Tuesday 29th June 2021 – The Vitality T20 Blast at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
I’m sure I wasn’t the only person sitting in the stands in Cardiff, watching the England vs Germany game on their phone during the opening innings of this game, although I may have been in the minority supporting England. A group of fans, wearing the three lions on their chest, exploded into animated joy when Harry Kane scored the second England goal and all but confirmed a place in the quarter finals. In a full Sophia Gardens stadium I would say that would have been a brave move, but with a sprinkling of fans around the superb facilities in Cardiff, the only real response they got was a “Sit down, shut up” from a group of Mexican hat and poncho wearing girls behind them.
This was attempt number two at seeing a game in Cardiff. I had booked tickets for the opening T20 game against Gloucestershire, but with the route out of Covid-19 restrictions being diverted in Wales, my ticket was declared null and void. But now, with slightly more fans able to attend, I’d managed to bag one for the visit of Surrey. This was the eighth county I had seen host a T20 game since the competition started last month, and at £10 a ticket, they were the cheapest so far. Ten pounds, for 305 runs, 15 wickets and a cliffhanger finish that saw Glamorgan win by one run after a run out on the last ball of the game.
I had attempted to get a ticket for Wembley. God, how I tried. Checking the absolutely useless UEFA website three-four times an hour, at the dead of night, around the mystical 11am release time every day and during the games. Nothing. I looked on enviously as people I knew secured tickets using similar tactics and so the continuation of the T20 tour took me to Cardiff, via the Tiny Rebel brewery on the outside of Newport. No queuing in virtual waiting rooms or hitting F5 repeatedly only to be offered tickets at eye watering prices, that then vanish before your eyes. One simple choice with Glamorgan – £10 a ticket and how many would you like?
The crowd was sparse inside Sophia Gardens. The game had been brought forward an hour, not exactly the best time for those fans and players who wanted to watch the game but out of necessity with one of the floodlights having a small issue. Early start = early finish = beat the ridiculous amount of night time roadworks starting on the motorway back to London.
Surrey won the toss and elected to field, much to the annoyance of a couple of their players who regularly asked members of the crowd the football score when they were fielding on the ropes nearest the Fosters Grandstand. The groans that went around the stand when Stirling scored sort of gave away the story.
Glamorgan’s opening pair went at a fair lick and posted 56 before Carlson went for 32 in the 6th over. Lloyd picked up the run rate but he and then Ingram fell in successive balls, the former being run out at the non-strikers end by skipper Cooke facing his first ball.
Billy Root made sure the innings finished with a bang, hitting four sixes in the final over to finish on an unbeaten 41 and giving Glamorgan’s score a bit of respect after they lost their way in the middle order.
First man up for Surrey and it was big hitting Will Jack – the man who has demolished Middlesex at Lords, scoring the fastest 50 in the history of the competition. Come the hour, come the big hitter. And that is exactly what he did off the first ball of the innings. Except he hit it straight at Walker and Jack was departing for a golden duck.
Burns and Pope were the key pair, keeping up with the run rate, with the latter scoring a career best 60 in T20 before he was run out. That was the turning point for Glamorgan, and the belief they could and would win was palpable around the ground, except for the small group of England fans who “weren’t going home” and were going to stay to “drink all the beer”.
What Surrey really needed was someone to stay in and hit some balls. They were losing wickets regularly, with the overs flying by. 50 off 4, 32 off three and still the wickets tumbled. Jamieson was still there though, pushing the score along. A betting man (like me), would have surely backed the home side (like me).
And so to the final two overs. Twenty eight required, three wickets left. Achievable, but based on Surrey’s batting so far in the game, it was unlikely. Atkinson, facing his first ball is caught by the sub fielder. Not just a wicket but a ball without a run. Fortunately, the batsmen crossed whilst the ball was in the air and Jamieson hits the next to the boundary. Two dot balls swings the game back to the host but the Surrey man then hits ten off the final two balls of Douthwaite’s over.
Six balls, thirteen runs, two wickets. Gareth Batty, the 43 year old veteran of the game, is on strike. His average of 10.32, built up over 94 innings doesn’t breed confidence. First priority would be a boundary, failing that get Jamieson on strike. A safe single. Jamieson needs to hit and hit big, which is exactly what he does, sending the ball into the stands for a six. The game is now Surrey’s to lose. Next ball he pushes it towards mid-wicket but a second run would be suicidal. Batty then nips one round the corner for two, and the 5th ball of the over is well field, but they still run one.
One ball, two runs needed to win. Wickets are now irrelevant. It is hit or bust. Jamieson has got 31 from 14 balls, the best strike rate in the game. He knows the score, he knows what he needs to do. He struck the ball well but straight back to bowler Timm van der Gugten, who was then able to run him out and secure victory for Glamorgan.
Now that’s what I call a finish to a game. Yes, the atmosphere at Wembley sounded electric and of course I would have rather had been there. But as a runner up, with distinction, Cardiff on a pleasant evening seeing a T20 game go right to the wire…I’ll take that.