2004: Glamorgan win the National League, again!

The Glamorgan squad celebrate winning the 2004 National League title. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

With a group of players now at their peak – as in 1993 and 1997 – the swagger and self-confidence had returned to Glamorgan Cricket and this was evident as they stormed to the National League title with three games still to play, having won eleven of their sixteen matches in the competition which now involved innings with a maximum of 45 overs. As Wisden’s correspondent noted, “the Welsh conquered the English at will. Their strategy was built round two pinch-hitters, Croft and Wharf. One or the other of these came good. Otherwise , they had the experience and quality of the two Matthews, Elliott and Maynard, and their attack which had Croft and Dean Cosker as highly effective spin back-up to a penetrative front line, used the white ball far more skilfully than anyone else.”

Indeed, Andrew Davies had become known as one of the most skilful operators with the new ball and he took 4/29 in the opening match at The Oval before Glamorgan’s engine-room of batting flexed their muscles for more sterner challenges ahead as half-centuries from Elliott and Powell allowed the Dragons to use less than half their quota of overs to launch the summer with an emphatic seven wicket win. The second game at Bristol followed a similar pattern as the visiting bowlers prevented Gloucestershire from compiling a commanding total before Elliott shared stands of 98 with Croft plus 92 with Powell as Glamorgan romped home in the 38th over.

The winning sequence was briefly halted by a defeat at Old Trafford, but Glamorgan returned to winning ways at Edgbaston despite Warwickshire making a decent reply in their pursuit of a target of 244, courtesy of a flawless century by England’s Nick Knight. Warwickshire required 16 from the last twelve balls, but up stepped Alex Wharf who, with his last three deliveries prompted Graham Wagg to hole out at mid-off, before Knight was caught attempting an ungainly pull and Dewald Pretorius departed to an ungainly slog as the burly all-rounder claimed a hat-trick.

After victories over Gloucestershire at Swansea and Surrey at Sophia Gardens, another blip followed at Northampton where the home side recorded a victory after a rare top-order collapse saw Glamorgan crumble to 125-7. But Maynard and Wharf then added 113 in seventeen overs to mount a spirited riposte, but despite reaching three-figures, Maynard could not quite see his side home as he was bowled in the penultimate over by Jason Brown. Despite this defeat, the Dragons still held a comfortable lead at the top of the table, and this was further extended with an emphatic seven-wicket victory over the Hampshire Hawks in their day-night contest at Sophia Gardens.

After victories over Hampshire under the temporary floodlights at Cardiff, and another victory at Canterbury where a sublime hundred from Elliott laid the foundations of a comfortable win under the Duckworth-Lewis Method, Glamorgan moved within touching distance of the title with a three-wicket victory in what proved to be an incident-packed match at The Rose Bowl where injuries to others, forced Hemp into the attack. His initial over went for eleven, but his second – the last of the innings proved to be a triple-wicket maiden as the Hampshire batsmen tried in vain to hit late runs. After Croft had savaged 52 off 37 balls, Elliott then showed the calm side of his character by posting a watchful fifty which steered the Welsh county to victory with an over to spare in the rain-affected contest.

His efforts meant that Glamorgan, in the third week of August and still with four games to play, only needed one further victory to lift the one-day title. With Lancashire visiting their northern outpost at Colwyn Bay, Croft’s team were determined to finish the job and clinch one-day silverware for the first-ever time on Welsh soil, with their previous successes in 1993 and 2002 coming in the Garden of England. It turned out to be a personal triumph for Croft who removed both Dinesh Mongia and Chris Schofield after the pair had added 96 to help recover from 62-4 after Harrison and Lewis had made early inroads. The captain then went out and struck the second League century of his career as together with Maynard they added 121 for the fourth wicket to make light of the absence of the injured Elliott before Dale, a stalwart of the 1993 team, struck the winning runs with four overs in hand.

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