Wales are looking to kickstart their NCCA T20 campaign this weekend, two weeks after having their opening games against Berkshire wiped out due to weather. With other games in Group 4 going ahead last weekend, it is Tom Lambert's (Berkshire) men that have opened up a gap at the top of the table already with comfortable wins against Buckinghamshire at High Wycombe. It is Bucks that head to Lisvane on Sunday before Wales - sporting some new faces - make the trip to Ampthill Town for a bank holiday Monday against Bedfordshire.
There are plenty of familiar faces to the Wales squad across the two days from the 2022 edition that narrowly missed out on a first finals day, in addition to some new personnel as well. The Glamorgan contingent of Tom Bevan, Ben Morris and Prem Sisodiya are all available for Sunday's encounter in addition to explosive all rounder Ben Kellaway who will make a T20 debut for Wales having only made two appearances for the side in the last few years. All four players have been through the national counties ranks in previous years and with the T20 Blast only a month away they will be looking to impress Glamorgan's new white ball Mark Alleyne.
Gone from the Welsh class of 2022 too are the likes of Steve Reingold who returns to club cricket in London, Lorenzo Machado who is nursing a long term knee injury and player/coach Greg Smith. With Connor Brown sidelined with a long term injury and Tegid Phillips making a gradual return from a foot injury, it’s been a busy winter on the recruitment and development front for Wales as they strive to compete on all fronts in national counties cricket whilst helping develop the next crop of players to graduate to first class cricket.
In come Cardiff UCCE and former Ireland U19 keeper/batter Will Smale who is no stranger to Wales having come through the county age group system. The 22 year old enjoyed an impressive season on the county 2nd XI circuit last year and showed his early season form with a quickfire 38* to see the university students home against Glamorgan earlier this month. Cameron Hemp (son of former Glamorgan cricketer David) looks set to make his white ball debut for the side after making his red ball debut in the final match of the season last year against Cornwall, as does left arm seamer Jack Harding. The 18 year old was released by Somerset at the end of the 2022 season having made a handful of Royal London One Day Cup appearances, but the England U19 pacer has been training with Glamorgan and Wales this winter in a bid to put himself in the shop window for potential suitors. He will provide variety to a new look seam attack spearheaded by the ever dependable Richard Edwards.
CAPTION: Ruaidhri Smith amassed 80 appearances for Glamorgan in his 9 year stay before being released in 2022.
Wales will be delighted to welcome back Ruaidhri Smith who makes his first national counties appearance since his championship outing against Devon at Pontarddulais in 2016. The eye catching all-rounder was released by Glamorgan at the end of last season after nine years on the staff and a frustrating number of injury occurrences. The Llandaff Cathedral and Shrewsbury School graduate remains keen on turning out for Wales and will provide valuable experience and skill with bat and ball. 22 year old former Cardiff UCCE seamer Saihaj Jaspal also looks set to make his Wales debut on Monday having committed to Ammanford in the South Wales Premier League this season.
With the experience of veterans Brad Wadlan and captain Sam Pearce coupled with another year of seniority for the likes of Morgan Bevans, Sam Jardine and Harry Friend there is plenty of optimism around the camp despite the lack of outdoor preparation that the persistent March rainfall has prevented. Wales will need to hit the ground running right form the off though, knowing that they will need to match or better the results of others in the division to stand a chance of qualification in what remains the toughest NCCA competition to progress in.
Sam Pearce's men should expect to host a Buckinghamshire side out for revenge after being blanked 0-2 in the fixture last season at High Wycombe, with a familiar Welshman leading their bowling attack in Jon Denning. The 32 year old enjoyed six seasons with Wales between 2009-2015 taking 35 championship wickets at an average just shy of 31. Current Northants all rounder Saif Zaib is required by his employers whilst former Worcestershire staffer Alexei Kervezee is expected to feature.
CAPTION: Ben Kellaway makes his NCCA T20 debut this weekend after sporadic apperances over the last few seasons.
Nonetheless Head Coach Darren Thomas feels like Sunday has the potential to be an exciting match up. He said, “we know there are no easy games in NCCA cricket, least of all T20. We just have to concentrate on ourselves and our plans, without worrying too much about what we can’t control. We have so much ability in our squad and it’s just a case of doing the basics of the game well, putting the opposition under pressure and taking our chances when they come.”
Sunday will follow the traditional format in the competition with two T20 games from 11am and 2.30pm – the majority of counties will have the capability to live stream their games this season and so follow @WalesNCounty on Twitter to keep up to date with this on Sunday.
Wales NC squad vs Buckinghamshire from: SJ Pearce* (Lansdown), TR Bevan (Glamorgan) CH Hemp (Swansea), BL Wadlan (Swansea), RAJ Smith (St Fagans), BI Kellaway (Bridgend/Glamorgan), WT Smale+ (Taunton Deane), JC Harding (Taunton St Andrews), RD Edwards (Neath), P Sissodiya (Cardiff/Glamorgan), BJ Morris (Pontarddulais/Glamorgan), SJ Jardine (Neath), TD Phillips (Cardiff)
Buckinghamshire squad from: EW Bragg, AJ Woodland, AN Kervezee, EAJ Cox, RAJ Richardson, ETD Casterton, JAG Rodnight, MJ Payne, CPW Haddow, TRG Hampton (capt), JST Denning, TG Weymes
Wales NC squad vs Bedfordshire from: SJ Pearce (Lansdown), CH Hemp (Swansea), HLR Friend (Newport), RAJ Smith (St Fagans), MJ Bevans (Newport), BL Wadlan (Swansea), WT Smale (Taunton Deane), CR Nicholls (St Fagans), JC Harding (Taunton St Andrews), RD Edwards (Neath), SBS Jaspal (Ammanford), SJ Jardine (Pontarddulais).
Bedfordshire squad from: E Ballard*, G Thurstance, M Bates, C Thurston, A Wakely, O Soames, A Basra, G Houghton, M Taylor, G Darlow, J Fuller, J Lowe.