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1st XI Report

Tom Merilaht

Cowbridge 1st XI Captain

After the disappointing end of the 2013 season which saw Cowbridge fall away, the team, committee and club as a whole were very optimistic as to achieve strong performances for the 2014 season and push for those elusive promotion places to Division 1. Again, availability would play a key part in the Cowbridge performances and how the club would build on momentum gained. The following report will give you an overview as to why and how Cowbridge finished the season in 5th place.

As with any season comes the early excitement of hopefully having a dry and sunny day in order to get the season off to the best possible start. Throw in the addition of a Glamorgan professional making the lineup, and Cowbridge were very buoyant and confident travelling away to Gorseinon. Cowbridge won the toss and inserted Gorseinon who batted well for 203-6 from their 50 overs. Normally chasing 200+ in this league can prove difficult, but Cowbridge romped home for the loss of just two wickets in 33 overs. Merilaht anchored the innings with 94 not out, while Ben Wright provided the fireworks with an explosive 69. What a start to the season.  

Next up, Maesteg, for the first home fixture of the new season and Cowbridge continued their winning ways scoring 222-6, back to back 200s for the team and certainly this was being noticed by all rivals. Mike Lloyd played well for 69, with Ben Wright again standing out for his 71. Maesteg never looked in the chase and were all out 177 with Matthew Keating taking 1-35 with his young slow left armers and Joe Hodges 1-19.

Three total wins after washouts vs Llangennoch and Porthcawl meant Cowbridge went top of the table at Briton Ferry Steel. Things started well with Lloyd and Merilaht putting on 79 for the first wicket before an unusual collapse meant Cowbridge fell away to be all out 135 in just 44 overs. BFS would require 136 runs in a maximum of 56 overs and what would be a complete team effort in restricting BFS. Phil Harris, 3-28, swung the early momentum towards Cowbridge with some fine length bowling. Outstanding catches from Lloyd, and a huge swirling take from Gethin Davies meant BFS fell to 50-4. On a slow pitch run scoring was difficult, and game changer Harry Collier used this to his advantage with a miserly 4-37 that meant BFS would struggle to get the runs. However a late 10th wicket stand pushed BFS closer and closer, until Chris Willey returned with the last ball of the 55th over to trap the batsmen dead in front LBW. Cowbridge win by 9 runs and go top of the table. It was an excellent team performance, especially in the field with no run given away, in which the opposition captain commented, ‘It felt like you had 14 out there’.

Another team performance against Swansea Civil Services at the Fred Dunn saw Cowbridge win by 17 runs. A rapid cameo by Mike Lloyd saw Cowbridge race to 50 from just 8 overs and when Merilaht departed with the score at 71, Lloyd had scored 50 of them. A flurry of wickets meant that Matt Smart, 28, and Phil Harris, 20, had to do a bit of a rebuilding job before unfortunately a tail end no show meant Cowbridge plummeted from 130-4 to 147 all out in just 42 overs.

SCS slipped from 50-1 to 64-5 and whilst Cowbridge could sense victory it wasn’t easy getting the final 5 wickets. As SCS started to play more conservatively, it took ‘the run out of the season’ by Richard Finucane swooping in one handed from deep square leg with a direct hit to leave the shocked batsmen tantalizingly short of his crease. After a bit of a worrying last wicket partnership of 30, Smart returned to clean up the tail-enders stumps to leave Cowbridge victorious by 17 runs. Cowbridge remained top of the table.

A winning draw away at Bronwydd thanks to a game changing 40 run 9th wicket partnership from Matt Keating, 22*, and Tom Johnson, 15*, taking Cowbridge to 192-7 off their 50 overs, saw Bronwydd shut up shop to settle for a draw at 137-8, before the same result ensured against Llandysul with Cowbridge 155-7 and restricting Llandysul to 108-8 after their rain reduced overs allocation. Half way through the season and comfortably top, could Cowbridge drive this advantage home for the second half of season. As we will see, unfortunately ‘no’ was the answer as we did not outright win another game.

Letting Gorseinon reach 222-5 was a bridge too high to chase as Cowbridge finished 209-7 with Chris Willey 60 and Matt Smart 63 just failing to reach the victory line. A washout against Llandysul robbed Cowbridge of the chance for victory after Phil Harris’s 6-51 and then another Cowbridge collapse to 122 all out saw bottom of table Maesteg winning by 3 wickets. Cowbridge needed to turn this poor form around and fast but with players unavailable for various reasons, the bolts had seemingly come off. A Chris Willey 86 verses Llanelli meant another winning draw, as Llanelli held on 9 down. It was proving very difficult to knock over the full 10 wickets and thus costing us valuable points.

A club  record 2nd wicket partnership of 230 between Merilaht 113* and Wright 101 against Porthcawl temporarily lifted spirits driving Cowbridge to 283-3 declared but again Porthcawl could not be knocked over. Phil Harris struck century of the season with 126 against Briton Ferry Steel in another losing cause.

Now it seemed we would need to win our last 3 games in order to have a chance of promotion. Loss vs Bronwydd. Loss vs Civil Services. Loss vs Llandysul. Cowbridge did not show the fight needed in order to achieve this and finished the 2014 season in 6th.

So, to reflect on season 2014, Cowbridge got themselves into a great position half way through the season to push for promotion, but then fell badly away second half and could not put together an outright victory. Whilst at times, the younger inexperienced players fell down against more developed sides, next year this will not be so much of an issue as they further mature. Again the club will have the ambition of promotion firmly at the top of their sights

As always, I save my special thanks to the ‘behind the scenes’ team: Tim, again cultivating some magnificent tracks; the new tea ladies led by Ceri with some magnificent feasts; and all the scorers our scorers who pitched in for the season. Without these inputs, the club would fall down.