In a word, Glamorgan were inconsistent. From the dizzy heights of a white-ball winning run that few predicted, to a Championship slump that was all-too predictable, Glamorgan’s fortunes took a turbulent tumble in 2016, despite the supposedly stabilising presence of club legend Robert Croft.
A season that had promised so much actually ground to a halt on August 11, when the Welsh county were humbled by a truly elite county side. It was a result that sent shockwaves through South Wales and Croft realised how far he needed to bring his blossoming outfit.
Yorkshire Vikings didn’t just beat Glamorgan in the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals, they humiliated them. David Willey’s belligerent 79 off 38 balls helped the Vikings rack up 180/8 before the daffodil wilted on a profoundly depressing evening on the banks of the Taff. Not even Dylan Thomas could rage against the dying of this light.
With a poor record in the Championship and no further hopes in the Royal London One Day Cup – coupled with injuries to explosive batsmen Colin Ingram and Chris Cooke – Glamorgan’s season could go no further. Ingram had smote 502 runs in the Blast, including a tournament-equalling 29 sixes. The fact that a knee injury prohibited the South African from playing four-day cricket was as damaging as anything to Glamorgan’s Championship fortunes.
Youngsters shone briefly. Aneurin Donald, Owen Morgan, Kiran Carlson and Lukas Carey are all worthy of a mention for moments of individual brilliance that sneaked a peak of Glamorgan’s brighter future. But older heads failed to deliver. Jacques Rudolph, the captain, failed to make a Championship century.
Yet those flashes of brilliance won’t be forgotten in Sophia Gardens’ folklore. Donald’s world-record-equalling 234 off 135 balls will live long in the memory for the Glamorgan die-hards who travelled to Colwyn Bay on a balmy day in July. The 19-year-old was certainly a bright spark, exceeding 1,000 first class runs for the season in his first full season in the big league.
David Lloyd, the 24-year-old compact North Walian, was another to shine in the early season sun. The batsman hit two Championship hundreds in May and made an exhilarating 97 not out in the T20 Blast against Kent. But Lloyd’s form was symptomatic of Glamorgan’s. He failed to register a score of note following that T20 quarter final abomination. There really was very little to play for after that.
Championship defeats from winning positions was another common thread which ran through the season. Three days of combative, Graham Wagg-inspired cricket from the Welshmen at Bristol unravelled in 45 minutes of batting naivety on the fourth day. Sussex were allowed to slither through the grasp of Timm van der Gugten in an epic at the SWALEC. And the season ended in farcical fashion at the FCG (Leicestershire) when Glamorgan lost six wickets for 10 runs to gift their hosts an impossible victory.
Inconsistent, frustrating and much to learn for Croft’s band of precocious young talents.
Specsavers County Championship: 8th in Division Two
T20 Blast: Quarter-Finals (2nd, South Group)
RLODC: 7th in South Group
Leading Championship run-scorer: Will Bragg (1,088 runs)
Leading Championship wicket-taker: Timm van der Gugten (56 wickets)
Player of the Season: Colin Ingram. A lone gun at times, but the left-hander cleared the ropes more times than anyone else in this season’s T20 Blast. He didn’t grab the headlines nationwide, but his white-ball exploits provided the ballast on which many games were won. Indispensable to the county, you shudder to think how this season would have mapped out without the burly Protea.
Breakthrough Player: Timm van der Gugten. Question marks were asked when the Welsh county handed a three-year contract to the Dutchman who had hitherto played very few first class games. He rewarded them with 56 Championship wickets at 26 and 19 T20 Blast victims with an economy less than seven. The Dutchman was flying.
Could have done better: Jacques Rudolph. Led his young side with composure and a cool head but his batting was hugely problematic. His Championship record saw the former South African Test player average 24.41, scoring 659 runs in 15 matches and was indicative of the batting travails that dogged his side’s four-day form from start to finish.
Need to work on: Batting. Simple as that.
What’s next? Supporters must show patience, but they’re within their rights to furrow their brows at the end of a very frustrating season. The T20 form may not resurface next season – we all know the pitfalls involved in the shortest form – and the Championship form simply has to be better.
Season Rating: An end of season report card reading ‘could do better’ doesn’t quite cut it. Croft must be ruthless in his schooling of this young side and the experienced heads need to stand up and be counted next summer.