Allan Donald enjoyed a long and magnificent career as a fast-bowler but believes the peak of it came in 1995 with his blistering form for Warwickshire.
The South African ace, recently voted by Bears fans as the Greatest Ever Overseas Bear, took 88 championship wickets at 15.48 apiece that season and was only denied a century of wickets by missing three matches through injury.
It was a glorious display of sustained pace, heart and skill – and A.D admits he took extra motivation from the years before and after. He missed out on the ’94 treble when Brian Lara was the overseas player and he also knew that he would not be coming back in ’96.
At the time I was playing pretty much 12 months a year in England and South Africa and had been getting to the end of each season pretty much cooked. So a Strength & Conditioning Coach in Bloemfontein had devised a programme to conserve my energies a little bit so that I regained my strength and fitness at the back end.Allan Donald
“I was fired up because they had said they were bringing Lara back in ’96 so I wanted to really show them what I could do in my last season for the Bears,” Donald said. “That was extra motivation for me and I think that year was probably my peak. I really understood my game, was streetwise and mentally 100 per cent.
“I also felt physically very strong. At the time I was playing pretty much 12 months a year in England and South Africa and had been getting to the end of each season pretty much cooked. So a Strength & Conditioning Coach in Bloemfontein had devised a programme to conserve my energies a little bit so that I regained my strength and fitness at the back end.
“It worked really well and I was still going strong towards the end. I remember our last home game against Derbyshire and bowling a spell on the third evening when I knocked a few over. Adrian Rollins, a big guy and dangerous player, fended one off to short leg and I knocked a couple of others over. Then they went very quickly next morning and we’d won by lunchtime.”
Donald was also a key component in the Bears lifting the NatWest Trophy that season. Victories over Somerset, Kent and Derbyshire earned them a semi-final against Glamorgan which they won at a canter, by eight wickets just after half-past three, to set up a Lord’s final against Northamptonshire.
“We had played in a Sunday League game at Cardiff not long before the semi-final and it got a bit ugly,” recalled A.D. “Some football hooligans turned up and a bottle was thrown at our dressing-room and there was talk of the semi-final being moved. “It wasn’t in the end and we took down what was then a very good Glamorgan side. It was a boiling hot day and Tim Munton bowled his 12 overs off the reel for 18!
“David Hemp was playing for Glamorgan and had apparently told them at their team meeting the previous night not to take singles to Trevor Penney. Trev ran out two of them – and one was David!
“That win earned us a Lord’s final which was always a great experience and I think that one was the longest game of my life. We did well to keep them down to 200 and I was happy to take three wickets. Dermot Reeve had identified Richard Montgomerie as a main target so got me on early against him and I got him and then got my old adversary Kevin Curran. I had some wonderful tussles with Kevin – a real competitor.
“These days a team would probably knock off that score in 30 overs but it was a different era then. I sat up there on the balcony and it didn’t look great for us at one stage but we gradually reeled in their score. Roger Twose played a great knock and then Dermot saw us over the line against Anil Kumble.
“I was so lucky to play in two Lord’s finals – ’89 and ’95 – both of which we won.”