Glamorgan hardly ever start as odds-on favourite so when they finally ended their silverware drought by winning the Royal London Cup last year, there was a sense of romanticism and a feel-good vibe around it, what with a new captain in Kiran Carlson at the helm, a squad full of youngsters grabbing their opportunity at the right time and the experience of Michael Hogan and Hamish Rutherford to boot. Add to it the absence of five senior players who were on The Hundred duty.
And so, for the first time, in a long time, Glamorgan will head into the new season as defending champions. It’s another matter that it came in white-ball cricket and Royal London Cup, in particular, is still four months away.
But what their success does attract is eyeballs and expectations, especially with changes galore. Nick Selman left for Australia but his departure is offset by the arrival of Ed Byrom from Somerset, Sam Northeast from Kent, who was once touted as the best batter in the country without an England cap, and James Harris from Middlesex. Add Marnus Labuschagne to the mix and it’s a formidable batting line-up to say the least.
However having notched up 400 in an innings only thrice in 14 matches last season, a strong core of batters with experience this season adds heft to their promotion chances but the metrics of success will be to do better than they did last season that saw them win only two red-ball games while losing five and drawing seven.
It isn’t just the batters though. They failed to bowl out teams on many occasions with the away fixture against Northamptonshire sticking out. Set 355 to win, the Northamptonshire batters broke no sweat to chase it down with seven wickets to spare. They will be hoping for James Weighell, Timm van der Gugten and Jamie McIlroy to step up alongside Michael Hogan, who is set to retire at the end of the season, and Michael Neser, whose availability in the initial rounds of the Championship is marred by an injury and new skipper David Lloyd and his deputy Kiran Carlson will be hoping he will be back sooner rather than later.
Northeast, Joe Cooke, Carlson and Billy Root have all been among the runs in the three warm-up fixtures played so far. Northeast struck two half-centuries, one against Somerset and another at Bristol. Andrew Salter is expected to bat at No. 3 until Marnus Labuschagne arrives, who is currently in Pakistan playing One-Day Internationals for Australia.
Ins: Ed Byrom (Somerset), James Harris (Middlesex), Sam Northeast (Hampshire), Tegid Phillips
Outs: Roman Walker (Leicestershire), Nick Selman (released)
Kiran Carlson. The young captain led Glamorgan to their first major title since 2004, and scored an eye-catching, fearless 84 in the Royal London Cup Final. There’s added responsibility for him this season after being named the red-ball side’s vice-captain. His season last year began in splendid fashion scoring 790 runs in the group stages, only Jake Libby and David Beddingham had a higher run tally in the country. If Glamorgan are to have another successful season then Carlson’s output will be key.
One to watch:
Joe Cooke’s rise as an all-rounder last season was one of the major positives for Glamorgan last season. He finished the Royal London Cup as the leading wicket-taker with 20 wickets at 14.30 to go with his 174 runs at an average of 34.80 batting in the finisher’s role. In the semi-final against Essex, he snared 5-61 and scored an unbeaten 66 to put Glamorgan in the final from a position of vulnerability.
In red-ball cricket, Glamorgan are keen to push him as an opener. Although he scored a half-century against Cardiff University students in the final warm-up fixture, he hasn’t adjusted to the new ball well, averaging just 16.41 in 14 matches so far. He will be hoping to build on those performances this season.
Overseas signings: Marnus Labuschagne (Australia), Colin Ingram (South Africa), Michael Neser (Australia)
How will they fare: They return to familiar climes of Division Two but will be keen to push on for promotion after having fallen agonisingly short in the final stages of the season in recent years. Expect white-ball fireworks and some red-ball improvements with major batting influxes.
Opening fixture: CC vs Durham on April 7 at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
Season Odds (SkyBet):
County Championship- 6/1
T20 Blast- 33/1
Royal London Cup- 20/1