Veteran seamer Aneurin Norman will be bidding to join Anthony Smith and Adrian Griffiths in becoming only the third ever bowler in Wales NC history to reach 100 championship wickets when Wiltshire visit Panteg on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
The 31 year old, who made his debut back in 2008 has been unavailable through a mixture of parenthood and injury in his final season at national counties level, but comes back into the fray - assuming he comes through Saturday's club cricket with Mumbles unscathed - as Wales enter a key stage of their red ball season. The remarkable five run victory against Devon a fortnight ago was somewhat dampened by a disappointing seven wicket defeat to Shropshire last week, on a wicket that batters from both sides will have been pleased to have moved on from.
CAPTION: Only 2 bowlers have ever taken 100 wickets in Wales 3-Day cricket before - Aneurin Norman is aiming to become the 3rd.
That loss leaves Wales 2nd in the table after two games, needing a positive result against Wiltshire (who have a game in hand) to maintain pressure at the top of the table where only one team will achieve promotion to Division 1 of the Western Conference. A bonus pointed draw won’t rule Wales out entirely but a loss will all but end their hopes with a game to spare.
Darren Thomas’ men are already licking their wounds after bowing out of the One Day Trophy to Berkshire for the second year running last Sunday. The perennial winners yet again displayed their steely resolve to recover from 109-5 to 278 all out at Falkland, before applying the brakes on the Welsh batting line up to triumph by 58 runs. Parallel figures of 3-56 from both Richard Edwards and Sam Pearce, coupled with a 52 for Morgan Bevans were the notable bright spots in an otherwise frustrating day for the team.
CAPTION (CIAC Images): White ball skipper Sam Pearce was back in the wickets in the One Day Cup and will be hoping to take this form into Sunday.
With Glamorgan ready and waiting for Wales next Sunday, red ball skipper Cam Herring will be eager to wrestle back some momentum starting this week. He will take comfort from a boost to the batting ranks (an area Wales have struggled with all season) with both Brad Wadlan and Greg Smith lining up in the same side and the confirmation that Connor Brown has been passed fit as he continues to manage an ankle problem.
With the experience of Norman to spearhead the seam bowling attack, Osama Subhan keeps his place after returning to the side at Shropshire and bowling impressively whilst there is a debut for Bangor’s Owen Reilly in the absence of Ben Morris (resting after ECB Super 4s duty), Jason Foulkes (unavailable) and Sam Jardine (rested). 20 year old Reilly was a graduate of the Wales age groups a few years ago and featured earlier this year in a Cricket Wales Invitational XI against the MCC at Lords, taking five wickets (including new teammate Sam Pearce) in the process.
CAPTION (CIAC Images): Owen Reilly, who bowled at Lords for Cricket Wales earlier this year will make his championship debut in national counties cricket.
There is a place in the squad for Pentyrch skipper Todd Wilcox who is primed to step in for Norman should be not pass a Sunday morning fitness test. The 26 year old all rounder made a solitary appearance for Wales against Cornwall back in 2014 against Cornwall at Truro.
Wiltshire come into Sunday fresh having enjoyed their rotation week during the last round of games. They remain unbeaten having skittled Shropshire on Day 3 to win by 173 runs at Corsham in early July. Tom Morton’s 2nd innings 150, Jake Goodwin’s 98 and the reliable tandem of spinner Joe King and Ed Young were primarily responsible for their victory. Young’s side, despite some different faces to the white ball team, will be eager to avenge their heavy 149 run loss to Wales in June at Llandysul.
For host club Panteg, Sunday marks the first time the club have hosted national counties cricket and they deserve credit for stepping in midway through the season to accommodate Wales once Usk were unable to fulfil hosting duties. The club are set to host Glamorgan 2nd XI in August in what will no doubt be a busy period.
Play starts from 11am on Sunday and admittance is free for spectators.
Wales NC squad from: HLR Friend (Newport), CR Brown (Lansdown), BL Wadlan (Swansea), GM Smith (Penzance), MJ Bevans (Newport), CL Herring*+ (Pontarddulais), SJ Pearce (Bridgend/Warminster), AJ Norman (Mumbles), ORG Reilly (Bangor), TD Phillips (Cardiff), O Subhan (Cardiff), T Wilcox (Pentyrch).