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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 18:27 GMT 19:27 UK
Welsh savour sweet success
Robert Croft crashes another shot to the boundary against England
Croft was awarded the man-of-the-match award

Whatever the sport and whatever the occasion, a Welsh victory over England always tastes that little bit sweeter.

And when the win comes entirely against the odds and in such style, Welsh supporters can never be accused of hiding their delight in embarrassing the big neighbours from over the border home.

Such occasions have been few and far between to say the least in recent years.

Since the footballers have been denied the opportunity to meet since 1984, the responsibility for derby success on the sporting field has been in the hands of the rugby players.

And we all know too well who holds the upper hand there.

So when Wales secured an eight-wicket victory over England with 57 balls to spare on Monday, the delight was plain to see all around Sophia Gardens.

England's Paul Collingwood is bowled by Robert Croft
England wickets fell at regular intervals
It was extra special too considering this was the first official match between the two nations.

England, on the other hand, were understandably not amused.

With the exception of captain Nasser Hussain and Darren Gough, this was the side expected to take on one-day specialists India and Sri Lanka in the forthcoming NatWest series.

So seeing Steve James and David Hemp coping so comfortably with the England bowling attack to forge a match-winning partnership of 132 will not have pleased coach Duncan Fletcher

Fletcher became a firm favourite with the Glamorgan faithful during his time in charge at the club, but his former players handed him no favours as they wore the colours of Wales for the first time.

The Zimbabwean had warned his players beforehand that Wales would want to give his side "a good hiding", and no one epitomised that Welsh determination to win more than Robert Croft.

The Glamorgan off-spinner could not have hoped for a better shop window in front of the England selectors ahead of next year's World Cup.

He certainly made the most of the opportunity as he produced a man-of-the-match display.

England's Alec Stewart
Stewart's 38 runs were not enough to save England
The relish with which he celebrated his two wickets gave evidence - if any was in fact ever needed - that this was nothing less than a full-blooded competitive match.

Croft, with 50 one-day international England caps to his name, used all his experience and every trick in the book to unsettle the England batsmen.

Alec Stewart was given particular special attention from Croft as the off-spinner varied his pace, bowled from a yard behind the crease and even paused in mid-action.

But Croft's most telling contribution came with the bat.

Even though he was bowled for just 30, his aggressive style put Wales on the front foot early in their innings as they chased England's total of 189.

Matthew Hoggard was handed particular punishment in the third over as Croft blasted four consecutive fours.

This brought predictable chants of "Crofty for England" from the crowd as they began to smell the scent of a possible historic victory.

He lost his wicket to James Kirtley in the very next over, but was given a standing ovation from a small section in front of the pavilion which a few minutes earlier had finally found their voice.

But this was by no means a one-man show.

The five other Welsh bowlers each played their part in restricting the visitors to such a disappointingly low score.

England would have hoped for a total approaching 270 on a friendly wicket, but the fact that the first four wickets fell to catches suggests the batsmen failed to show enough respect to the Welsh attack.

Wales captain Steve James was in spectacular form
James finished on 83 not out
South African Jacques Kallis - an adopted Welshman for the day - was expected to be Wales' joker in the pack.

The world class all-rounder took the first wicket of the day to remove dangerman Nick Knight.

But thanks to the imperious form of James and Hemp at the crease, Kallis was not forced to bat until Wales were only 13 runs short of victory.

Before the game began, Croft said he wanted the match to become a permanent fixture on the cricket calendar.

And after witnessing such a comprehensive Welsh victory, few inside a sun-baked Sophia Gardens would disagree with him.

The only snag, however, is that England will probably not be too keen to venture back over the Severn Bridge ever again.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Pat Murphy
"England just didn't get enough runs"
Man-of-the-match Robert Croft
"It was a banana skin for England"
NatWest series: England, India, Sri Lanka

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