MINOR COUNTIES stepping stone for Wales

Wales celebrated their first Minor Counties Championship win in three years last week but coach Darren Thomas insists winning is not everything.

A two-day victory over Wiltshire at the South Wilts club in Salisbury lifted Wales off the bottom of the Western Division of the Championship but former Glamorgan and Essex all-rounder Thomas does not want to be judged on results alone.

Thomas, who works for Cricket Wales as Regional Performance Manager, is justifiably proud of Wales’ record of turning promising youngsters into county cricketers.

There is a hardly a Welsh-born Glamorgan player in the past 15 years who has not played their formative county cricket for Wales in Minor Counties cricket with 13 members of this season's Glamorgan squad having made that progression.

“Results aren’t everything. It’s nice to win and you don’t want to get used to losing games but ultimately it’s about giving these young lads cricket and experiences to develop personally and within their games to push on to the next level,” Thomas said.

“We are fortunate to have had the likes of Owen Morgan, Jack Murphy, Kiran Carlson, Ruaidhri Smith, Lukas Carey - you can easily name an 11 - who have come through not just the Glamorgan Academy but Minor Counties as well as part of their stepping stone up to professional cricket.

“You look at the likes of James Harris when he was here. He played Minor Counties cricket at the age of 14 and Aneurin Donald played for Wales at a similar age.

“We do use it as a stepping stone. We are not attached to Glamorgan as such but I am in close communication with Richard Almond, Glamorgan’s Head of Talent, and we use it for players from the Glamorgan Academy to play a lot of cricket along with Cardiff MCCU.

“It’s another form of cricket for these boys and it’s very competitive cricket as well.”

Minor Counties cricket exposes young players to adult county cricket and also to playing against experienced former first-class players such as Berkshire’s former Middlesex slow left-armer Chris Peploe and Oxfordshire’s former Worcestershire all-rounder Gareth Andrew.

“You can argue that some of the wickets deteriorate more quickly than in county Second XI cricket and first-class cricket because Minor Counties cricket is played on club grounds,” Thomas said.

“But it is hard cricket and it teaches young players disciplines and resilience which is essential at a higher level.”

Wales resume their Minor Counties Championship campaign with a trip to North Perrott to face Dorset where Thomas hopes that they can build on the Wiltshire win.

Although Wales are only a point above bottom-placed Herefordshire, they are just 10 points behind fifth-placed Cornwall, the position Wales would need to finish in to secure their place in the top flight of the Western Division when it is split into two at the end of this season.

“The boys talk a really good game of cricket when they get together as a group. They understand what they are trying to achieve so it was very nice to see them actually fulfil what our thoughts have been as a group over the last three or four weeks against Wiltshire,” he said.

“It was rewarding to get that win and to get up and running in the Championship.

“This season has been very competitive. That was one of my briefings to the players before the last game. I asked them: Where do you want to be? Do you want to be in the bottom half or the top?

“Whether that gave them a bit of incentive I’m not sure but, ultimately, it’s nicer to play in the higher division. We would prefer to be playing against the better Minor Counties next year.

“If we don’t, we don’t, but we will still use it to develop our young group of players.”

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