As the year 1922 began, the British Empire had reached the apogee of its influence, covering a quarter of the land surface on Planet Earth plus one in four of the people who lived on it. Also in 1922, the first successful treatment for diabetes with insulin was started, the Ottoman Empire was abolished, and the BBC began radio broadcasting for the first time.
This was Glamorgan’s second season in first-class cricket and the Club was to find the going tough. The only match the team won that season was against Somerset at Clarence Park in Weston-super- Mare. It was also Glamorgan’s first ever away win in the County Championship.
The two sides had met less than two weeks earlier at the Arms Park where the West Country unit had run out winners by a comfortable nine wickets. In the Monday 31st July edition of The Western Mail was a page of photos including the Glamorgan team relaxing in the deckchairs supplied by the local council at the ground. Surrounding them on that page were; Mrs Lloyd George, the Prime Minister’s wife, meeting ex-servicemen in Cardigan; Richard James, the seventy-two year old guard retiring from work on the Great Western Railway after a career spanning 51 years and Doris Jenkins, aged seven, of Solva who had won a record sixteen prizes for singing and reciting at local Eisteddfordau.
The match report began by praising what its correspondent thought was “the best batting display of the season.” Glamorgan gave a “consistent, solid and attractive performance” and added that the most satisfying aspect of the performance was its steadiness, with the Welsh county’s batsmen occupying the crease for some four and a half hours amassing a total of 245.
Glamorgan had won the toss and elected to bat. Norman Riches and Tom Whittington put on 66, with Riches going on to be fourth man out with the score at 139 after what was described as a ‘faultless’ innings. He peppered his innings with “beautifully timed drives through the covers, and powerful shots to leg coupled with judicious placing and wonderful footwork.” Schoolmaster Frank Pinch and Johnnie Clay later added 50 for the seventh wicket before the former was out one short of his fifty. The first day closed with Somerset moving uneventfully to 8 for no wicket.
If Glamorgan’s batting had been the focus of journalistic praise on the first day then it was its bowling that received the accolades on Day Two. Somerset made steady progress in the morning session adding a further 125 runs for the loss of three wickets. Even when they lost Randall Johnson in the first over after lunch, the West Country batsmen still looked well set to challenge the Glamorgan first innings total, but in the words of Nomad, the Western Mail reporter, the crowd basking in the sun at Clarence Park then witnessed a remarkable’ turn of events:
Clay (Johnnie) was retried at the Uphill end. This move on the part of (Glamorgan’s captain) Whittington marked the sensational turn in the fortunes of the Somerset batsmen. In his first over Clay dismissed Considine, Creswell, and Lowry in the order named at intervals of one ball each, whilst in his third over he clean bowled Bridges. At the other end Pinch, too, did effective trundling and dismissed White and Robson with successive deliveries. The splendid work of Glamorgan in the field, and especially that of Bates, who made three splendid catches, is deserving of mention. Cording, who kept wicket exceedingly well, had the misfortune to dislocate his finger in stopping a fast rising ball. Leading by 67 runs Glamorgan, when they began their second innings, were is a stronger position than in any previous match this season.
This was Johnnie Clay, then aged 24 and a tearaway fast bowler. The last six wickets of the Somerset innings had fallen for a mere eight runs. Not to be outdone, Somerset set about the Glamorgan batting in their second innings. Their hero was the established spinner Jack ‘Farmer’ White. Described in the 1929 Wisden as ‘the leading amateur slow bowler of the day’ he was an intelligent spinner who used flight, dip and unerring line and length to trouble batsmen. In the evening session, he took six of the seven Glamorgan wickets to fall, with only Eddie Bates offering any real resistance. Glamorgan finished the day on 133 for 7, a lead of 190.
Glamorgan’s victory on the last day was again down to the bowlers. Johnnie Clay picked up another 3 wickets to bring his match total to 8 but the bowling plaudits in the second Somerset innings went to veteran Stan Hacker. One of the very few men left playing first-class cricket who had bowled at WG Grace, the former Gloucestershire bowler took four of the first five Somerset wickets to tumble and finished with a haul of 6/39 from 15 overs, bowling unchanged from one end.
As The Times reporter put it ‘they (Somerset) practically lost the match in the three quarter’s of an hour before the luncheon interval when they lost half their wickets for 30 runs’. ‘Victory at last’ was the verdict of The Western Morning News and Mercury on Wednesday 2nd August. ‘Glamorgan’s first Victory’ headed up the report in The Times. The Western Mail described how Glamorgan had won their ‘maiden triumph on foreign soil’ and added it believed that the tide had now turned for the team and that they would ‘add fresh laurels to those garnered at the expense of Somerset’.
Sadly, it was not to be a turning of the tide as the Club continued to be engulfed by a tsunami-like wave of defeats. 1922 proved to be the least successful summer in the Club’s history and one which led to calls for the Welsh county returning to the Minor County ranks.
Written by Stephen Hedges