Kiran Carlson looks like Joaquin Phoenix might if he ever took on happy roles. And maybe, if Hollywood ever decides to make a sports movie about Glamorgan’s Royal London One-Day Cup win, Phoenix will finally have one.
Don’t tell the Glamorgan captain that this competition doesn’t mean much any more. You could see how much it meant as he tracked the ball, flying from Liam Trevaskis’s bat into the hands of Matt Selman. Carlson was right next to him as the catch landed, and right on top of him a second later; the score was 238 for nine, and Carlson could finally be sure that Durham’s hopes were extinguished.
The final wicket fell to Michael Hogan with the very next delivery. For the 40-year-old who has been Glamorgan’s best bowler this season, it was the perfect ending. “I’ve been trying for 17 seasons to get this!” said Hogan, as Glamorgan prepared to lift a one-day cup competition for the first time, at their fourth attempt in a final. “We probably came in as underdogs, we didn’t have the greatest of starts but momentum’s massive in this tournament.”
Durham, with their gold-plated top six, had snuck two returning Hundred bowlers into this game at the last moment, Matty Potts and Ben Raine of the Northern Superchargers playing their first game of the tournament here. Glamorgan, meanwhile, had stuck by the more junior players who had seen them through their semi-final against Essex on Monday.
It was a truly ensemble performance from the Welsh side, and a victory margin of 58 runs belied the sense, at the halfway mark, that their total of 297 might not be enough. No batting side in this tournament can match Durham’s, whose opening pair, Graham Clark and Alex Lees, are their two highest runscorers by a country mile.
You could understand why Selman looked tormented when he dropped Clark at first slip on 12. Clark cut and pulled consecutive boundaries the very next over, then straight drove Hogan with some sickeningly deft handiwork.
This was a good pitch, and a fast outfield, and Carlson brought on the spinner Andrew Salter early; when Salter bowled Lees with a beautifully straightening delivery with the score on 47, it seemed to induce a collective rush of blood. First Clark, suddenly unanchored, clubbed a ball straight to long on, then the Durham captain, Scott Borthwick, was duped by a slower ball from James Weighell. When David Bedingham followed him for a five-ball duck, Durham had lost their four most in-form batsmen for 30 runs.
There was no way Durham were giving up without a fight, however. After their three Championships and three one-day titles between 2007 and 2014, there’s been a touch of Pharaoh’s dream about the club narrative – seven years of feast, seven more of famine.
The Royal London One-Day Cup was the last trophy they had their hands on before their finances imploded – before a charybdis of relegation, points deductions and salary caps sucked them from Championship contention to the bottom of the second division, and scattered their best players to Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Surrey.
Borthwick, Raine and Chris Rushworth all played in that Lord’s final; all have been instrumental in their recovery. The never-say-die spirit they have instilled in the side was on display here, as first Cameron Bancroft and then Sean Dickson scored run-a-ball half-centuries to keep their side in the hunt. But Carlson rotated his bowlers intelligently, and trusted each to fulfil their role. Salter, who ended up with three for 42, hurried through his overs like a kid who could not wait to bowl his next delivery. He admitted later it was probably nerves.
What the partisans in the crowd lacked in numbers they made up for in individual pieces of encouragement and advice, which floated across the field direct to their recipients. A midweek final in Nottingham was never going to replicate the atmosphere of the Lord’s showpieces of the past. But the crowd grew steadily throughout the afternoon, and there was something defiantly old school about the opening of this game, as if it had been conjured direct from the imaginations of the county faithful.
Nibbling line and length, out of fashion in white-ball cricket since the dawn of Big Batting, has enjoyed a comeback in this tournament, and Rushworth bowled out his entire 10 overs from the start, after Durham had felt speckles of rain in the air and decided to bowl first.
Hamish Rutherford tried to go after the 35-year-old, lifting his first bad ball over square for six. Four balls later, he attempted the same thing again. The ball dropped into fine leg’s hands and Durham had removed the opposition’s most dangerous batsman for 15.
Like a vampire glamouring its victim, Rushworth’s stint seemed to be mesmerising Glamorgan into a dead stall until Carlson strode out at 51 for two to break the spell. The Glamorgan captain took a particular liking to Luke Doneathy, scooping him up and over long on for six, then helping the next off his hips for four. Doneathy’s two overs had gone for 22, and Borthwick decided it was time to bring himself on.
Faced with his opposite number bowling leg spin at him, Carlson went full alpha on his way to 82. He skipped down the pitch and spanked the Durham captain into the narrow passageway between the pavilion and the Hound Road stand; same shot next ball, over mid-on for four. It had taken Glamorgan 21 overs to reach their 100 – they reached 150 in the next six.
Three quick wickets for Potts – including Selman and Billy Root in consecutive balls – checked Glamorgan’s progress, bringing Joe Cooke and Tom Cullen to the wicket in almost identical circumstances to the semi-final: 160 on the board, 20 overs still to bat. Carlson had told his team that 300 was a par score, and it was a sequence of useful contributions from the tail, totalling nearly a century between them, that got Glamorgan there in the end.
For Borthwick, meanwhile, there was the consolation of being named the Royal London Cup player of the year. “I’m incredibly proud of the boys today,” he said, “and not just today, but over the course of the competition.
“It feels like Durham are back on track now, we’ve played some outstanding cricket this season and we’re really proud of what we’ve achieved. We just kept losing wickets at the wrong time.”