There are fewer things in life more optimistic than the start of a Glamorgan CCC season.
And once again, as they take to the field at Leicestershire today to kick off the LV County Championship, hopes are high that this year may be the year to end eight trophy-less seasons.
After last season’s Winter of Discontent the 2011/12 off-season has been a relatively smooth ride, albeit apart from the would he – wouldn't he, to-ing and fro-ing of the Captain whose appointment helped spark last season’s upheaval, Alviro Peteresen.
His decision to reject a return to Wales in favour of pursuing a summer with Essex has meant a refreshed overseas line-up, capped by the marquee signing of 21 test-capped Marcus North on a two year deal.
North, who the county are hopeful will recover from a finger injury picked up Down Under will make up a three-way overseas package that includes the lesser known pairing of Michael Hogan and Moises Henriques, the latter of which comes in on a short term deal as cover for North.
The county, re-branded the Welsh Dragons for the one day competitions, are hopeful of vast improvement on a 2011 summer in which they failed to finishes above mid-table in any form of the game.
So, with the 2012 season looming, Nick Hartley assesses the key men Glamorgan will look to as they try to put that right.
Consistent runs at the top of the order have been hard to come by for Glamorgan in recent seasons and the signing of a man who can count five test hundreds in his career achievements will go some way to helping that. That is, if he recovers quickly enough from the finger injury that will mean he’ll miss the start of the season. North may not have set the Test arena alight but his experience will be invaluable to Glamorgan’s youthful lineup. He also has fond memories of the Swalec after scoring an unbeaten 125 in the 2009 Ashes visit. Could be the key to Glamorgan’s Championship aspirations.
The 30 year old wicket-keeper has been almost as regular a fixture at the Swalec stadium as the ground itself and starts his13th first class season in the new role of Captain. A promising pre-season has already seen scores of 103 and 71* against Kent and Oxford UCCE, something the Abergavenny man will need to match in 2012 if he is to fulfil the potential he has always shown. As always his glove-work behind the stumps will leave Glamorgan with a safe pair of hands should the chances come.
Since bursting onto the scene at 17 years old, Harris has emerged as a genuine frontline seamer and Glamorgan will be hoping he can replicate the success of his 63 wicket 2010 again this summer. His presence in the longer forms of the game will add control and pace to the Dragons' attack, that is if he can pull himself through the mystery groin problem that means he’ll miss the start of the season. A fit Harris is a match for anything division two can offer. But will the physios have him back on the field in time?
Jones was one of the few highlights in a dismal T20 campaign last season. 15 wickets at an average of just over 17 included best figures of 3/18. Not bad for a man with just 20 senior appearances to his name. His development will this year be boosted by the return of the experienced Simon Jones. If he can add a few of Jones senior's tricks to his armoury, he could make a big impact as Glamorgan look to make it to the T20 finals day, set for their home ground in August.
If his namesake Alex is the talent-in-waiting, then Simon Jones will be the elder statesman of the shorter forms of the game. After returning the Swalec after four injury-ravaged season the 2005 Ashes winning bowler will focus on helping the Dragons in the one-day formats. When loose he’ll comfortably register 90 mph. The effects of injury mean crowds may be slightly disappointed if they’re hoping for that this time around. However, his height and swing will nevertheless be a key weapon this season. He says he feels fitter now than any time since he left. Batsmen hoping to get the T20 “shovel” out, beware.