At ten past noon on September 11, 1995, Warwickshire's players completed a ten-wicket victory over Derbyshire at Edgbaston (their fourth successive win by that margin) and headed back to the dressing-room where the champagne was on ice.

All that was required now was for Middlesex to fail to beat Leicestershire at Uxbridge, which looked on the cards, and the Bears would be crowned champions with a match to spare.

As the afternoon lengthened they gathered in the dressing-room to monitor Middlesex’s fortunes. Chasing 251 to win, Leicestershire were 131 for two. Looking good. That became 204 for eight but former Bears spinner Adrian Pierson batted skilfully to take the Foxes to 249 for nine. Two to win.

Then Alan Mullally hoiked Phil Tufnell down the throat of deep mid-wicket and Middlesex had won by one run. The champagne stayed on ice.

On the last day of the Kent game, when we needed to bowl them out, Dermot said at the team meeting before play: ‘I think we’ll open with Ash as they’ve got left-handers and there’s some rough out there.

Ashley Giles

Were the Bears deflated? Not a bit of it. Dermot Reeve wouldn’t allow it.

The inspirational captain simply told his troops: “Okay fellas – we’ll just have to win it at Canterbury.”

With one more game left, away to Kent, the Bears’ title-retention dream was still very much in their own hands. And during that championship season, more than any other, they were winning hands.

They duly polished off Kent by an innings and 105 runs (their 14th win in 17 championship games) with a performance that epitomised their four-day cricket: Steel-nerved, highly-skilled and adorned by a stroke of innovative genius from the captain.

The Bears piled up 468 for eight then bowled Kent out for 139. The third day began with the home side facing a mighty rearguard action: Bat for two days to save the game. As openers Mark Benson and Trevor Ward took guard, they expected to be confronted by Allan Donald, of course, and Reeve, who shared the new-ball with A.D in the first innings and took five wickets.

But instead Reeve threw the ball to young left-arm spinner Ashley Giles, playing only his eighth first-class match. And in no time Kent were 33 for three after both overnight batsmen edged Giles to Keith Piper and the spinner rattled the stumps of Nigel Llong.

A couple of hours later, Reeve collected the championship trophy from former Kent captain Mike Denness – and that champagne was well and truly uncorked. The captain’s surprise deployment of Giles had laid the platform for the final charge to the title – while also doing wonders for the self-belief of the young left-armer.

“I drove Dermot down to Canterbury for the game,” recalls Giles. “I’d had an alright season, my first half a year, and on the way down he asked me if I had enjoyed it. Then he said: ‘Well, it’s been a good start for you this year but next year you’re going to get 60 wickets and 500 runs.’ I was happy to receive the compliment but thought: ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about.’

“Then on the last day of the Kent game, when we needed to bowl them out, Dermot said at the team meeting before play: ‘I think we’ll open with Ash as they’ve got left-handers and there’s some rough out there.’

“I was thinking ‘bloody hell, this is a big responsibility’ – but I took the first three wickets and my confidence just grew from there. And Dermot was absolutely right. In 1996, I took 64 wickets and scored 500-odd runs and was capped and really made my mark.”

Reeve could inspire and motivate like few others. As a bloke, he was not universally popular, even within his own dressing-room, but as a leader…top-drawer.

As renowned broadcaster Pat Murphy put it in his excellent book, The Greatest Season – Warwickshire in the summer of 1994: “What cannot be contested is the effect that Reeve had on Warwickshire in his nine seasons at the club.

His was a genuinely creative contribution, helping to transform the tactical and philosophical approach, in the process outstripping all other opponents for a halcyon period of 24 months…he remains the most successful captain in Warwickshire’s history, and one of the key architects of a remarkable haul of trophies in just 24 months.”