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When Warwickshire face Surrey at Edgbaston on Thursday, it will be the eighth time they have started a season as defending champions. Their record in opening matches of their title-defence is very strong with three innings wins and no defeats...though history suggests the weather could turn nasty on Friday! Brian Halford reports.

1912 – beat Derbyshire by an innings and 22 runs at Edgbaston.

Having romped to their first championship title in 1911, Frank Foster’s Bears launched their defence with by emphatically dismantling of Derbyshire.

The brilliant captain led the way again. After Foster and Frank Field, who had bowled the Bears to the title the previous year, shared another nine wickets to hurry the visitors out for 146, the skipper lashed a quickfire 70 to lift his side to 260.

Derbyshire were then skittled for 92, Field completing match figures of nine for 87, as the game ended in side two days.

Where the Bears finished…9th with a points percentage of 47,77. In 1912 the table was decided by points percentage rather than points scored because teams did not play the same number of games (Yorkshire, the champions, played 28, Somerset only 16!). The Bears played 22 and won six.

1952 – drew with Hampshire at Edgbaston

A damp squib of a title defence launch as rain permitted just 69 overs in three days. On a wet pitch, the Bears made 139 for eight in 69 overs and the mighty bowling attack of Eric Hollies, Tom Pritchard and Charlie Grove never got ball in hand. Points from the match: Warwickshire 0 Hampshire 0.

Where the Bears finished…joint 10th with Essex having played 28 games and won eight to accumulate 120 points.

1973 – drew with Yorkshire at Edgbaston

Another rain-ruined opener with, just as in 1952, no play at all on the second day. With nine internationals in the 11, including West Indies quartet Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kallicharran, Lance Gibbs and Deryck Murray, the Bears made 302 on the opening day (Murray 76, Kalli 62, John Jameson 55).

Yorkshire then replied with 245 for nine from 81 overs as Geoff Boycott ground his way to 86. Although it was early May, 49 of those 81 overs were bowled by spinners Gibbs and Peter Lewington, the latter taking six for 74.

Where the Bears finished…7th, with 186 points, winning five of 20 games. A thin era through the 1970s, caused by over-reliance on overseas stars at the start of the decade, was on the way.

1995 – beat Middlesex by 215 runs at Edgbaston

There was no Brian Lara, but Allan Donald was back and the great fast bowler set the tone for the brilliant title retention as the Bears swept aside a Middlesex team littered with England players.

After debutant Nick Knight’s 85 lifted the Bears to 282, AD took out six of the visitors’ top seven to earn his side a small but precious first innings lead of 58. They built on this with a solid 294 second time round (Knight 72, Trevor Penney 88) before AD, Gladstone Small and Neil Smith shared eight wickets to dismiss one of their main potential title challengers for 137.

Where the Bears finished…1st with 14 wins from 17 games, the highest win percentage in championship history. Donald took 88 championship wickets at 15.48.

1996 – beat Sussex by an innings and 139 runs at Hove

For the first time, the Bears launched their title defence away from home and they thoroughly enjoyed their visit to the seaside. Centuries from Nick Knight (132), Trevor Penney (134) and Dermot Reeve (168 not out) lifted them to 645 for seven against a Sussex attack led by future Bears seamers Vasbert Drakes and Ed Giddins.

The home side was then bowled out for 222 and 284 with Ashley Giles taking five wickets and Shaun Pollock (on his championship debut) and Graeme Welch four apiece.

Where the Bears finished…8th, on 218 points, 78 behind champions Leicestershire, having won seven of 17 games.

2005 – beat Glamorgan by an innings and 43 runs at Edgbaston

Having won a title that no-one was expecting in ’04, Nick Knight’s Bears launched their defence in style after the bowling of Ashley Giles and Nick Warren gave them an initiative they never relinquished.

Giles and Warren shared nine wickets to limit Glamorgan to 198 to which the Bears replied with 564 for eight (Michael Powell 146, Dougie Brown 122, Ian Bell 96). Bell then took three wickets, alongside another three for Giles and two for Heath Streak, as the visitors were winkled out for 323 on the fourth afternoon.

Where the Bears finished…4th in Division One, having won eight and lost five of their 16 games.

2013 – drew with Derbyshire a Edgbaston

For the third time in seven title-defence openers for the Bears, the second day was completely washed out to sentence the game to a draw.

Jim Troughton’s side started well on the opening day, bowling the visitors out for 226 (three wickets apiece for Chris Wright and Jeetan Patel) but rain haunted the match thereafter. Varun Chopra (76) and Ian Westwood (56) added 139 for the first wicket but just 24 overs were possible on the third day and 31 on the fourth as the Bears finished on 201 for four.

Where the Bears finished… 4th in Division One, having won five and drawn nine of their 16 games.

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