Newport (2)

In  1922 the freehold of the entire Rodney Parade complex was purchased by Newport Athletic Club, and a number of further improvements were made, including Memorial Gates being erected in memory of the Club’s members who had died in the Great War.  The facilities at Rodney Parade were highly regarded but things were not going as smoothly for Monmouthshire who faced mounting debts and were unable to afford decent professionals. With their playing record deteriorating even further, a plan was put in place to merge with Glamorgan allowing the latter to take county cricket to potentially quite lucrative venues in Newport and the surrounding area, besides fielding a 2nd XI in the Minor County competition so that young homegrown players could be groomed.

A draft proposal was subsequently agreed upon in July 1934 and the two counties subsequently merged with Glamorgan playing their inaugural Championship match at Rodney Parade on 6 July 1935, with Leicestershire being the visitors. Before play commenced, both teams were presented to the town`s Lord Mayor. On the Saturday evening, a lavish civic reception was held in the town hall, and the following day, players from both teams were taken by omnibus on  a special tour of the picturesque Wye Valley. After the jollities the previous night, the tour probably helped to clear a few hangovers.

The Rodney Parade pavilion, as seen in the early 1960s. Photo credit – Newport Athletic Club.

Four years later, a high-scoring contest was staged at Rodney Parade as Glamorgan met Gloucestershire. The home team batted first and made a modest 196, before Wally Hammond led a single-handed assault on the Glamorgan bowlers, making a majestic 302 – at the time, a record score against the Welsh side. Time and again, Hammond unfurled his classical cover drives, sending the ball speeding to the boundary ropes almost before the Glamorgan could blink an eye. In all, the Gloucestershire maestro hit 35 fours, plus two enormous sixes, one of which sailed through a window high up on the power station alongside the ground. Local legend has it that in memory of what many regarded as the finest innings they had ever seen, the window was never repaired, with the small round hole through which the ball passed remaining there for nearly 25 years until the building was demolished in the mid-1960s.

Glamorgan needed the small matter of 309 runs to avoid an innings defeat when they batted again on the second afternoon so the instructions from captain Maurice Turnbull were to concentrate on batting throughout the rest of the match. In typically phlegmatic style, Emrys Davies and Arnold Dyson shared an opening stand of 255 to prove that despite their modest first innings performance, there really were no gremlins in the Newport wicket. With the Gloucestershire bowlers starting to tire and the wicket continuing to play in a true way, Turnbull suggested to Davies that he should set his sights on passing Dick Duckfield`s county record of 280 and then possibly become the first Glamorgan batsman to score 300.

There was also another incentive to the batsmen that summer, with a special prize on offer for the highest score of the season. Hammond`s triple hundred had passed the previous best, so with the encouragement of his colleagues ringing in his ears, Davies set out to beat Hammond`s 302. With Turnbull deftly rotating the strike, Davies reached his double-hundred, and with further  support from Dai Davies, Emrys had reached 250 as the game entered the final hour. But Hammond also had his eye on the special prize and the kudos it carried. With Hammond employing far more defensive fields, by the time Emrys had set a new club record on 281, most of the Gloucestershire fielders were out in the deep to prevent any more balls going for a boundary.  A physically exhausted Davies was happy to remain unbeaten on 287, and he got a standing ovation as he wearily made his way off the ground after the umpires called time. But many of the home supporters were non-plussed at the actions of Hammond, and they vented their feelings by shouting a few ribald comments in his direction as he came off the pitch.

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