Wales enter the business end of the season from Sunday as they open their NCCA 3 Day Championship campaign against Shropshire at Brymbo.
Since the Western Division was split into Division 1 and Division 2 prior to the pandemic, Wales have enjoyed a much-improved record in red ball cricket with more positive results than unfavourable ones. Despite coming close during both attempts in 2021 and 2022 it still hasn’t been enough to springboard them to Division 1 status with only one team obtaining promotion each year so 2023 represents another opportunity to do just that.
It's a reasonably new look side for Wales compared to the regular side of 2022 with no Morgan Bevans, Callum Nicholls, ex-professional Greg Smith or Connor Brown in the batting ranks – Brown has a long term injury which has put paid to his hopes of playing this season. White ball skipper Sam Pearce is unavailable to open up the campaign and the retirement of Aneurin Norman leaves an experienced hole in the seam department. What has been noticeable in the Welsh management’s approach this year, is the emergence of players who have consistently performed well in league cricket in addition to the new crop of aspiring young cricketers pushing to advance their prospect in the professional game.
Will Smale – who is turning heads already this season after making his Glamorgan debut in the Vitality Blast – won’t make the trip to North Wales as he looks to push for a place in the 50 over one day competition. Wales have also opted not to bring in any contracted Glamorgan reinforcements to begin the campaign, instead preferring to provide opportunities to those they are likely to see more regularly throughout the rest of the summer.
That means four championship debuts in total – two for the North Wales duo of Will Ryan and Harrison Jones who featured in the closing stages of the NCCA One Day Trophy, one for left arm seamer Jack Harding who was a regular in the white ball competitions and one for Swansea seam bowling all-rounder Tim Moses. The 28 year old recently played for an invitational Cricket Wales XI last month against the MCC and his unbeaten 124 in the table topping clash against St Fagans in the South Wales Premier League last month was clearly enough, combined with his experience with Cambridgeshire previously to cement his place in the side. Harding, who took career best figures for Wales of 4-33 against Buckinghamshire last month looks set to add firepower to the pace attack as well as variety – Wales will hope his experiences with England U19s in the Ashes last winter will pay dividends alongside George Pritchard who makes his second appearance for Wales after playing against Cornwall in the final game of the 2022 season.
CAPTION: Will Ryan (left) and Harrison Jones (right) will make their championship debuts in their home region of North Wales. Both featured in Wales' 50 over camapign. Credits: Roger Byrne photos & Charlie Carter photography.
Pritchard will be joined by fellow clubmen Cam Hemp who also makes his second red ball appearance, and Steffan Roberts who makes first championship appearance since 2017. Roberts has been ever present for Wales in all formats this year after being coaxed back into the side – so far he continues to repay the selectors by averaging 45 in the one day trophy including a career best 71*. He has a century and four fifties to his name in twelve championship games between 2015-2017.
Experience will still be the key for Wales as they look to player/coach Brad Wadlan (his first official stint as head coach) and keeper/captain Cameron Herring to guide them. Wadlan has been the standout performer for Wales this year so far averaging just shy of 90 in the one day trophy with key wickets along the way. He reminded everyone of his match winning capabilities in last year’s championship opener against Devon, becoming the first player in Welsh history to take ten wickets in a match and score a century. Herring too has averaged just over 40 in the last two seasons in red ball cricket for Wales with five fifties and a century to his name. Ahead of the Sunday the skipper commented:
CAPTION: Brad Wadlan and Cam Herring will have key to play in the campaign as the team's senior figures. Credit: CIAC Images.
“it’s a great opportunity to put things right and build on some of the positive but inconsistent performances from last year’s competition. Overall I firmly believe this is (on paper) the best squad of 15-16 players that we have had to pick from during my time with Wales, but now it’s time to start delivering in pressure moments with the goal to achieve promotion. We have showed we are capable of high quality moments, but anyone in three day cricket will tell you it’s about doing that session after session and then game after game.”
For Brymbo, it will be a first time hosting national counties cricket as Shropshire make the short journey across the border. Charlie Home’s side will be looking to repeat their performance over Wales last year at Oswestry which saw the game completed inside two days as 24 wickets fell on day one. Shropshire too have some new faces in their ranks with no Graham Wagg, William Wade or George Hargrave – former Worcestershire batter Tom Fell is the county’s professional and he will look to bolster the batting.
Play starts from Brymbo at 11am on all three days at Brymbo, with live streaming capability expected. Admission to spectators is free.
Wales NC from: HLR Friend (Newport), CH Hemp (Swansea), SH Roberts (Swansea), BL Wadlan (Swansea), WL Ryan (St Asaph), CL Herring*+ (Pontarddulais), TH Moses (Swansea), HG Jones (Denbigh), TD Phillips (Cardiff), GT Pritchard (Swansea), JC Harding (Taunton St Andrews), SBS Jaspal (Ammanford).
Shropshire CCC from: Andre Bradford (Swarkestone), Peter Clark (Shrewsbury), Tom Fell (Wolverhampton), Jack Home (Shifnal), Tim Maxfield (West Bromwich), Charlie Home* (Shifnal), Ben Lees+ (Shifnal), Luke Thornton (Shrewsbury), Sam Whitney (Bridgnorth), Sam Ellis (Wolverhampton), Ben Roberts (Shifnal), Ben Lewis (12th man).