Warwickshire's record-breaking county championship triumph in 1995 was clinched by a stunning late charge which brought six huge wins, two by an innings and four by ten wickets, in the last six games.
Andy Moles played no part in those games, his season having been ended by an achilles injury in late June. But the vital early-season foundation on which those later victories were built had plenty to do with ‘Moler.’
When his injury struck, the former Coventry apprentice toolmaker, who had underpinned the Bears’ batting for a more than decade, was in as productive form as ever, averaging over 40, just as he was to end his first-class career with an average of over 40.
It remains a mystery to many how he never opened the batting for England.
“It’s being part of that family in our dressing-room who enjoyed all that success in ’94 and ’95, after working so hard for it. I doubt if it will ever be repeated.”Andy Moles
“Moler had a fine, structured cricket brain,” said former team-mate Tim Munton in Pat Murphy’s fine book about the 1994 campaign, The Greatest Season, in which Moles recorded an average of over 50. “He used to say ‘I’m keeping those shots in my locker today’ after sussing out the pitch, but when the occasion merited it, he’d play some classical cover drives or expansive flicks through mid-wicket. Moler was a very fine batsman and a great team man.”
When the ’95 season dawned, after the sensations of ’94 the eyes of the cricket world were on Edgbaston to see if Warwickshire could ‘follow that’. There was no doubt a bit of schadenfraude in certain parts of the country when the Bears were heavily beaten by England A in a pre-season friendly at Edgbaston.
But that was as far as the schadenfraude went. The Bears opened the championship season in emphatic style with home wins over Middlesex and Surrey and were immediately up and running again – and Moles had plenty to do with it.
He started the season with 67 against England A. When the Bears visited Durham for the first championship match at their new Riverside ground, his 90 in an opening stand of 172 with Nick Knight teed up a 111-run win.
Back at Edgbaston, against Somerset, he steered his side to a thrilling three-wicket win with a highly-skilled 131 – a memorable knock against Mushtaq Ahmed on a turning wicket. Then came 66 – his fifth half-century in seven innings – at home to Sussex.
In the NatWest Bank Trophy first-round, meanwhile, the Bears were paired with Somerset at Edgbaston and Moles’ 90, this time in a stand of 178 with Knight, launched Dermot Reeve’s side towards victory. When, 68 days later, Reeve lifted that trophy at Lord’s, Moles was an injured spectator but he had a stake in the success – just as he had a huge one in the championship retention.
AJ Moles was, and remains, a man hugely admired and valued by his team-mates from the mid-90s – and that affection is entirely reciprocated.
“When I ‘m asked for my favourite memory, I never name one innings or one match,” he told Pat Murphy, “It’s being part of that family in our dressing-room who enjoyed all that success in ’94 and ’95, after working so hard for it. I doubt if it will ever be repeated.”
Of “all that success,” Moler was a huge part.