2016 was a rather beige season for Glamorgan; finishing eighth in Division Two and seventh in the Royal London One-Day Cup South Group. Getting to the quarter-finals of the Blast will act as their main source of positive optimism looking forward.
Nothing much has changed from last season prior to Galmorgan’s 2017 County Championship curtain raiser. Jacques Rudolph will continue as captain and their overseas player, and former England spinner Robert Croft will continue as Head Coach.
Whilst providing stability and the ideal of a settled dressing room, the lack of new signings will be a disappointment for Glamorgan fans. The club announced an operating loss of £307,778 for the 2016 financial year, amid ongoing struggles to `consolidate financially’ having had large debts written off in 2015. The SSE SWALEC hosted two England Internationals last year and will host five Champions Trophy matches this summer-a welcome boost to a county severely lacking resources for desperately wanted team and stadia investment.
Croft’s naming of eight young Welsh players in their 12-man squad for the preseason friendly against Somerset shows his great faith in youth, which should set them up nicely for years to come. Though a more pessimistic fan could simply argue that he has little other option but to blood the youngsters in a distinctly Division Two looking squad.
Their pre-season performances have been much like the gloom and rain they have attempted to play in: solid at a push, definitely not spectacular. A rain-reduced two-day to one-day match at Taunton saw the Welsh Dragons keep Somerset to 211/8 off 47 overs before then rather collapsing to 132/8 in reply. They then lost by four wickets to Gloucestershire, due to an Iain Cockbain masterclass, in a one-day game. And in their most recent match Glamorgan racked up 342/7 against Cardiff MCCU, then took five of the students’ wickets before close.
Ins: None so far
Outs: James Kettleborough (Released), Dewi Penrhyn Jones (Released), Mark Wallace (Retired)
Key Player – Colin Ingram
South African Colin Ingram didn’t play any first-class cricket last year, due to a persistent knee injury, but boy did he make up for his longer form absence with some lightning one-day performances. It was a season of firsts for Ingram in both main facets of the game.
With the bat he scored his maiden T20 hundred against Essex Eagles at Chelmsford, complete with seven sixes and six fours, just three days after his RLODC 107 against the same side. Ingram scooped the top six hitter prize for his 29 rope-clearers, a major portion of his 502 T20 Blast runs.
With the ball he managed career-best figures of 4/32 in a quarter-final match in which Yorkshire scored 180.
Ingram’s wealth of top level one-day cricket experience from playing for South Africa, Delhi Daredevils and also for Somerset should make him continue to be the perfect man to set the stall at the top for the youngsters in Glamorgan’s middle and lower order to follow.
Ingram had knee surgery in August and has been comfortably performing for the Warriors back in his homeland, giving him confidence to be able to play all three forms for the Welsh side this season.
Player to Watch – Craig Meschede
Having signed a three-year contract last season after a season long loan from Somerset the year before, Meschede achieved both his maiden first-class hundred and his maiden first-class five wicket haul last term.
He will be disappointed with his mere nine County Championship wickets last year, but injuries did only allow him 10 four-day innings to both bowl and bat in last year. A quirky statistic Meschede is sure to tell his grandchildren, is how his maiden first-class wicket was that of Sachin Tendulkar. He won’t face the great Indian again, but expect him to add many more top class batsmen to his list of scalps this season.
Meschede is not only a useful medium pace bowler, having gone through Kings College, Taunton breaking record after record alongside Jos Buttler, he is also a very destructive one-day batsman. It was a surprise to see a man who made his first-class debut at just 19 years-old be allowed to leave the county he rose up through the academy with. Despite being South African born, his German father and his consequent German passport makes him eligible as a non-overseas player.
Jacques Rudolph will captain the Welsh Dragons for the third successive season in 2017. The 35-year-old South African struggled with the bat last term, but did hit the 50th first-class century of his career against Cardiff MCCU in preseason (before holing out for 142.)
The batting all-rounder has not represented his country since 2012, but with the recent controversial influx of South Africans signing as Kolpak players in county cricket (thus ending their international careers), Rudolph may believe he could earn himself one last international recall if he performs well enough this season. Remember, Rudolph is a man who scored 222 on his test debut- the highest individual score on test debut from any man since 1903.
Expect the third South African to feature in this preview to work particularly closely with fellow South African born key men Meschede and Ingram, whilst getting the absolute best out of an unexceptional and largely unproven squad.
How they’ll fare
It must be reiterated, it is a real worry for Glamorgan that they have signed no new players as of yet, though they do have an abundance of talented youngsters coming up through their academy. The preseason induced loss of Ruaidhri Smith for six weeks with a side injury, coupled with the likely more short-term injuries to Will Bragg, Kieran Bull and Graham Wagg could really hamper the start of Glamorgan’s campaign.
However, the announcement that Timm van der Gugten will likely be fit for the season opener at Northamptonshire is a massive boost. He returned to Australia for treatment on a shoulder injury, but his rehabilitation has gone well. Expect him to be Glamorgan’s main wicket threat, though it would be a surprise if he were to get near the 56 Championship wickets of last season again.
Glamorgan should not set their sights much higher than the lower echelons of the Division Two Table, but their mix of unfazed youth and calm experienced heads could cause some more one-day shocks. They should have a better RLODC campaign this year and will do their best to match last year’s Blast, in which they exceeded expectations.
v Northamptonshire, Friday 7th April at Wantage Road.
LV County Championship Division: 20/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 25/1
Natwest Twenty20 Blast: 25/1