Whilst hopes of a first T20 finals day may have been put to rest last weekend, Wales head to High Wycombe against Buckinghamshire in the final round of games with plenty to play for.
It was at High Wycombe last season where Wales kickstarted a memorable 50 over campaign with a narrow two wicket win, and with the sides set to square off in the first round of games in the same competition on May 29th (this time at Port Talbot), both teams will be eager to end the T20 group stage on a positive note.
Wales have endured a mixed competition, showing signs of real promise against Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire, but were comfortably second best on Sunday against a resurgent Berkshire on a damp day at Newport. Game 1 was reduced to a 9 over slam, with openers Dan Lincoln and Toby Albert smashing the Welsh bowling to all parts with an impressive array of ball striking, in a total of 92-3. Wales started brightly enough with Glamorgan’s Dan Douthwaite (27) leading the charge alongside Tom Bevan (13) but, with wickets tumbling, ran out of time in reaching 73-6.
CAPTION: Cam Herring (pictured batting against Bucks last year) will lead the team this weekend in Sam Pearce's absence.
Lincoln and Albert continued their assault in Game 2 with an opening stand of 81, before Ben Morris (2-14) had the former caught by Steve Reingold at long off. A brief shower reduced the game further to 15 overs a side by which point Berkshire reached a D/L adjusted 135-7 with a wicket apiece for Sam Pearce, Douthwaite, and Kieran Bull. Thanks to a typically brisk knock by Tom Bevan (37), Wales looked well set for the chase with support from Callum Taylor (21).
Off spinner Max Uttley (4-18) was responsible for the brake being applied, and when the dangerman Douthwaite was run out by a direct hit from Josh Lincoln the game seemed up. Cam Herring (33) had other ideas however, launching an assault on Andy Rishton's leg side boundary in particular for an over which cost 26 alone. 16 off the last over was still a tall order but when Richard Edwards struck the first ball for six, a remarkable comeback looked likely. Jafar Chohan put paid to that however with Wales falling 11 runs short.
Buckinghamshire currently sit bottom of the NCCA Group 4 with Wales in 4th, looking to finish as high as 3rd in the group if results go their way. Despite Head Coach Darren Thomas being on Wales U18 duty, there are a few changes to the team from last weekend. Out go the unavailable Glamorgan pair of Dan Douthwaite and Callum Taylor, and vacancies also open up with skipper Sam Pearce and Lorenzo Machado unavailable in addition to the injured Aneurin Norman. There are opportunities for Muji Ilyas, Sam Jardine and Morgan Bevans to show what they can do ahead of the 50 over competition – Bevans in particular has had a strong start to the season with an impressive century against Glamorgan for Cardiff UCCE last month. Prem Sisodiya returns from Glamorgan whilst there is also a debut for North Walian seamer Jason Foulkes – the 27 year old from St Asaph collected 53 wickets in the league last year at an average just shy of 10 which included season’s best 8-17 against Brymbo. Red ball skipper Cam Herring will assume captaincy duties.
CAPTION: Jason Foulkes (St Asaph) will make his Wales NC debut on Sunday at High Wycombe.
Acting Head Coach, and Cricket Wales Head of Talent Pathway Matt Thompson will be looking for the team to end the competition on high. He commented, “we really backed ourselves to be in the hunt for finals day at this stage, but we are where we are. We have a lot we want to achieve still this summer and of course, any opportunity you get to represent Wales is a special occasion. We’ve been excellent in patches so far, but this weekend will be about trying to string two good games of cricket together with both bat and ball by doing the basics well, and playing with the freedom we know we are capable of.”
Play starts from 11am at High Wycombe with the squad as follows:
Wales NC from: TR Bevan (St Fagans), CR Brown (Lansdown), SJ Reingold (Neath/Stanmore), GM Smith (Penzance), MJ Bevans (Newport), CL Herring*+ (Pontarddulais), MM Ilyas (Newport), RD Edwards (Neath), KA Bull (Potterne), JS Foulkes (St Asaph), SJ Jardine (Neath), P Sisodiya (Cardiff).
Buckinghamshire CCC from: CJ Louth (Wokingham), E Callis (High Wycombe), AN Kervezee (Halesowen), MR Wells (Buckingham Town), RAJ Richardson+ (Whitburn), EWH Bragg (Halesowen), JAG Rodnight (Great Brickhill), MJ Payne (Amersham), CPW Haddow (High Wycombe), TRG Hampton* (High Wycombe), TG Weynes (Tring Park), JP Burden (Wimbledon).