Paul Edwards reports on Lancashire's Clydesdale Bank 40 defeat to Glamorgan on Sunday.
Watching Lancashire Lightning lose to Glamorgan Dragons by 69 runs in Sunday's CB40 match at Colwyn Bay reminded one rather of the British sitcom Dad's Army. Set in Walmington-on-Sea during World War Two, it concerns the efforts of a Home Guard platoon to defend their Sussex coastal town against the constant threat posed by the Germans. Now Colwyn Bay is far too pleasant a place to have been bombed during the last unpleasantness, but it was under attack from the air on Sunday alright.
On this occasion the bombs were not 500-pounders dropped from Heinkels, Dorniers or Junkers; they were five-and-a-half ounce white rascals launched principally from the bat of Alviro Petersen and, for long periods on this sabbath afternoon, there seemed no way to stop them. As Glamorgan battered their way to 328 for four in 33 overs - the length of the game was reduced by lunchtime rain - specific areas of the ground came under attack. The tea hut took a fearful hammering, as did some of the double glazing in the pavilion and the bonnet of a lady's car. "Whoops, Mind Flying Cricket Balls" read the sticker on back window. "Physician heal thyself" seemed an appropriate rejoinder.
Peterson and his fellow opener Gareth Rees scored 52 runs off the first eight overs, but this was a mere aperitif before the serious drinking began. All of the Lancashire bowlers came in for sone stick as the pair added 199 for the first wicket in 24.2 overs, at which point Rees holed out to long-on Simon Kerrigan off Oliver Newby for 76, a tally which included seven fours and a mere three sixes. Two overs later Peterson dispatched Newby for a quartet of leg side maximums off successive balls and Glamorgan were 239 for one after 27 overs.
What to do during such carnage? Well, to return to Dad's Army, "Don't panic!" seemed a decent piece of advice, although I have a suspicion that a few other equally pithy two-word phrases occurred to Lancashire skipper Steven Croft: "Good gracious!" perhaps, or "Oh fiddlesticks!" possibly. It seemed little use postioning fielders inside the boundary, because the ball hardly ever landed there. Taking a cue from Captain Mainwaring and asking Karl Brown to patrol from Stones Amusement Arcade to the Novelty Rock Emporium, and Stephen Parry to take care of the area between Timothy Whites and Martin's Bank appeared viable options as at least spectator lost his grip on cricketing reality.
Still the real hitting was to come. Tom Smith removed both Petersen, for an 89-ball 144, containing nine fours and ten sixes, and Chris Cooke, for 8-ball four, containing none of either, with consecutive deliveries, long-off Stephen Parry being the catcher on both occasions. Next over Luke Procter bowled Mark Wallace for two and the strains of the Fifth Movement of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony could be heard echoing around Penrhyn Avenue. Sadly, "feelings of joy and gratitude after the storm" were swiftly replaced by the Ride of the Valkyries as Graham Wagg and Stewart Walters blasted 75 off the last 4.1 overs of the innings, Walters reaching his half-century off 19 balls, which is, like most other things in this damned match, a Glamorgan record.
Lancashire's bowling figures are not for those of delicate sensibilities. Smith, two for 65 off seven; Sajid Mahmood, nought for 66 off seven; Newby, one for 55 off five; Kerrigan, nought for 28 off three, Parry, nought for 32 off three, Procter, one for 69 off seven, Croft, one over for eleven runs.
"We tried everything and we are disappointed that our plans didn't come off as a bowling unit," said Croft. "When the ball started going round, we went away from our plans and just hoped for the best. If we were to have another stab at it, we would try to nail our plans, and if they didn't work, we'd go to Plan B rather than coasting through the overs really."
But there was a reason for cheerfulness to be found in Lancashire's performance in the field on Sunday afternoon. It was provided by a player who also wore pads and gloves, although he is a trifle smaller than Alviro Petersen. Making his one-day debut two days before his 17th birthday, Alex Davies kept wicket with skill and confidence, conceding no byes in Glamorgan's mammoth total. He had every reason to feel very quietly proud of himself .
"Alex gave a great performance behind the stumps," said Croft. "He showed his character, looked really comfortable and was not out of his depth at all. "He was just what you need from a keeper. He stayed strong and gave us a bit of energy in a situation when he could have just faded away"
After the game Davies proved just as skilled in talking about his display as he had been in delivering it. "It was a great experience, but in the first innings I did wonder if this was what it was likely every week," said the Darwen wicketkeeper, who opted to play for Lancashire on Sunday in preference to turning out for England's Under 17 team. "But all the lads have been behind me and they helped me all the way through."
As for Lancashire's response to Glamorgan's blitzkrieg, it was characterised by pugnacious optimism. In the era of Twenty20, even being asked to score at a rate of 9.96 runs an over is not too daunting and Croft's players had the memory of their famous run-chase at Cheltenham three weeks previously to draw on.
Lancashire made a poor start, though, when Smith was caught by Petersen off slow left-armer Nick James in the first over when he miscued a paddle shot to backward square leg. Encouraged by the wide open spaces offered by the powerplay regualations, Croft and Stephen Moore mounted a counter-attack, Moore hitting Graham Wagg for a six over third man to bring up his 29-ball 50. However the ex-Worcestershire man departed a few balls later when he attempted to hit Will Owen to Llandudno and was bowled for 57. Still, 85 for two in ten overs constituted a decent start.
But in the eleventh over Petersen brought Dean Cosker into the attack and this was a pivotal moment in the game. The 33-year-old slow left-armer, wily and phlegmatic in the manner of his tribe, had Brown stumped for five and was the only bowler in the match who never looked likely to be collared or hoist towards Snowdonia. Although Croft and Paul Horton took the score to 194 for three in the 22nd over, the prospect of Cosker's reintroduction, added to the memory of Glamorgan's butchery in the last few overs of their innings, made the home side favourites to prevail.
So it proved. The Weymouth-born spinner - I wonder if he's read much Thomas Hardy or John Fowles - bowled Croft for a 54-ball 85 which had contained five fours and five sixes. He then had Luke Procter taken at mid on by Graham Wagg for three and bowled Horton for a 42-ball 53 which had boasted three fours and a couple of maximums.
At the fall of the fifth wicket, Lancashire has scored 222 in 26.1 overs; they needed 107 off 41 balls. Despite Mahmood and Newby's reputations for big hitting, the game was up. A mere 3.5 overs later, it literally was. Saj Mahmood whacked two sixes but was run out for 26. Having gone in at number nine Alex Davies finished on six not out.
"I'd have been pretty disappointed if I wasn't batting ahead of Kerrigan," he observed later. He may go far, that young man. Cosker finished with 4-43 and was, very arguably, the man of the match.
And that was it, really. Having ended Gloucestershire's Cheltenham Festival by inflicting defeat on the home side, Lancashire brought the curtain down on Colwyn Bay's jamboree by giving the home side the chance to sing songs of triumph, an opportunity which Welshmen of any stripe rarely pass up.
Photo of Alex Davies (c) Barry Mitchell
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On the embankment from which Edward Bevan, esconced in none too splendid isolation, had earlier broadcast to his millions of listeners, everything was quiet in the darkening evening. Only the figure of an ARP warden, holding a battered white helmet in his dirty-fingernailed hand, could be made out. He was scratching his head. "Ruddy hooligans," he muttered to himself, and went home.