Glamorgan: A Dangerous Push For Promotion?

Last night’s 17-run defeat to Essex ended Glamorgan’s five match unbeaten run in all competitions, but the South Wales County are still sitting pretty near the top of the LV County Championship Division Two and the NatWest T20 Blast South Group.

Despite pre-season optimism inside the Glamorgan camp, an incredible five successive drawn matches at the beginning of the campaign left the likelihood that Jacques Rudolph’s side would once again face a season of mediocrity in the First-Class arena. It took an outstanding 25-run victory over Surrey at The Kia Oval in the opening T20 Blast match back in May to really kick-start Glamorgan’s 2015 campaign. The match produced over 450 runs, showcased an inspired 47-ball 91 from Colin Ingram, a 19-ball 46 by Chris Cooke, as well as Dean Cosker’s 4-30 and proved to be a real turning point in a season that had started so disappointingly.

The following week, a man of the match display from all-rounder Graham Wagg led Glamorgan to their first Championship win of the season over Essex in Cardiff. Despite defeat to T20 high-flyers Hampshire in the Blast game that followed, a renewed sense of belief had undoubtedly been instilled in the South Wales club.

A return to the four-day format in early June saw Glamorgan make it two wins in two with a resounding 10-wicket victory over Northamptonshire at The SWALEC Stadium. Three successive T20 wins over Middlesex, then Gloucestershire and finally Somerset led Glamorgan towards what would indisputably be their finest performance of the season to date.

Last week’s seven-wicket win on Surrey soil in the crunch Division Two encounter produced three and a half days of riveting cricket and a performance to savour for Jacques Rudolph’s side. A century from Arun Harinath and 91 from Zafar Ansari helped Surrey build an opening stand of 208 on the opening day, but six final session wickets for the visitors clawed the game back into the balance at stumps.

Chasing 408, Glamorgan faced an uphill battle on Day 2 that was made even harder when the sixth wicket fell with only 106 on the board. Number eight Graham Wagg played a remarkably aggressive innings though, and ably supported by Mark Wallace (92), the pair led a Glamorgan fight back. Surrey’s lead soon diminished as Wagg brought up his maiden double-hundred early on Day 3, helping to give the visitors a first innings advantage of 31. Michael Hogan’s season best 5-44 left the hosts in a spot of bother overnight and it would be Wagg who ended the Surrey innings just a matter of overs in to the final day. The target of 247 to win would prove not nearly enough as Glamorgan secured the valuable win with more than 40 overs remaining in the day.

For Head Coach Toby Radford, it was the most memorable of performances:

“This was the best win since I have been involved with the club”, he stated.

“When you look back when Surrey were 208 for no wicket in their first innings and we were 106 for six, it just shows the competitive spirit within the side.

“It was a terrific effort from Graham Wagg, Mark Wallace and Michael Hogan, who bowled as well as he’s done all season.”

Prior to this, their “unbeaten record” had been widely discredited due to the collection of unflattering draws at the beginning of the year but last week’s victory has without doubt given Glamorgan serious standing in the 2015 Championship promotion race.

Glamorgan: A Dangerous Push For Promotion?

It is no secret that Glamorgan have tended to be a more impressive outfit in the limited overs format — most recently appearing in the Clydesdale Bank 40 Final at Lord’s in 2013. They were last in England’s top flight First-Class division in 2005 and have failed to mount a serious challenge for promotion since 2010, but veteran skipper Rudolph is confident that this year will be different:

“I can tell you we will be pushing for promotion”, he told BBC Sport Wales.

“I’ve said to the guys from the start that if we can get onto a run, we’ve got the makings of a team that can play in the first division.

“It’s going to be tough but the guys are well aware of that, and as long as they keep managing themselves well…we should be ok.”

Touted as dark horses to reach this year’s T20 Blast Finals Day, last night’s defeat will have been a huge set back to a Glamorgan side who, with games in hand on many of their rivals, are still very much in the battle to qualify for August’s quarter-finals. It is clear that a successful run in the T20 Blast is a must for the side who narrowly missed out on Finals Day last year when suffering a one-run defeat to Lancashire at the quarter-final stage.

While their T20 credentials cannot be questioned, what remains to be seen this year is if Glamorgan can maintain their form in both disciplines. They have shown their resilience and their skill against some of Division Two’s best and are a much improved four-day side from years gone by, but as Hampshire are discovering this season, the jump between the two divisions is significant and there is certainly reason to suggest that the South Wales club would struggle if they earned the move.

Improvements needed to be made to the Championship XI this year and improvements have been made. A top half finish in Division Two with further success in the shorter formats would still surely be considered a hugely successful year for Glamorgan, and they should make promotion to the top flight a priority.