Ireland came within, in horse racing parlance, a short head of bringing off an incredible double in successive days over English First Class counties. If two overs, in either innings, had gone Ireland's way, the match could have been won.
Glamorgan should have made 300 plus, having won the toss and batted on a good pitch. After 30 overs they were 179 for three. The usual theory is to double the score after 30 overs (this would have produced 358) in the remaining 20 overs with so many wickets in hand. The fourth wicket pair had already put on 54 in 12 overs. Then Johnston, aided by McCallan, stemmed the flow. Johnston, at this point, bowled eight overs for 21 and three wickets. After 40 overs the score was 215 for six. Only 35 came in the last 10 overs for three more wickets. This was a great recovery.
When batting Ireland were never really winning. The fifth wicket fell in the 25th over at 112. 139 more were needed in the second half of the innings. At this point Gillespie, playing beautifully in his 100th match (the sixth Irish player to reach this figure), and McCallan put on 74 in some 15 overs. When the fifth wicket fell this writer would have sent in Johnston, followed by Langford-Smith, ahead of McCallan. Both of these could hit better than McCallan. The message to Gillespie would have been "don't get out, we will play around you". If one or both of the hitters had come off, then McCallan and Gillespie could have pushed it around without undue pressure to win. Johnston had damaged a finger bowling, and this may account for his late arrival. Certainly Gillespie and McCallan did wonderfully well but they got out within two overs of each other, leaving the last three to get 59 in nine overs. They did well to get to within 15 runs and there were nine balls still to be bowled.
This was Ireland's fourth match against Glamorgan. The last one was at Castle Avenue in 1998 in the Benson & Hedges Cup. Croft (now Glamorgan's captain) and Cosker played in that match but McCallan was Ireland's only survivor.
Croft and Cosgrove, an Australian who had represented Australia at Limited Overs level, began on a sunny but chilly day. Johnston bowled two overs for 16 runs before bringing Langford-Smith on to partner McCoubrey. In his two overs Johnston bowled two no balls which, with the free hits, cost six runs in all. After seven overs the score was 57 and Cosgrove had hit four fours, Croft two. Langford-Smith, like Johnston, only bowled two overs and they cost 22. McCoubrey conceded 31 runs in four overs, 12 of them off the last of these, both batsmen hitting a boundary. McCoubrey was not recalled. Botha replaced McCoubrey and Langford-Smith bowled the 10th over at the other end. Cosgrove hit him for a square four and then came down the wicket to hit a straight six. This over cost 14 and the 10 over score was 84. Langford-Smith also was not recalled after conceding 36 runs in three overs.
In their three matches to date McCoubrey and Langford-Smith had poor records. McCoubrey has conceded 74 runs in only 13 overs without taking a wicket. Langford-Smith's record is even worse, bowling 13.4 overs conceding 114 runs and taking a solitary wicket.
Botha took the first wicket in his second over. Croft hit across a slower ball and was bowled. 86-1-30. Wharf came in and Cosgrove went to 51 out of 89 in 40 balls in Botha's third over. Saqlain came on for over 12. In his second over (14th) Glamorgan went from 96 to 108 with successive sixes from Cosgrove, one over mid-on and the next over mid-off. Saqlain however took the second wicket in his next over (16th) when Langford-Smith took a catch at long-on off Wharf without having to move. 115-2-10.
Powell, who had made a century on his debut, joined Cosgrove but the third wicket fell in Saqlain's next over (18th). Cosgrove failed to carry the long-on boundary and it was Morgan now stationed there. 125-3-75. Cosgrove faced only 57 balls and had three sixes and seven fours. The Irish were glad to see his back and he really should not have got out at that point. Peng, ex Durham and now 23, was next. It is felt that he has not fulfilled his youthful promise. He did very well in this innings scoring 42 (second highest score) and putting on 72 in 17 overs with Powell. The stand consolidated the innings and had 42 singles and only four fours, three of them to Peng.
Afridi came on for over 19 and bowled six overs for 32. Saqlain went off after six overs (two for 23) and McCallan came on for over 24. The 25 over score was 154. After 30 overs it was 179 at which point Ireland feared 300 plus. Then came Johnston. In his first two overs of this spell only eight singles accrued. Then he took a wicket in his third over back. Powell flicked to leg and had his off stump removed. 197-4-34. Hemp, a left-hander, drove his first ball to Morgan at square cover. 197-5-0. Wicket keeper Wallace played out the over. Johnston was not finished. In his next over (37th) he took his third wicket for no runs in seven balls. Peng played across the line and was LBW. 200-6-42. His innings lasted 63 balls. 300 was now, hopefully, only a Glamorgan dream as only 14 overs remained and six wickets were down.
21 year old Grant was next and he had no great record behind him. In five overs he and Wallace put on only 19. The 40 over score was 215. Saqlain had come on for McCallan (seven overs for 28 runs). In his third over Wallace, the non-striker, was run out. Grant played a ball to Gillespie in the covers and Wallace did not beat the throw to the keeper. 219-7-8. Left hander Davies joined Grant but they could only manage 14 runs in almost five overs. Johnston bowled out his 10 overs (3-37) and Botha and Afridi bowled the last five overs. Afridi's first ball (47th over) bowled Grant. 233-8-18. His sixth ball squared up Cosker who was LBW. 235-9-1. With three overs left it was hoped to finish the job. Davies and Test bowler Jones (son of Jeff, who had played for Wales against Ireland, as well as having been a Test player himself) survived to add 15 runs by mean of 11 singles, a wide and a no ball which cost three. After 179 for three in over 30, Ireland were pleased to have done well. The wicket takers, Johnston, Saqlain and Shahid had all done well. Of the seven bowlers used only McCoubrey and Langford-Smith were expensive, 67 runs in seven overs. Only 5 wides were bowled.
