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Robert Croft: Glamorgan have the right blend of youth and experience for Championship challenge

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: April 03, 2014

Glamorgan's new overseas signing Jacques Rudolph boasts 16,000 first-class runs.

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GLAMORGAN will head into the new County Championship season boasting a fine blend of experience and youth.

That is the view of former skipper Robert Croft, the county's spin bowling coach, ahead of Sunday's second division opener against Surrey at The Oval.

The Welsh county will be without their new overseas signing Jacques Rudolph for the trip to south London — the former South Africa Test star is competing in an Ironman competition in his homeland this weekend.

But when he arrives, the 32-year-old will add 48 Test caps, 45 one-day internationals and more than 16,000 first-class runs to a line-up that already includes experienced performers like Michael Hogan, Mark Wallace, Murray Goodwin, Dean Cosker and Jim Allenby.

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"We have got a good blend," said Croft. "If you look at the average age of our team, it is probably about 30 and I believe that is a good age to have.

"We have Jacques Rudolph to come in as an opening batsman and when you throw in the likes of Murray Goodwin, Jim Allenby, Mark Wallace, Michael Hogan, that is a really strong spine to the team.

"It is not too dissimilar to the side of 1997 (that won the county championship), when you look at the make-up of that side.

"But the top end of the tree tends to look after itself, what we want to see is the middle and younger band of players, the likes of Ben Wright, Gareth Rees, Will Bragg, Andrew Salter and Ruairdhri Smith, make an impact."

Pembrokeshire spinner Salter provided a glimpse of his potential last summer.

He took a wicket with his first ball in Championship cricket and played a significant part in Glamorgan's 40-over campaign, which ended in a rare appearance at Lord's.

With Croft having now retired and 36-year-old Cosker preparing for his 19th season with the county, the search to fill the considerable boots of Glamorgan's long-serving spin twins is high on the priority list.

"Andrew has got a lot of promise and I am sure he will want to get his teeth into playing more four-day cricket, which is good for competition in the spin department," added Croft.

"He is a very good cricketer, we know his main skill is his bowling, but he is also very good in the field and his batting is more than capable which is an important part of the spin-bowler's armoury.

"We also have a young off-spinner in Keiran Bull from Carmarthen who plays for Neath and he is someone with a lot of potential.

"The spinners have worked hard over the winter, but four-day county cricket at the start of the season doesn't always help them."

Looking forward to the start of the Championship campaign, Croft added: "There shouldn't be too many excuses now because we have got key players in the squad.

"We have picked up a couple of injuries in the bowling department which is a little bit of a challenge for us, but hopefully we can get a couple of lads back fit pretty soon.

"We have prepared well, like we always do. Now it is about confidence and going out and playing structured, strong, competitive cricket."

Meanwhile, former Glamorgan paceman Simon Jones will join the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Owais Shah in today's Caribbean Premier League draft.

The six-franchise competition, which begins its second season in July, is the latest Twenty20 competition to draw star players, with the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Shahid Afridi and Chris Gayle set to appear.

Former England and Glamorgan batsman Matthew Maynard will return to coach the St Lucia Zouks, and helped persuade 2005 Ashes winner Jones to sign up for the tournament.

"I've got fond memories of playing in the Caribbean for England, and Matthew Maynard has told me very good things about last year's tournament," Jones said.

"I still feel I've got a lot to offer in the shortest form of the game and I'd love to sample the unique atmosphere of the CPL."

Meanwhile, Glamorgan's bowlers had a good time yesterday as they dismissed Cardiff MCCU for just 112 in their three-day game. Will Owen, Allenby, John Glover and Cosker all took two wickets.

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