Paul Smith believes the secret of Warwickshire's NatWest Bank Trophy triumph in 1995 summed up a huge factor which underpinned all their success in the mid-'90s: "Somebody always delivered."
The Bears’ success of that era owed plenty to overseas stars Brian Lara and Allan Donald, but they didn’t always fire – and that’s where the immense strength of that squad came in.
When Warwickshire set off in pursuit of the NatWest Bank Trophy, the only prize to elude them in ’94, in ’95, they did not have it easy. In the first round, then contested by many minor counties, the Bears were drawn in one of only two all-first class ties, at home to Somerset.
Having seen off the dangerous westcountrymen in a high-scoring match by 18 runs, the Bears were paired with another strong team, Kent, at home, and won a tight, tense contest by ten runs.
Next came two away games, a quarter-final at Derbyshire (won by 116 runs) and a semi-final at Glamorgan (won by eight wickets). That took them through to the final where Allan Lamb’s Northamptonshire was seen off by four wickets with seven balls to spare, Smith seeing his side over the line in an unbroken stand of 27 with skipper Dermot Reeve.
It was a run to which, at some point, every member of the Bears’ team made a telling contribution – and that, reckons Smith, was the crux of the Golden Era.
“A lot of one-day games are tight and come down to key moments and it’s the team that holds their nerve at those that wins,” he said. “We had a lot of very fine players but nobody succeeds all the time and you need to know that if your big guns miss out, other players will step up.Paul Smith
“That’s what we had. At the big moments, under pressure, somebody always delivered.
“In the early rounds, we felt, on recent history, that we had a hold over both Somerset and Kent. We felt that, if we got on top of them, we would stay there – and so it proved.
“Similarly, in the final against Northamptonshire, although it looked close, I think we were always confident that we would win. A lot of key moments went our way like when Allan Lamb fell for nought, edging Dougie Brown to slip.
“That was huge. I was fielding in front of the pavilion at third man and knew that was a big moment in the match. I also thought: ‘Well done, Scotsman – now I don’t have to worry about getting Lamby out.'”
Those strong Bears’ nerves were tested at times in the final. Chasing a modest 200, they were five for one, 28 for three and 122 for five but were kept afloat by Dominic Ostler (45), Roger Twose (68) and Trevor Penney (20) before Reeve and Smith shepherded them over the line.
They saw off the highly-skilled threat of Indian spinner Anil Kumble…with a little help from a Dicky Bird.
“I was next man in and Trevor and Dermot were working us towards the target when Kumble struck Dermot full on the pad,” Smith recalls. “Harold Bird was umpiring at the Pavilion End and it looked as out as you could possibly get, so I picked up my helmet and gloves and started to head for the stairs. I’d just got to the door of the dressing-room when somebody shouted: “****, he hasn’t given it! Dermot and I saw us home and it was great to put another trophy in the cabinet.
“1995 was a fantastic year. Of course, ’94 was special with the treble, but to win two more trophies in ’95, with the changes we had to make, losing Brian Lara and with Phil Neale and Nick Knight coming in for their first season, was a tremendous effort and really showed the strength of the team and team-spirit.”