The Early Bids for First-Class Status.

Glamorgan’s success in the Minor County Championship in 1900 delighted the Welsh county’s officials, and led to some suggesting that they should apply to being admitted into the first-class County Championship. For this to happen, Glamorgan had to prove that they had decent facilities and in 1902 Jack Brain persuaded the MCC to allocate a showcase fixture in 1902 to the Arms Park, with Glamorgan combining forces with Wiltshire – another strong Minor County – to play the Australians.

It was the first time the Aussies had ever played in Cardiff, so it was no surprise that the contest attracted an enormous crowd. Around 12,000 people attended the game, with trains packed with excited cricket supporters travelled to Cardiff from as far away as Milford Haven in the west and Swindon in the east. The only drawback was the facilities at the Arms Park and the need for more spacious accommodation. After extensive fund-raising had taken place, a more grandiose pavilion was built during 1904, reflecting the lofty dreams of the county club, and its urbane supporters.

A postcard image of the new pavilion at Cardiff Arms Park. Image Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

Eager to host international cricket, the Glamorgan officials approached the MCC to host the first Test of the 1905 series against the Australians. After approaching the MCC, they made a presentation during December 1904 when the administrators at Lord’s would finalise the arrangements for the Australian’s

tour and make a decision about allocating the First Test either to Cardiff or Nottingham. Glamorgan had the support of Sammy Woods, the famous England, Australia and Somerset amateur, who was a good friend of Brain and had first-hand experience of the excellent facilities, as well as the decent pitch at Cardiff. Woods duly addressed the MCC committee for around a quarter of an hour about the suitability of the Cardiff  round as a Test venue.

There were several on the MCC committee who believed that the traditional venues should continue to host the Tests, but there were precedents, as the MCC had allocated Test cricket in 1902 to the Edgbaston ground – the home of Warwickshire – who had only been awarded first-class status in 1895, and by coincidence, had the support of another leading brewery, Ansell’s. The words of the Glamorgan officials, and Sammy Woods in particular, were very persuasive, and they gathered a decent share of the votes. But, they were just not quite enough to win the day for Cardiff and Wales, as by the slender margin of a single vote, the Trent Bridge ground in Nottingham won the vote.

Nevertheless, the MCC had been very impressed by Glamorgan’s claims and, as a sort of consolation prize, they agreed to approach the Australians about a fixture being allocated to Cardiff during the August Bank Holiday of 1905 with the tourists playing a South Wales XI. They hoped that it would act as further spur for the energetic Glamorgan commitment and further boost their coffers as they continued their quest of first-class status.

An image of the Arms Park in 1905 as South Wales meet the Australians. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.