By Matthew Slugg

AFTER the longest of winters, the cricket season began right on schedule this weekend as restrictions lifted just in time to allow a return to outdoor sports.

And for Penarth, the season began in style with three victories from three completed league fixtures and only the late afternoon rain in Crumlin thwarting the fourths’ hopes of completing a clean sweep.

The first XI made the short trip down the Vale to Cowbridge, who had to wait some twenty months for their first Premier League fixture after promotion in 2019, and made sure they would have to wait a little longer for their first victory at this level as Penarth edged home by two wickets in a tight encounter.

Penarth Times:

The Second XI

With the season just minutes away an unwelcome downpour delayed the start by over an hour and reduced the match to 39 overs per side.

By this time Nick Morgan had already invited the home side to bat first and when play did begin Cowbridge made a solid start to reach 42 in the 9th over before Ben Wellington struck to remove the dangerous Ben Wright for 22, caught by Mark Thomas at mid wicket.

Penarth Times:

Jon Ellis defends

The introduction of spin brought further rewards for Penarth as Will Skone accounted for Aman Gandhi before Tom Merilaht fell victim to Thomas for 27 and Richard Skone picked up Chris Willey’s wicket for just a single as Cowbridge fell to 85 for 4.

There were further wickets for Thomas and Richard Skone but Cowbridge fought back through Brett Hounsell whose excellent run-a-ball unbeaten 63 helped his side to a useful 172 for 6.

Tom Sidford fell early in the Penarth reply before an excellent partnership of 63 between Jack Thomas and debutant Tashaffi Shams put the visitors in a strong position.

The Cowbridge breakthrough came when Merilaht picked up the wicket of Thomas and shortly after Shams fell to Tom Williams for a well made 46.

With the required rate nudging up Wellington and Penarth’s second debutant George Hatfield moved the score to 139 before Hatfield departed and a flurry of wickets, including Wellington for 32, gave some cause for Penarth nerves.

The depth of Penarth’s batting came to the rescue however, as Will Skone and Nick Morgan navigated the final 13 runs as Penarth wrapped victory up with 13 balls to spare.

Back on home soil, Cowbridge also provided the opposition for a very strong second XI who secured a more comfortable victory despite being some way short of their best.

Electing to bat first, Penarth started well through left handers Jon Ellis (13) and James Erasmus (27) but a steady stream of wickets always held the rate back slightly.

Captain Gareth Jenkins made 26 as Penarth pressed on but it was down to two youngsters in Greg Cross and Lewis Ingram who lead their team to a commanding position.

Cross made an excellent 50, while Ingram navigated a flurry of wickets that threatened to give Cowbridge hope to make a superb unbeaten 53.

With nine wickets down the support came from another youngster, Rhys Mottram, who made 17 not out in an unbeaten 10th wicket stand of 62 as Penarth closed on 245 for 9.

Cowbridge never really threatened to reach their target, but Penarth’s bowling lacked control and it took the introduction of Tim Miller in the 11th over before the first wicket fell to a straightforward caught and bowled chance.

Tom Pascoe had to wait until the final ball of his nine over spell to pick his only wicket for 16 runs, and Miller grabbed another couple of victims to claim 3 for 48.

Rhys Mottram completed an excellent day’s work with 3 for 31, including Heath Webb for an excellent 47, while the two half-centurians, Ingram and Cross, claimed a wicket apiece.

The wides kept flowing and the tenth wicket proved elusive but Penarth claimed the win by 70 runs.

There was drama aplenty on the neighbouring pitch where the third team were victorious by just 2 runs over Creigiau.

A solid batting performance was led by the club president and Wales Seniors star Peter Docherty who made 64, while the middle order of Nick Viner (57), Huw Hudson (41) and Dan Thacker (31) steered their side to an imposing 233 for 8 from the 40 overs.

Creigiau were in contention throughout as Kit Wilson made 74 and Pete O’Hanlon 51 while chairman Mark Frost was his usually miserly self, his 8 overs yielding just 22. Andrew Graveson bagged a brace of wickets while it was 14 year old left arm spinner Isaac Foster who caught the eye most with a superb spell of 4 for 31.

With things heading the visitors’ way Daniel Angell made what looked like a match-winning 31 not out before Frost and Graveson held their nerve at the death to see their team home by the slimmest of margins.

There were four seasons in one afternoon in Crumlin where the fourths were denied the chance make it a full house of wins by snow and hail after tea.

Luke Summerfield and Avinash Mehrotra bagged a wicket each before skipper Andy Prickett claimed 4 for 32 while Liam Meek made an unbeaten 98 as Crumlin finished on an imposing 252 for 7.

Mehrotra made 24 and Dominic Dwyer 29 in the Penarth reply as the visitors made a solid start to the chase.

But what could have been an interesting finale was denied by the dreadful weather as the storms set in with Conrad Adams and Adam Akhtar not out on 55 and 15 respectively and play was abandoned with Penarth at 134 for 3.

This Saturday sees the first and second teams facing Malpas, with the firsts at home, while the thirds visit Llandaff and the fourths host Cynon Valley CC. You can follow the action by following the club on Twitter and Instagram (@penarthcricket) and facebook.

The club would like to extend their thanks to sponsors David Baker and Co, Curo and Churngold.