Wales bucks history, brings up 100!

Wales bucks history, brings up 100!

Rugby land embraces cricket

Andrew Strauss and Ricky Ponting walk out for the toss at Sophia  Gardens in Cardiff, which became Test cricket’s 100th venue on Wednesday. AFP

The Cardiff stadium is the world's 100th Test venue, the ninth in Britain and the first in Wales. Wales introduced anthems to rugby union, the country's national sport, in 1905 when the Welsh side played New Zealand at Cardiff Arms Park.

The players decided to counter the All Blacks' haka (Maori war dance) by singing Land of my Fathers. The crowd joined in, Wales won the match, and a tradition was born. The Welsh capital greeted the influx of visitors on Wednesday with signs reading "South Wales welcomes New South Wales".

A headline on the front page of the morning daily newspaper Western Mail read: "As Wales welcomes the Ashes we say COME ON ENGLAND (and it's not very often you see that on the front page of this paper)."

Wales first minister Rhodri Morgan, who met both teams before the start of play on Wednesday, alluded to the sometimes fraught relations between a small, proud principality and its neighbour when he welcomed the Australian team on Monday.

"Anyone who understands the tangled history of the United Kingdom will appreciate the delicious irony of this England home game played in Cardiff, capital of Wales," he said. Ancient rivalries between England and Wales were put to one side on Wednesday morning. Instead 16,000 spectators settled down to enjoy one of the world's oldest sporting contests.

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