited-overs competition while their promising early County Championship form fizzled out.
That was all in spite of Glamorgan going more than half of the campaign without defeat in the longer format. But as the season went on, more of the draws became defeats, including a hammering at the hands of Lancashire at Colwyn Bay. Ultimately, they had to settle with fourth. A heavy 71 points off the promotion places was a bitter pill to swallow at the SWALEC.
Glamorgan, like most counties in Division Two, will be pleased to see the back of Surrey and Lancashire. ECB initiatives, however, mean just one side will leave the division this year, making it a tough task to hit that top spot come September.
Recruitment has not been heavy for Glamorgan over the winter, although they did complete the permanent signing of Craig Meschede from Somerset. The pace man was on loan at Sophia Gardens last term and impressed enough to sign a contract, having enjoyed a rare full season of action in the first team.
But it could be the off-field addition that makes the difference in Wales. Robert Croft has taken over as head coach, replacing Toby Radford, after promotion after having had various other coaching roles at the club. Croft also enjoyed a 24-year playing career with his county, and that experience could prove pivotal in Glamorgan’s push to reach Division One once again.
There was also disappointment in both limited-overs tournaments, which will need to be addressed. An already-difficult Royal London One-Day Cup tournament was soured by the abandonment of their home clash with Hampshire, costing a grounds man his job, while home form let down their Natwest T20 Blast campaign.
Glamorgan have retained consistency in their squad, with only Ben Wright departing the SWALEC, and it’s that consistency which could be pivotal in their fortunes for 2016. As mentioned, the Championship season started well before tailing off, while a good run of victories in the shorter formats can propel a side to the knockout stages, where anything can happen.
The emergence of youth players, such as Aneurin Donald and David Lloyd, is another factor that should keep them in good stead.
Ins: Craig Meschede (Somerset), Harry Podmore (Middlesex, loan until May 25), Nick Selman, Timmy van der Gutmen
Outs: Ben Wright (retired)
While winter is normally a time for rest and recuperation before season preparations ramp up, Michael Hogan has been busy in competitive action during the off-season. Playing for his native Western Australia, the 34-year-old signed off from Sheffield Shield cricket by taking eight wickets in his final match, against Queensland, just a couple of weeks ago.
The fact that Hogan, a man who still has three years on his contract at Glamorgan, sits with 221 Shield wickets despite playing his first game at the age of 28 speaks volumes of his talent. Joint fourth on the all-time Shield wicket-takers list, it’s perhaps unfortunate that he was never given opportunity at international level, but Australia’s loss is county cricket’s gain.
This year marks the fourth in English cricket for Hogan, who already has nine five-wicket hauls to his name, including the 7/92 he took against Gloucestershire in 2013. Should he stay fit, his bowling will surely be an instrumental factor in potential County Championship success.
Player to Watch
Aneurin Donald may only have 12 senior appearances to his name, but has already impressed enough to be considered in England’s Under-19 plans. In fact, the batsman was the captain of that side not so long ago, although he didn’t don the reins for the Under-19 World Cup in February.
The now 19-year-old impressed on his first-class debut back in 2014, making 59 in just his second innings, the first of his three half-centuries to date in the longer format. Donald played in five County Championship matches last term, having developed through age-group and second XI cricket for Glamorgan, and came agonisingly close to a maiden first-class century when dismissed for 98 batting at four against Gloucestershire.
It’s expected that Donald will feature more heavily in 2016 in the four-day game, while he also looks to stake his claim in the shorter formats.
Once again Jacques Rudolph is set to grace the SWALEC for the entirety of the season, a huge commodity in an overseas player to county cricket. Rudolph, who famously made 222* on his South African Test debut, will once again captain a Glamorgan side of which he is the focal point after enjoying a healthy 2015.
The opener hit 461 runs in the Natwest T20 Blast, the seventh highest figure in the country, while also amassing a brilliant 101* against Gloucestershire – the bright spot in an otherwise disappointing Blast season for the Welsh county.
How they’ll fare
It seems very little has changed in the Glamorgan ranks, begging the question of how 2016 will be an improvement. The permanent signing of Meschede from Somerset and the loan berth of Harry Podmore from Middlesex for the first six weeks, suggest positivity and the reduction in responsibility of Michael Hogan. The batting line-up, however, has not changed, and it’s that that may hamper Glamorgan as the season develops.
v Leicestershire, Sunday 17th April at the SSE SWALEC
Specsavers County Championship Division Two: 12/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 25/1
Natwest T20 Blast: 22/1