Alan Jones recalls Glamorgan's 1969 Championship title 50 years on
Glamorgan won the County Championship for the second time 50 years ago and their success hinged on two games arguably as dramatic as any England's Ashes team have played this summer.
The triumph of 1969 came 21 years after the Welsh county's first title and was achieved with 10 home-grown players in the squad, a source of pride to this day for opening batsman Alan Jones.
"It was special to have so many Welsh boys. I'm proud of it and a lot of the other players are proud of it. Playing for Glamorgan is like representing Wales really," Jones recalled.
Alongside him was younger brother Eifion, Glamorgan's leading wicket-keeper that season, who was to play a significant part as events unfolded.
Jones junior's contribution included a first century for the club against Somerset in June.
"To have myself and Eifion in the team to win the Championship in 1969 was very special for us," said Alan Jones.
Poor weather played its part in Glamorgan drawing their first three games of the season and they did not win a game until the end of May, with four more draws and two wins the following month.
But beating leaders Gloucestershire comfortably at Sophia Gardens in July kick-started Glamorgan's campaign with the double following in mid-August at Cheltenham, where Trinidadian batsman Bryan Davies scored 67 and medium pace bowler Malcolm Nash took 6-37.
That reduced Gloucestershire's lead to eight points and Jones said: "Everybody started believing in themselves that we had a very good chance of winning the Championship."
There were four matches left to play - three victories would pretty much guarantee the title,
In the first, at St Helen's in Swansea against Middlesex, Glamorgan batted second with the Pakistan batsman Majid Jahangir Khan hitting the 122 that proved to be the foundation of victory.
"I always rated Majid Khan to be one of the better overseas players that Glamorgan had," said Jones.
"His knock that day was absolutely superb. The wicket was turning quite a bit and (Middlesex bowler Fred) Titmus on a turning wicket was always a handful.
"I found batting quite hard that day, but Majid made batting look very easy and got a magnificent 100 for us," said Jones.
Captain Tony Lewis (46) and Bryan Davis (50) helped overtake Middlesex's score of 301, posting 310-6 after 86 overs before Lewis declared.
Glamorgan bowler Tony Cordle then took three quick wickets as Middlesex responded to leave the hosts needing 196 to win and two sessions in which to get them.
A middle-order collapse led to concern that Glamorgan's chance was gone.
"I remember Tony Lewis saying, 'I think we've lost the game and lost the Championship' and I remember Malcolm Nash in the corner saying, 'Captain, we haven't lost this game yet'," said Jones.
The drama also disrupted the television schedules during an era in which viewers had a choice of three channels.
The live feed was kept on air, knocking the children's favourite Jackanory off the schedule with the former Glamorgan captain of the 1948 side, Wilfred Wooller, who was commentating, apologising to viewers.
Nash and keeper Eifion Jones were the last recognised batsman at the crease, with Glamorgan still needing 38 runs.
Jones remembered: "Titmus was bowling well, the Middlesex side thought that they were going to bowl us out quite easily, but Eifion and Malcolm thought differently."
Nash and Jones hit 14 in three overs, leaving seven needed off 12 deliveries.
In the penultimate over Eifion Jones hit a huge six to tie the match and, needing one to win, he soon smashed another six to seal the famous win.
"It was a magnificent win," said Jones.
"What was good about that side was that if your top-order batsmen failed, your lower-order batsmen seemed to click."
The result saw Glamorgan top the table for the first time in the 1969 season, setting up a phenomenal climax.
The setting was another packed St Helen's on a glorious August Bank Holiday.
Essex had outplayed Glamorgan for much of the game, declaring when 95 ahead. Glamorgan responded with 284 and declared, leaving Essex with a target of 189.
Five overs from time Essex had three wickets in hand and the game seemed to be slipping from Glamorgan's grasp.
But after Don Shepherd took two wickets the game came down to the last over, with Essex eight wickets down and with seven runs required.
Off-spinner Roger Davis was given the job of bowling the final over and had Gordon Barker stumped off his third delivery.
It came down to the final ball with Glamorgan needing a wicket to prevent the draw and Essex needing three to win.
John Lever played the ball to third man where Ossie Wheatley collected and threw to the keeper's end, allowing Eifion Jones to sweep off the bails - running out Lever for victory.
It was reminiscent of the tight corners England cricketers have found themselves in this year, a comparison Jones agreed with.
"That's what it was like, watching Ben Stokes and the England players in the World Cup brought back memories of 1969 at St Helen's. It really did bring back very happy memories.
"Ossie Wheatley was never the quickest fielder, but what he did have was a good throwing arm and he threw it into Eifion and it was a great take. It was one of the most exciting games that was played at St Helen's in 1969."
In their last home match of the season against Worcestershire at Sophia Gardens the wicket had been inconsistent, with batsmen Davis, Khan and Eifion Jones all struck by the bowlers.
Jones recalled: "The wicket in Cardiff wasn't the best, we'd only moved there in 1967 and the square hadn't settled. It wasn't the best to play on, especially for batsmen."
However, Khan went on to score 156 in the first innings, a performance that Lewis later described as the finest innings he had ever seen by a Glamorgan cricketer.
Jones said: "To get 156 on that sort of wicket, with a lot of pressure and having to play like that against that quality of bowlers - it was an absolutely superb innings."
Cordle and Shepherd took nine wickets between them as Worcestershire were bowled out in their second innings for Glamorgan to celebrate their title.
Even so, the achievement did not lead to some of the best performers on the county circuit earning England call-ups.
The situation did not go unnoticed by one of the game's foremost authorities, former BBC commentator John Arlott.
He found it inexplicable that Shepherd, who had taken more wickets than any other uncapped player at an average of 21, was overlooked.
Only Tony Lewis got to play at Test level, eventually being asked to lead England on tour to India and Pakistan in 1972-3. He remains the last man to have captained an England men's side on his debut.
Alan Jones played for England against the Rest of the World in 1970, a series organised to replace the cancelled South Africa tour.
'Not popular with England selectors'
However, his cap status was later reduced to non-Test, an act Arlott also described as "a massive con trick - as cynical as any ever pulled in cricket".
He felt that Jones and Shepherd were "the finest cricketers of the post-war or perhaps any other period never to win a Test cap".
Jones said: "It's always been said that Glamorgan players weren't the most popular with the England selectors, in those days you had to have played for one of the London sides to be in that set-up.
"It's a bit unfortunate for Glamorgan players, but that's water under the bridge."
Shepherd, who had taken his 2,000th wicket in the Worcestershire match, mopped up the last two wickets and at 15.08 BST on 5 September, 1969 Glamorgan had won their second County Championship title.
They were the first team to be unbeaten in a season since Lancashire in 1930. Two and a half minutes later the crowd that had congregated around the pavilion broke out in song with the Welsh national anthem.
When asked about that particular moment, Jones has very clear memories: "You can remember those occasions; they don't come round very often.
"The crowd was absolutely terrific, it was a very special day."
Glamorgan would have to wait a further 28 years for another "special day", when Matthew Maynard skippered Glamorgan to the Championship crown in 1997.