Cricket in Cardiff is most often a placid affair. The gentle flow of the River Taff matching a sedate nature inside the Swalec Stadium that, on the whole, reflects county cricket around the country. But over the last few weeks of Twenty20 there has been something a little different if you turn up on a Friday night.
The club are hopeful of a record attendance when they take on Northamptonshire. The previous mark for a domestic game in Cardiff is 9,200; a T20 against Gloucestershire in 2010 when Australian fast bowler Shaun Tait made his debut on a balmy Friday night. The ground was a little over half full.
Now all the stars have finally aligned and the club can welcome in the numbers one would hope for. They have a huge catchment area to draw from (and they’re letting anyone over 16 named George in for free in honour of the Prince of Cambridge).
The Northamptonshire fixture is a top of the table meeting, the forecast is excellent (the ECB have struck lucky with the timing of the recent dry spell, although they were due a break on that front) and most crucially it’s on a Friday night. For Friday night really is cricket night, Glamorgan have found. Perhaps, then, it’s a good job the Friends Life t20 is changing to a season-long competition next year.
“When it comes to the debate over T20 whether to play it on certain nights of the week or in a block, from our perspective people have voted with their feet,” Alan Hamer, Glamorgan chief executive, told ESPNcricinfo. “We had a big crowd for the Somerset game two weeks ago and we’re expecting a similar attendance tomorrow.
“We’ve only have two Friday matches this year but for them both to be very well attended tells you something. On Tuesday we had good weather and got 3,200. Similarly against Warwickshire, midweek match, 2,500 turned up.
“People who come on a Friday treat it more as social event, they wouldn’t come midweek. A few years ago we played Northants, both sides were out of the competition and we still ended up with the highest crowd of the season.”
Glamorgan, no longer the Dragons, just plain old Glamorgan, are on the verge of a quarter-final. Should they beat Northamptonshire or Gloucestershire they will be very unlucky not to qualify from the group stage for only the third time. Both remaining matches are at home and the cricket they have produced suggests they should be confident.
But how much does all of that actually matter?. It seems spectators want an occasion, a fete, a party, rather than a sporting event and something that fits in with the working week. And they can all come on a Friday night. No bucking broncos, walk-on girls or darts players – cringeworthy gimmicks tried by various counties – are going to drag them out at any other time.
Glamorgan’s players might be a little miffed at the suggestion that their efforts alone are not enough to woo the crowds because they’ve bucked their ideas up this season. It is five years since their last appearance in the knockout stage. And that was by default. Yorkshire were thrown out of the 2008 competition for fielding an illegible player. Glamorgan took their place but lost to Durham.
Nine years ago, therefore, was their only bona fide journey beyond the group stage, when Warwickshire were turned over in Cardiff in front of 6,000 packing out the old Sophia Gardens ground.
Could Glamorgan add another 11,000 to that figure for a home quarter-final this year? They would certainly like the opportunity and have a strong case to do so, having won five from five to begin the competition in style. They only lost to Northamptonshire at Wantage Road off the last ball but it proved more than an aberration as thumpings by Somerset and Gloucestershire followed.
The campaign was back on course after a well-paced chase against Worcestershire – a fourth successful chase in their five wins. Guiding them home on Tuesday were two experience heads, Jim Allenby and Murray Goodwin, both of whom the club are keen to secure for next season but both of whom are considering their futures. Allenby was vexed when he was dropped as T20 captain and 40-year-old Goodwin wants a season longer than the one-year deal Glamorgan have offered him.
But success on the field may simply be a happy sideshow for the Friday night soiree that appeals to the locals. Glamorgan are gradually building the largest garden party west of the Severn Bridge.