At 2.40 Joyce and Bray started for Ireland to the bowling of Davies (fast medium) and the very fast Jones. The first ball of the latter's over (2nd) dismissed Joyce, caught at slip. 2-1-1. Morgan started well and hit fours off each bowler while Bray took two fours off Jones, although Davies bowled two maidens in his first four overs. Then Morgan top edged a hook at Jones (too fast for this shot) and was caught at slip running back. 30-2-13. With Botha in disaster, which bordered on farce, struck in the 11th over. Bray snicked a ball from Davies which went past the wicket keeper pursued by Jones, who stopped the ball by means of a back heel about a foot from the boundary. His impetus took Jones into the fence behind the boundary. Jones turned and steadied himself. Meanwhile Bray had got to the bowler's end. On turning he thought the ball had gone for four. Bray ambled up the pitch and stopped half way for words with Botha. Then to his horror, Bray saw the ball half way from the strong-armed Jones on its way to the wicket keeper. He was run out by a distance. Ireland has only had one hat trick - in 1875 by a bowler. Now Bray had completed a hat trick of run outs - two of them his own fault. 34-3-16.
Afridi hit two fours off the three balls remaining in this Davies over. One (his first ball) went over the bowler's head, the second to long-on. In Davies next over (13th) 13 runs came up and 50 was up. Botha square cut a four, Afridi skied to fine leg but the keeper could not reach the ball. Two balls later came an Afridi six over mid-wicket. The stand put on 23 in 24 balls. Cosgrove came on (military medium) and his third ball was snicked by Botha and caught by a diving keeper. 52-4-8. Gillespie was next and he took part in two stands which stopped the rot and gave Ireland some hope. Wharf (13 limited overs matches for England) came on bowling fast medium. Gillespie played a maiden from Cosgrove. In Wharf's second over (18th) Gillespie snicked a four and Afridi hit a four over the bowler's head and snicked another wide of the keeper's right hand. The 20 overs score was 88 so 163 was needed in 30 overs, not far short of the required rate of five runs an over.
At 100 Cosker (slow left arm) who had been on two England "A" tours came on for Cosgrove. Afridi hit him for a six to wide mid wicket which brought him to 53 out of 108 in only 48 balls (three sixes and four fours). After adding a single Afridi got out at just the wrong time and in the wrong way. He took two steps down to Cosker, tried to carry the long-on boundary, and failed to do so. 112-5-54. McCallan joined Gillespie with 139 required from 154 balls with five wickets left.
This pair had the highest stand of the innings, 74. It occupied 92 balls, which, at least, lifted the rate within the stand to five runs per over. 41 of the runs were in singles and each batsman hit a four. Croft bowled three overs for nine runs. Then came a tragedy for Glamorgan and England. Jones came back for the 34th over at 145. He pulled up lame after one ball and retired, Cosgrove finishing the over. The 36th over saw Gillespie hit a four to long-off, the first boundary since Afridi's six in over 23. Wharf and Croft came back to bowl. The 39 over score was 182 so 69 now needed in 11 overs. Gillespie had gone to 50 in 88 balls in this over. In 99 innings Gillespie now had one century and 17 fifties. He had played really well but now he needed to accelerate and, above all, not get out when a win so much depended on him. Unfortunately he did neither.
He hit Wharf for two twos in over 40. Then a bouncer was bowled at him. He swayed away to leg but the ball moved slightly from leg to off. Gillespie did not drop his bat low enough. The ball hit his thumb and the keeper took a fine catch diving to his left. 186-6-54. Gillespie's innings took 70 balls but had only two fours. Davies returned for Wharf and his first ball had McCallan out pushing to silly mid-off. His 30 came in 54 balls but only one four. 192-7-30. With Langford-Smith joining Johnston 59 were needed in 53 balls. In 30 balls from Davies and Croft this stand realised 27. With five overs left 39 were needed. Then Wharf came back for over 46. Johnston hit him for four to mid wicket (the only four of the stand) but was given out caught at the wicket next ball. A video recording showed his bat a long way from the ball. 219-8-16. With Saqlain, who can bat, coming in, 32 were needed in four overs.
Cosgrove returned for Croft for over 47 but only five singles were scored. Each batsman hit a four in Wharf's 10th over and nine runs came from it, but also the ninth wicket. Saqlain was bowled trying for another four. 233-9-6. 13 balls remained to get 18 runs. McCoubrey played out Wharf's last ball. Could Langford-Smith retain the strike and score 18 in two overs. Davies came back and Langford-Smith hit a two but, next ball, was caught at long-on looking for a much needed six. A few feet further and 10 would have been needed in nine balls. It could have been an Irish win but the Irish bowlers did better than their batsmen.
Glamorgan used six bowlers and five of them took wickets. Only Wharf bowled 10 overs. He took the most wickets, three, but at a cost of 67. Croft and Cosker bowled economically and Davies went for five runs an over.
Glamorgan again provided superb hospitality for all the Irish, including supporters.