Port Talbot Town v Pontarddulais
A superb unbeaten 70 from 16 year old Sean Griffiths was the stand out performance as Port Talbot managed to avoid the showers and begin their 2012 campaign with a stylish nine wicket victory over Pontarddulais at The New Mansel. On a day which saw three of the other four Premier league matches fall victim to the weather, the Pirates took full advantage with Stuart Phelps and debutant Alex Jones playing starring roles with the ball before Griffiths and opening partner Ian Thomas dispelled any nerves with a 1st wicket stand of 107 paving the way for victory with more than ten overs remaining.
Heavy midweek rain had left the ground heavily saturated and the covers had also been blown off the wicket by heavy winds exposing the pitch to the inclement weather. It was therefore a remarkable effort by all concerned to get the match started with only a 40 minutes’ delay, which reduced the contest to 44 overs per side. Unsurprisingly Pontarddulais were put in to bat by Port Talbot after winning the toss with overcast conditions likely to aid the pace bowlers.
Glamorgan’s left arm seamer Alex Jones, making his debut for Port Talbot, took full advantage against his former club with two early scalps. Young wicketkeeper batsman Cameron Herring, a close season signing from Newport, edged an away swinger into the hands of Cherry at second slip who held a comfortable catch and then Jones uprooted Matthew Carey’s stumps in the same over with the score at 12.
Fellow debutant Arwel Thomas and Pontarddulais skipper Gary Arrowsmith got the innings back on track with a third wicket stand of 47. Thomas had shown his fighting ability in tough batting conditions to Port Talbot followers at the back end of last season with a man of the match 62 in the SWCA Cup final for Gowerton and these attributes were again in evidence here. Having struck five fours in his 31, he was dismissed by Ian Thomas going back attempting to cut a delivery through point.
The late withdrawal of Robert Croft from the Pontarddulais team meant some alterations to the batting line-up and off spinner Carl Roberts was promoted to number 5. Arrowsmith looked to be in excellent touch from early in his innings and played with great freedom and fluency, dispatching a number of loose deliveries away to the off side boundary and striking a tremedous six straight down the ground off Ian Thomas. He was also aided by four overthrows which gave him a five to go with his six and seven fours. With the score at 93/3 and Arrowsmith looking well set on 45, the match entered a decisive phase.
Not for the first time it was Stuart Phelps who turned proceedings back Port Talbot’s way when, with only his third delivery, Arrowsmith yorked himself coming down the wicket. Two overs later, Roberts fell for 6 to Phelps as he edged an attempted square cut to Dean Cox behind the stumps to give the Port Talbot wicketkeeper his 100th league catch for the club. Two key scalps had reduced the visitors to 103/5 in the 25th over.
A determined sixth wicket stand of 31 between Owen Morgan and Jamie Williams did give renewed hope. With Phelps tying up one end in another economical spell, the two batsmen targeted scoring opportunites from the other end with Williams striking three fierce boundaries off Mark Cox and Ian Thomas. Morgan showed good temperament in his innings but just as the visitors were looking to push on towards a score in excess of 180, Phelps struck again, trapping Williams lbw for 16.
The innings then began to fall away wickets falling at regular intervals. Adrian Killa pulled Ian Thomas to Richard Edwards at deep mid wicket with the score 137 before Matthew Jones was run out by Cherry from mid wicket attempting a second run. Alex Jones returned at the Motorway End to remove Tom Carey for 8 to give him his third wicket in a pleasing first performance of the season and seven more runs were added before Lewis Jones bowled 13 year old Lucas Carey, making his first team debut, for 1 in the final over which left Morgan unbeaten on 36 from 65 balls. Pontarddulais were dismissed for 164 with Phelps recording outstanding figures of 3/9 from 10 overs.
Port Talbot began brightly in reply with their new opening partnership of Sean Griffiths and Ian Thomas making quick inroads into their target. Young Lucas Carey was entrusted with the new ball and showed real promise in his opening four over spell. However, as could only be expected with such a young bowler, there were some loose deliveries which both batsmen put away with ease. The early bowling in general was not consistent enough and both batsmen were able to profit, Griffiths playing a number of his favourite pull shots through midwicket while Thomas was merciless on anything short outside off stump.
The introduction of Carl Roberts did give Arrowsmith an element of control but with such a good start already on the board, the two openers were able to accumulate runs with no real pressure. Thomas reached his fifty from 71 balls with successive reverse sweeps for four off Arwel Thomas. This continued his excellent sequence of opening day scores for Port Talbot, this being the fourth season in a row that the former Glamorgan man had made at least 50 in the first match of the season.
Arwel Thomas did gain some revenge two balls later when Thomas top edged a paddle sweep to give Herring a comfortable catch behind the stumps to fall for 55 with the score 107/1 in the 22nd over. Dan Cherry again looked in good touch after an unbeaten 81 in a pre-season innings against Neath and Port Talbot continued to make swift progress. Griffiths went to his 50 with a fine straight drive for four, his second half century for the first team and another encouraging sign for a player of great promise who this season is involved with the Glamorgan Academy.
The Pontarddulais fielders continued to show excellent committment and gave good support to their bowlers. Roberts bowled economically and Arwel Thomas turned a few deliveries appreciably late in the peace. However the result was never in any doubt, and after a quick flurry of boundaries from Cherry had brought the runs required down to single figures, the skipper finished things off with a comfortable single off Thomas to take his side to the finishing post inside 34 overs. Griffiths ended unbeaten on 70 from 91 balls in a polished and mature performance while his skipper finished on 26 not out.
The Pirates received the perfect start to the season and now go on the road for the next two weekends with the long trip to Usk next Saturday followed by a visit to Mumbles.