In partnership with Lord Combustion, we're looking at some of the best performances from a Bear in a white ball final.
It was July 9, when the Bears lifted the first trophy of the season, the Benson & Hedges Cup at Lord’s, that truly started the steamroller momentum.
But interestingly, Warwickshire began 1994 as 25/1 outsiders to win the Benson & Hedges Cup. Fair enough.
It was only three years since Jack Bannister, in his Wisden review of the 1990 season, commented that: “Warwickshire’s performances in the three one-day competitions were an unmitigated disaster.”
But under director of coaching Bob Woolmer and captain Dermot Reeve the Bears were improving. And when, in April ’94, they signed Brian Lara, those odds were slashed to 14/1. Plenty of West Midlands-based punters invested in that offer. On July 9 they collected.
No-one knew it at the time, though a few had started to suspect that something special was happening, but the first instalment of the treble was banked – and Gladstone Small reckons that securing that first trophy was the “springboard” for all that was to follow.
It hadn’t been a smooth ride either, although the Bears seemed to make it look relatively easy. You could say that’s the sign of a good side as a routine chase of 151 at Lord’s in the opening round was as simple as it would come.
After two wet days in Brum, a dramatic bowlout win earned the Bears another tough draw, against a powerful Surrey side at The Oval. The semi-final, scheduled for the day after the home championship match with Durham, always looked tasty. Then the final day of the Durham game delivered the little matter of Brian Lara’s 501.
So it became Warwickshire v Worcestershire at Lord’s. A 29,000 full house. The stage was perfectly set. And for the Bears, the day turned out perfectly. They won a crucial toss, restricted their old rivals to 170 for nine, then reached the target with six wickets and 64 balls to spare. It was a crushing win which fuelled the growing tide of belief that this could be quite a year.
Warwickshire had booked their place in the final where they utterly outplayed their arch-rivals, thanks to many important contributions. Small’s 11-4-26-1. Tim Munton’s 11-3-29-1. Paul Smith’s 11-1-34-3 and 42 not out. Reeve’s 9-1-38-1. Penney’s brilliant direct hit from square leg to run out danger man Moody. Piper’s two catches in a display of customary wicketkeeping excellence. Dominic Ostler’s 55 and Roger Twose’s 37 (to add to his earlier 8-1-25-1) in an opening stand of 91 which pretty much settled the game. Neil Smith’s 5-0-16-1, including the wicket of Gavin Haynes to break the biggest partnership of the innings. Asif Din’s small but significant 14 in a stand of 44 with Paul Smith which snuffed out Worcestershire’s last hope and saw the Bears to the threshold of victory.
Smith, with his all-round ability, would be the Gold Award winner, receiving his lump of gold on the Lord’s Pavilion balcony. His complete performance was synonymous in an incredible career which saw him play in six One Day finals.
Speaking after his win, Smith said: “It swung about and did a bit off the seam, but you’ve got to get the ball in the right place. We thought we did a pretty good job, but it was only half way, so we went out and batted positively.
“It’s great for the people down there and in the Midlands. We just tried to play positive cricket, it went our way and Dermot’s holding the gold in his hand.”
Brian Halford’s interview with Gladstone Small on the B&H Cup being the ‘springboard’ for the treble was used for this article.
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