Jimmy Anyon’s championship debut for Warwickshire, against Nottinghamshire at Edgbaston in July 2005, was a quiet affair notable only for its bizarre ending. The visitors, needing 12 to win, closed the second day on eight without loss and everybody had to come back next morning for four balls. Funny old game.
But Anyon’s second championship match at Edgbaston, against Sussex, was much more interesting. The young former Cumbria and Loughborough UCCE seamer made eye-catching contributions with bat and ball.
The Bears’ first innings featured Jonathan Trott’s maiden double-century but he wouldn’t have reached the milestone had Anyon not stuck around in a tenth-wicket partnership of 52. Anyon’s share: 0 not out!
But it was one of the more meaningful 0 not outs and the value of those 52 runs became clear on the final day when Sussex, chasing 228, were bowled out for 126. This time Anyon starred with the ball, dismissing Chris Adams and Matt Prior cheaply on his way to four for 33.
Anyon was up and running as a Bear and was to be around the first-team for the next five years. But his stay at Edgbaston coincided with a time of great transition (including three head coaches – John Inverarity, Mark Greatbatch and Ashley Giles – in four years) for the club.
And, partly due to that, it was to be Sussex, the victims of Anyon’s first championship match-winning haul, who would benefit most from his talents.
“They were interesting times for Warwickshire,” he recalls. “I was signed pretty much out of the blue when they were short of bowlers and one of Steve Perryman’s contacts told him this bloke had taken a few wickets for Cumbria.
“I signed just after they won the championship in 2004 under John Inverarity and Nick Knight and there were some great senior players around like Nick, Dougie Brown and Michael Powell. I was a youngster learning all I could and it was a great environment to learn in.
“Invers was my favourite coach I ever played under. It was like having your granddad in the dressing-room. He would come up and put an arm round you and tell you how good you were and I responded to that.
“But then the team went into transition. It was different under Mark. I owe him a lot because he picked me in a lot of games but the team went through a tough time. I don’t think his regime suited anybody.
“Then Ash came in and needed to rebuild and he was really good to me. He gave me the option to leave which, at that time, I needed to do. I loved it to bits at Warwickshire but I needed a fresh start.
“In my last year I started in the side then got a shoulder injury, then was in and out of the team and spent the last two months on loan to Surrey and didn’t do very well. I felt a fresh start would do me good but wouldn’t have gone just anywhere. Sussex is a great club with a real old-fashioned family atmosphere which reminded me of the way it was at Warwickshire with the old pavilion and dressing-rooms and members’ bar.”
And while Giles’ rebuilding at Edgbaston continued without Anyon, the bowler was very much in the planning at Hove. He settled immediately and his cricket reflected that. Twice he took 50 championship wickets in a season whereas his best for the Bears had been 32.
“It was nice to feel really wanted,” he said. “I did some work in the nets with Kevin Shine and the coaches at Sussex just told to run in and bowl as fast as I could and, if it didn’t work and I went for a few runs, not to worry but come back later for another spell
“That gave me the confidence I sometimes lacked. Looking back at my career, I think that was the one thing that held me back – I didn’t have the belief in myself that other people had in me.
“That gave my career real impetus. It was just a shame it never really happened for me at Warwickshire.”
Anyon’s improvement at Sussex also took an unexpected direction – as an opening batsman.
“I always enjoyed batting and because of injuries was asked to give it a go up top,” he said. “I’m sure that surprised a few people at Edgbaston when they saw the scorecards, but I ended up with five half-centuries and a top score of 64.
“I did have my moments with the bat for Warwickshire. That half-century stand with Trotty when my contribution was 0! And I remember Lee Daggett and I put on a few at Durham against Otis Gibson and Liam Plunkett. We were both trying to get down Liam’s end – even aged about 42, Otis was quicker!”
Anyon’s resurgence at Hove ended prematurely last year when he was forced to retire by a persistent knee problem which turned out to be reactive arthritis. But the 33-year-old looks back only with fondness – and has plenty to look forward.
Happily settled in Sussex with wife Anna and five-month-son Edward, he has done some coaching in schools and with the Sussex age-groups and women’s teams. In that direction does his future partly lie. Another is right now growing on the family farm up in Calder Vale – a forest of 8,500 Christmas trees which, though only three feet high at the moment, will be ready to populate the nation’s living rooms three or four years down the line.
Anyon has a few irons in the fire. And he possesses plenty of attributes which will serve him well in his post-playing days, not least a balanced approach which sees him reflect upon his cricket career not with anger at its truncation but with gratitude for its duration.
“It was frustrating to be told I had to stop playing last March because I had worked so hard on the rehab all winter,” he said. “Of course it was disappointing to have to finish at 32, but I was a professional cricketer for 12 years and if you had offered me that at the start I’d have grabbed your hand off.
“Back in 2005 when Warwickshire offered me my first summer contract I thought ‘right, I’ll really enjoy these three or four months because it might never happen again.’ So 12 years? I’ve certainly no complaints.”