Michael Burgess admits he started the 2021 season with "the jury still out" on whether he was the man to replace Bears legend Tim Ambrose in Warwickshire's team.
Burgess knows he had “a bit of a point to prove” that he was the man to fill the wicketkeeper/batsman role for the Bears going forward.
Six months later, the jury is no longer out.
While the Bears were building a season which culminated in double glory, Burgess quietly set about building his own reputation, achieving consistently high standards with the gloves and scoring important runs.
The 27-year-old nailed down a place in all formats and showed the makings of the kind of linchpin that the legendary Ambrose was for the Bears for so long. Burgess well and truly established himself at Edgbaston, thanks, not least, to many hard yards of practice in the indoor centre during the preceding winter.
“At the start of the season I still felt that I had a bit of a point to prove. Covid meant that we didn’t have a proper season in 2020 so the jury was still out on whether I could replace Amby. First and foremost I just wanted to make sure that the team wasn’t weakened by losing such a great player.Michael Burgess
“I am pretty happy with how it went. I think I left a few runs out there on a couple of occasions but I did play some innings that affected games. I was particularly pleased to score some runs in the championship game at Headingley. We were in the last-chance saloon in the title race so the pressure was on and it was a spicy pitch so even though I only scored 60 it was quite important in a low-scoring game.”
Burgess became a valuable middle-order contributor while, alongside his batting, his wicketkeeping was consistently reliable with moments of brilliance. A standout moment of the whole season was his leg-side stumping of Joe Clarke, standing up to paceman Olly Hannon-Dalby, in the vital win over Nottinghamshire at Edgbaston.
“I spent a lot of time the previous winter standing up to the seamers in the indoor centre,” he said. “I worked really hard on that and did that for two reasons; it would make me a better keeper but also I show the bowlers that I could do it, so they would have confidence in me to do it in games.
“I think on slow pitches, when there is not too much carry, a keeper can stand up to the seamers just to put a bit of pressure on the batter. It was nice to get that stumping off Olly especially as it was Joe Clarke, a big wicket in the context of the match.”
That was one standout dismissal for Burgess in the season. Another was his last of all, and the very last act of the Bears’ campaign, in the Bob Willis Trophy final against Lancashire at Lord’s, when he sprinted to short fine leg to take a skier sent up by Tom Bailey off Liam Norwell to complete the innings-and-199-runs win.
“When the ball went up, I felt like a cartoon character with my legs moving but me not going anywhere,” he said. “It felt like six months of squatting had taken their toll!
“But I made it in the end and that was a lovely way to round off a brilliant week. It was an amazing experience to play at Lord’s knowing you were going to win after Craig Miles’ bowling on the first morning and then Rob Yates, Dom Sibley and Will Rhodes’ batting. We knew we were going to win so could just enjoy every moment of it and celebrate each other’s skills and a brilliant season for the Bears.”
For the Bears and for Burgess, the challenge now is to keep improving…and Burgess knows he need to do that especially following the arrival of Alex Davies from Lancashire.
“I’m very happy with Alex’s signing,” he said. “It’s great for the team. For several seasons the bowlers have been saying it’s so good to have competition for players because that keeps pushing them. It’s the same for the batters and now also for me and Alex. I will just have to work even harder to keep improving. I certainly can’t rest on any laurels!”
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