First-team coach Jim Troughton shared the general frustration as Warwickshire’s Royal London Cup match against Lancashire at Blackpool was washed out after just 50 balls.
In a rotten piece of luck for Blackpool CC, after a succession of fine days, and with several more forecast ahead, the Stanley Park club’s solitary day of scheduled county cricket in 2018 coincided with an isolated day of heavy rain.
Put in, Lancashire had started purposefully with Keaton Jennings and Alex Davies taking advantage of a fast outfield to add a run-a-ball 50. They were parted by Henry Brookes’s second ball, which Davies lifted to Aaron Thomason at deep mid-wicket to leave the score 50 for one from 8.2 overs, then just as new batsman Karl Brown was taking guard, rain then began to fall. It never relented.
Very frustrating for all – the host club, the good-sized crowd, including plenty of Warwickshire fans, and the Bears’ team. Troughton’s side is now left with a record of a win, a defeat and a washout from three games as they look ahead to the visit to Nottinghamshire on Sunday.
“It was frustrating to have the game washed out,” the coach said. “But it’s part of the nature of the game and the competition that you might lose the odd game in a group to the weather and that keeps all the teams nice and tight in the pack and makes the groups more interesting.
“Now we go up to Nottingham and whenever we go to Trent Bridge we always have a good game so I know the lads are very excited by it. It’s a big-scoring ground and they are a strong side but we can swing punches as well as they can and it will be nice to have Chris Woakes available again which is only going to make us stronger.
“With plenty of guys in form and pitching for selection we have had a lot of decisions to make this season and having a quality player like Woakesy back in the mix only adds to them.”
Patel: "We've got a lot of guys contributing"
The Bears travel north with a record of won one, lost one in the tournament after following a 57-run home defeat to Derbyshire with a five-wicket win at Headingley.
After a disappointing opening day in the group, Patel’s side bounced back in style – a style which the captain wants to see delivered again at Stanley Park.
Players are going into the 2nd XI and scoring runs and taking wickets and that’s brilliant because it shows not only that they are good players but their attitude is spot on.
“It was a very good performance at Headingley,” he said. “In the first game we never got going and the game just got away from us but we had a good chat about that and bounced back with a really solid display.
“We didn’t get the early wickets you always want but stayed patient and then kept picking up wickets to keep a brake on the scoring. Then the guys chased the target perfectly. Ed Pollock and Jonathan Trott took down Bresnan, which put them on the back foot, and then Trotty, Sam Hain and Adam Hose played amazingly well.
“It was good stuff and, though we know we are miles away from the finished product, showed what we are capable of. We’ve got a lot of guys contributing at the moment which is exactly what we want. Players are going into the 2nd XI and scoring runs and taking wickets and that’s brilliant because it shows not only that they are good players but their attitude is spot on.”
Next up comes the Red Rose and the Bears’ first senior limited-overs match at Blackpool. They have played ten championship matches there, starting in 1908 when they lost by two wickets and took minus one point from the game, through to 2006, a rain-affected draw in which Moeen Ali made the fourth of his five championship appearances for the club.
But tomorrow will be Warwickshire’s first white-ball visit – and also a new experience for the vastly-experienced captain.
“It’s my first time there and I’m really looking forward to it,” Patel said. “It’s always fun to play at outgrounds. There’s sure to be a big crowd with no doubt a bit of jeering at us as the away team. After putting in such a good performance at Headingley, I know how much the guys are excited by it and then another big game at Trent Bridge on Sunday.”
Patel ready for Lancashire test
“I haven’t even looked at that,” said Patel when asked whether he knows how many wins his side will need to progress.
“We just rock up, do our jobs the best we can, push as hard as we can for those points and then get out of there.”
The next job for the Bears is a trip to Stanley Park, Blackpool to face Lancashire. The out ground is familiar to a previous Warwickshire era as Brian Halford writes and details with Jim Stewart, but for this current crop the message is simple – expect nothing.
“It will be different,” added Patel. “It will be small I would have thought. It’ll be a club wicket, we don’t know what to expect, but that’s one thing we’ve tried to pride ourselves on is to expect nothing. We go about doing our job the best we can.”
After a tough opening defeat to Derbyshire at Edgbaston, Warwickshire hit back immediately with a strong performance that silenced a partisan Yorkshire crowd at Emerald Headingley.
The captain, who continues to remain modest and distribute praise, led from the front with figures of four for 33 and a clinical run out to end the hosts’ innings.
“We push for fielding wickets and it was one of those fielding wickets we needed, so that’s another boxed ticked for us,” Patel stressed after removing Steven Patterson.
“Like I’ve always said it’s nice to contribute, but at the end of the day four is not ten so all of us have to contribute to get those nine wickets we got today.
“As long as we keep ticking those boxes I think we’ll progress through this competition at our pace.
“We’re going to play our tempo, not anyone else’s and hopefully not get caught up in that.”
