In partnership with Lord Combustion, we're looking at some of the best performances from a Bear in a white ball final.

Last year, we reminisced with Ian BellAsif DinImran Tahir and Jonathan Trott and this time we start with Paul Smith.

Plenty of great games, innings and bowling feats live long in the memory, but very few individual shots enter the realms of legend. This match was settled by one that did.

In went Simon Hughes from the Nursery End and Neil Smith launched him back over his head high into the crowd. The Bears fans went wild, the back of the chase was broken. Two balls later, Smith and Din scampered two and Warwickshire were home with two balls to spare.

It was a final that started something pretty special for the Bears. When Lloyd took over as captain in 1988, the Bears had won just one trophy in 16 years. It had been a flat and, at times, depressing, period during which the team frequently languished on or near the bottom of both County Championship and Sunday League. The 1972 championship triumph, built on the effective but short-term strategy of signing four West Indies Test players, had been followed by years of drift.

Lloyd found a like-mind in vastly-experienced coach Bob Cottam and the positive approach started to pay off. In 1989, the Bears won the Nat West Bank Trophy, their first silverware for nine years, and in 1991 came desperately close to winning the championship, finishing runners-up just 13 points behind Essex.

The rest they say is history. Success followed in abundance as Dermot Reeve and Bob Woolmer took over the mantle and secured six trophies in three years. That legacy has lived on – the Bears have won all major trophies in the last 10 years – but that special day on 2 September 1989 should never be forgotten.

Dermot Reeve was the Player of the Match that day – bowling figures of 1/27 (12 overs) and top scoring with 42 (73 balls) – but our focus turns to a homegrown favourite.

After Middlesex made 210 for five after winning the toss, the Bears made uneven progress towards their target. Alvin Kallicharran’s departure for a duck left them 26 for two so Andy Lloyd (34) and Geoff Humpage (36) had to rebuild.

Paul Smith (24), Dermot Reeve (42) and Asif Din (34 not out) then kept their side in the game but it was tilting Middlesex’s way when, in fading light, five balls remained and nine runs were still required.

All day, nobody had hit a six. Until now.

Smith launched the ball straight and high into the crowd at the Nursery End. Not quite the winning runs – but effectively the winning runs. Two balls later Smith and Asif Din scamper two and the Bears have won.

It was a cup final very much of its time, reflects Smith. A low-scoring affair in which, unlike today, bowlers were treated with a modicum of respect. Even the great Desmond Haynes took 99 balls over 50 and Mark Ramprakash made 24 in 65 balls against an attack led by Dermot Reeve (12-4-27-1), Smith (one for 33), Gladstone Small (one for 35) and Tim Munton (one for 37). Strangely, Allan Donald was the most expensive with one for 41.

The all-rounder looks back on that day with great fondness. But the shot itself? Just a gamble that paid off.

“Simon Hughes bowled a lot of slower balls,” he said. “So I gambled that this would be another. I hit it well, to be fair. It came out of the screws. But it was a pretty horrible shot.

“It did the job though and yes, it is a pretty special memory. A lot of people remember it because it was so unusual. These days, with T20 and so much cricket on the telly, a lot of games are won with sixes but back then a match-winning six was rare. And Warwickshire fans remember it as the win that kick-started the ’90s era.”

Hughes’ career was trophy-laden too. Four County Championships (80, 82, 85 & 90) and four One Day Cups (84, 86, 88 & 90) is a stellar career in itself, but the man now known as ‘the analyst’ will always be remembered for the moment.

“The ball that went for six has become the single most important moment with which my whole cricket career is identified,” noted Hughes. “‘You’re that bloke who was panned out of the park by MJK Smith’s son,’ punters chuckle. Still, I’d rather be partially identifiable than totally anonymous.”

Nevertheless, maybe Hughes can take some warmth that he helped save Smith’s career?

“It was a horrible shot…but it saved my career,” said Smith. “Up to that weekend, I was looking at the chop. My contract was up at the end of the season and I had made a few contributions in one-day cricket but not done much in first-class cricket.”

But after the 60/1 pre-tournament outsiders had pulled off a famous win, their hero at the death could hold a sigh of relief. “Neil need not worry,” declared a beaming Lloyd after collecting the trophy.

Smith would go on to build a 16-year professional career that helped power Warwickshire to numerous trophies, whilst being an integral part of the all-conquering team of the mid-90s. He played seven ODIs for England and later captained the Bears.

“On the Friday I scored my maiden century against Yorkshire at Headingley after going in as nightwatchman and the next day came the final and that six. Those two innings together earned me another contract and the chance to learn enough to build a career,” concluded the Leamington-born star.

“It’s funny because I remember people saying after the game ‘Here’s a young lad with a big-game temperament’ – just because I got lucky with one hit! But hearing people say that did boost my confidence.”

Additional tickets released for first three days of West Indies Test

A small number of tickets have been released for the first three days of our Men’s Test against West Indies this summer (26-30 Juy).

Tickets are limited for these day and are expected to sell quickly. Early Bird tickets for Day Four are still available if purchased before midnight on 31 March.

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