Wales closed out their NCCA T20 campaign with two back to back victories over Buckinghamshire at High Wycombe.
Despite the absentees of skipper Sam Pearce (work), Lorenzo Machado (holiday), Ben Morris (Wales U18s) and Greg Smith who rolled an ankle the day before, stand-in skipper Cam Herring was happy to bat first despite losing the toss on a bouncy, fast paced pitch. With the inception of the new Wales NC North side that officially forges a link between the opposite ends of the country, St Asaph's Jason Foulkes was handed a national counties debut with a view on the remainder of the 2022 season, with recalls for Muji Ilyas, Sam Jardine and Morgan Bevans.
It was Bevans that stole the show early on after the quickfire losses of Tom Bevan and Steve Reingold, blasting a rapid 62 off just 28 balls in a stand worth 72 with Connor Brown (24). The 20 year-old from Monmouth - who registered a early season century against Glamorgan for Cardiff UCCE - showed a disdain for the Buckinghamshire bowling, hitting the ball to all parts of the ground including an audacious scoop shot that cleared the sightscreen behind keeper Richardson.
CAPTION: Morgan Bevans carried on his fine start to the season in double quick time.
Wales did stumble when Brown and then Bevans were dismissed in the space of 7 balls, but Prem Sisodiya (20 off 16 balls) and Kieran Bull (18 off 6 balls) ensured a competitive total of 161 was reached. Bucks started brightly enough with Callis and Louth putting on 37 for the first wicket, before Foulkes picked up his first national counties wicket in his first over (a wicket maiden), that of Callis caught smartly by Ilyas at third man. Bull picked up the wickets of Louth and Wells before Foulkes struck again to remove Richardson, who nicked behind to Herring. The squeeze continued through Rich Edwards and Sisodiya and the game was up when Foulkes collected his third to finish with impressive figures of 3-18 off his four overs.
Herring elected for the same game plan in the afternoon's second game, and was rewarded with a 143 run opening stand between Brown (72) and Bevan (78). Both men batted aggressively, and properly taking advantage of some loose bowling in the process. Steve Reingold made a brisk 14 when Bevan departed before Sisodiya again showed his hitting capabilities with a 10 ball 17 in the closing overs to take Wales to their highest total of the competition (191). The Bucks reply started at a canter with Callis and Louth taking a leaf from their opponents, sharing in a stand of 77 in double quick time - Sam Jardine and Foulkes baring the brunt of some clean striking. Once the wily Kieran Bull accounted for Callis via the safe hands of Reingold at deep mid wicket, Bucks were always under pressure to keep up with the rate. When former Worcestershire and Dutch international Alexei Kervezee departed in the same manner out in the deep, the game looked gone. Ross Richardson had other ideas smashing a brisk, 28 ball 45 to keep things interesting heading into the last over, but the experienced Richard Edwards held his nerve to hand Wales their first 2-0 pair of games in the campaign as Bucks fell short by 4 runs - Bull finishing with mightily impressive figures of 3-20.
CAPTION: Jason Foulkes (left) made an impressive debut at High Wycombe. Matt Ryan (left, also of St Asaph) made a debut in Game 2.
There were plenty of positives for acting Head Coach Matt Thompson (deputising for the absent Darren Thomas), who said: "It was really pleasing to see a number of new faces, and players that have been on the fringes put their hands up today. Morgan Bevans was superb with the bat, and Jason Foulkes equally with the ball. This campaign has been a real learner for us as a group - looking back at one or two key moments in games against Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire, we'd probably be in finals day had we executed our skills better. But the margins, especially in a group where only one progresses out of five, are so small that you don't get a second chance. Moving forwards, we just have to keep doing the basics of the game well, take each game as it comes heading into the 50 over trophy and see where that gets us."
Wales will kick off their 50 over trophy against Bucks at Port Talbot on 29th May before a visit to Staffordshire on 5th June. Wiltshire travel to Llandysul on June 19th before Wales take on Dorset at Wimborne.
T20 Leaders for Wales NC:
1st = Tom Bevan: 223 runs @ 27.88 (x2 50s, SR 143.87)
= Connor Brown: 223 runs @ 27.88 (x1 50, SR 115.54)
2nd = Prem Sisodiya: 65 runs @ 32.50 (x0 50s, SR 135.42)
1st = Kieran Bull: 11 wickets @ 12.82 (Econ 6.41)
2nd = Sam Pearce: 9 wickets @ 13.67 (Econ 6.83)
3rd = Rich Edwards: 8 wickets @ 21.88 (Econ 6.25)
CAPTION: Kieran Bull finished 6th across all four NCCA divisions for wickets taken during the T20 group stage.