The Hundred: Welsh Fire franchise to stay in Cardiff, says Mark Wallace

Welsh Fire lost all four home games in 2022 staged at Cardiff's Sophia Gardens
Welsh Fire lost all four home games, staged at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens, in 2022

Welsh Fire team manager Mark Wallace says he is confident the franchise has a long-term future in Cardiff despite a failed Hundred campaign.

The men’s side lost all eight games while the women managed only one win in six matches.

Wallace has dismissed fears the franchise will move despite a dismal summer.

“I think the Welsh Fire’s long-term future in Cardiff and it is here to stay,” said Wallace.

Cardiff was originally made Fire’s base ahead of Bristol and Taunton with Glamorgan, Gloucestershire and Somerset involved in the franchise.

“The on-field performance is one thing but off field is another and I think that has been brilliant,” said Wallace.

“The games we have had here and the atmosphere and diversity of the crowds is something we have not seen in Wales before.

“The first season of the competition we had restricted crowds, so to have those big crowds this year shows how important Welsh Fire is for cricket in Wales.”

Wallace admitted performances had not been up to scratch with both sides finishing bottom of their tables.

“On the field it was a wholly disappointing campaign, that can happen when we have a short period of time,” added Wallace.

“If you get on a good run things can go your way, get on a bad run and it can be difficult to get back.

  • The Hundred: No Welsh, no Fire

“We got on a bad run, especially with the men’s team. The women’s team played some good cricket and ended up getting beaten in some good games.

“This is still a new format and there are a lot of lessons to be learned. Sometimes the best players in T20 cricket are not necessarily the best in the Hundred format.”

What happened to the star names?

Welsh Fire did not see England star Jonny Bairstow, who was allocated to the franchise but did not play a game because of international commitments.

“It was a huge blow losing Jonny,” added Wallace.

“He was the face of the team and we were hoping to have him for two or three games and that did not quite work out.

“Some teams get lucky in this respect, others don’t.

“If you look at someone like Dawid Malan at Trent Rockets, he has been the leading run scorer in the tournament and available for every game.”

Welsh Fire’s side was selected in the tournament draft. They were let down by leading opening batsmen Joe Clarke and Tom Banton, who managed only 185 runs between them across 14 innings, averaging 12.75 and 13.83 respectively.

South Africa’s David Miller joined having won the Indian Premier League with Gujarat Titans in May, but averaged just 12.16.

“It is difficult to say you picked the wrong players,” added Wallace.

“If you look at the side we had on paper it was a good squad and we were optimistic going into the competition with the side we put together.

“We just could not get our players into any form. Our first two picks in Tom Banton and Joe Clarke never got going at the top of the order to give us the important start.

“From an overseas perspective you had David Miller arriving from a winning IPL campaign but he also did not get going.

“On paper they are good players and will be fantastic players. This snapshot in time they did not get going and that is the jeopardy of putting a draft together.

“It was not through a lack of trying. One of the positives of a poor season is you get some early draft picks and the opportunity to bring in players before anybody else.

“There will be different faces for Welsh Fire on and off the field next year because it is so transient. Hopefully there will be some new results.”

England spinner Alex Hartley joined Welsh Fire for the 2022 season
England spinner Alex Hartley joined Welsh Fire for the 2022 season

Where is the Welsh in the Fire?

Home supporters will be hoping the new faces will mean some Welsh representation in the Fire. There were no Glamorgan players included in this season’s squad, with Michael Hogan and Timm van der Gugten involved in other sides, while Claire Nicholas was the only Welshwoman to make a meaningful contribution for the Fire.

When asked about the lack of Welsh involvement, Wallace said: “The teams are set up through a draft system, and the players who are seen to be the performing players at the time get brought into the teams.

“With my Glamorgan hat on, it’s maybe a reflection of our T20 Blast form in recent seasons that we only had two Glamorgan players across the competition and they were not at Welsh Fire.

“We would love to have more Glamorgan players in the Hundred and more Welsh players in the Welsh Fire side. We have got a decent representation in the women’s team from a Welsh perspective.

“We want as many Welsh players involved as possible and if they are playing for the Welsh Fire, brilliant.”

So what now for the coaching set-up, with head coach Gary Kirsten having overseen two years of failure?

It is highly unlikely the South African will return with the final decision made by the franchise board, which consists of the chief executives of Glamorgan, Gloucestershire and Somerset and independent representatives.

“Gary is an outstanding head coach,” added Wallace.

“His reputation around the world precedes him, as [is the case with] a lot of the other coaching staff also.

“Gary has worked his hardest for the team at Welsh Fire. Sometimes it does not work out.”