Contributions so far this season have come from an array of Bears in white and red ball cricket. At Headingley last Sunday, it was the turn of Henry Brookes who was given the ball to bowl at the death and Sam Hain who continues to impress in List A cricket with another ton.
“The kid’s (Henry Brookes) growing and he’s gone from strength to strength, especially red ball,” Patel said about the 18-year-old.
“He needed an opportunity in this and it’s great for him to go out and showcase his skills and do what he does. Yes, he’s going to get it wrong, we all accept that, but as a young kid if he learns from them day by day I think he’ll keep getting better.”
And Hain, who is averaging 62.92 in 31 List A innings and could be gaining England interest.
“Just amazing. The kid’s playing really well at the moment and touchwood he keeps doing it.
“That’s (England seletion) probably out of my realms to start discussing that stuff, but you know it’s on him. If he keeps scoring runs, makes sure his strike rate is up, I think the decision will be made for himself.”
Stewart's 17 sixes in Blackpool
A big ask – but there is a precedent. A Warwickshire batsman just needs to emulate the feat of predecessor Jim Stewart.
When the Bears visited Stanley Park for a county championship match against Lancashire in 1959, burly opener Stewart struck 17 sixes – then a world record for a first-class game.
A spectacular effort in any era, Stewart’s barrage was all the more remarkable as it arrived in the heart of what was a far-from- golden era for county cricket. An era in which a lot of batting was deadly slow, leading to cricket that was deadly dull.
I always liked to attack but in that game we had to go for it in the second innings, if we were going to try to win, because Lancashire set us a ridiculous target.
That was not Stewart’s way. The Llanelli-born, Coventry-bred batsman liked to get on with it, to say the least. He hit 32 sixes in all 1959 and 30 the following year before peaking in 1962 when, on the way to 2,318 runs, he reached 1,000 runs 15 days earlier than any previous Warwickshire batsman had done.
Stewart was always a batsman to empty the bars. And not least at Stanley Park in ’59.
The scores: Lancashire 389 for six, Warwickshire 332 (Stewart 155, with 12 fours and ten sixes), Lancashire 222 for four, Warwickshire (needing 280) 247 for six (Stewart 125, 12 fours, seven sixes).
Stewart’s long career included many memorable matches but that one, against a strong Lancashire attack of Ken Higgs, David Green, Jack Dyson, Tom Greenhough and Malcolm Hilton, is the highlight.
“That one stands out,” Jim recalls. “I was in good form – I’d just scored a couple of centuries, but to score two centuries in a game was special. The ball did come off the middle of the bat quite nicely in that match!
“I always liked to attack but in that game we had to go for it in the second innings, if we were going to try to win, because Lancashire set us a ridiculous target. Usually, in those days, you’d be set something like 80 or 90 runs an hour to win but they set us 120 an hour.
“They had two spinners in the team, which was good for me. One of them was Jack Dyson who I had a pretty good record against. I’d played against Jack a few times and whenever he came on I said to him ‘right it’s you or me’ – and normally it was him that suffered.”
The fielding is absolutely brilliant. And the running between wickets is fantastic, turning ones into twos and twos into three.
Birmingham City fans among the Warwickshire followers in Blackpool that day were happy enough to see Dyson suffer. Three years earlier he had scored for Manchester City against Blues in the FA Cup final.
Stewart, who first signed for Warwickshire in 1955 on £3.50 a week, went on to score 14,826 first-class runs at an average of 34.08. Those stats, compiled on uncovered wickets, are highly impressive and show that the big-hitting was underpinned by a sound technique. They also suggest that Stewart must be considered one of the best batsmen never to have played for England.
“Wilf Wooller was an England selector at the time,” he recalls. “He liked me and put my name forward but the chairman of selectors Gubby Allen told him: ‘He’s just a slogger.’ Wilf said ‘well he’s slogged 2,000 runs this season!’”
Strangely, given his buccaneering style, Stewart did not really enjoy limited-overs cricket, despite playing in two Gillette Cup finals for Warwickshire at Lord’s.
“I didn’t really take to one-day cricket,” he said. “A lot of us didn’t because it was so new and we didn’t really know how to approach it.
“But I did enjoy the one-day finals. We stayed in a hotel in St John’s Wood and I remember walking with my wife up the road to Lord’s, carrying my spare shirt in a plastic bag. Some supporters were walking beside us and I heard one of them say ‘I can’t wait for the first ball’. I thought ‘neither can I – I might be facing it!’ “Most of all I remember the great noise in the ground, then suddenly a hush as the bowler came in.”
You get the feeling that Stewart would have been a big hit in Twenty20. He did, after all, manage to clear the ropes regularly in days when uncovered wickets stacked the cards heavily in favour of bowlers.
“These days a batsman looks amazed if the ball swings or seams,” he said. “On uncovered wickets you were amazed if it didn’t!
“But I look at the game today and see a lot to admire. The fielding is absolutely brilliant. And the running between wickets is fantastic, turning ones into twos and twos into three. They all mount up. I think I would have quite liked Twenty2O!”
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