The former Bears Captain Andy Lloyd spoke with Brian Halford about his journey to club, first chat with Bob Willis and earning England honours.

Andy Lloyd was a massively influential figure at Warwickshire County Cricket Club. He scored more than 23,000 runs, captained the team out of the joyless drift of the 1980s and installed the mindset which led to the glories of the mid-1990s.

But if Worcestershire has reacted quicker at the very start, Lloyd would have been a Pear rather than a Bear.

I settled quickly in the first team, mainly, I think, because I was very lucky to go into a team that had some fantastic batsmen.

Andy Lloyd

“In 1975, I was 18 and in my last year at school and had a trial at Worcester over Easter,” he recalls. “I played in an internal match on Good Friday and got a hundred before being retired ‘out’ then scored 77 not out for Worcester in the Birmingham League on the Saturday and then another 50-odd not out on the Monday. Basically, I scored 230 runs without being out, so I did okay.”

“That was Easter. By the second week of July I still hadn’t heard any more from Worcestershire and was playing for Shropshire against Bedfordshire at Wellington. The phone rang and it was Alan Oakman from Warwickshire. He asked me what I was doing next week and I said ‘nothing’ so he said: ‘Would you like to come and play against Nottinghamshire for the 2nds and then against Middlesex the following week?’

“I said ‘sure’ and went back to the table and told Doug Slade, who was Shropshire captain and a great man, and he said: ‘I thought you were going to play for Worcestershire?’ But it was July and I hadn’t heard from them since Easter, so I moved on.

“I got a couple of fifties in the two games and after the second game Bob Willis, who was on his way back from injury, took me back to my digs in Moseley. He said: ‘They’re going to offer you a contract – whatever you do, don’t accept the first terms they give you.’

“Sure enough, in the first week of September, a letter arrived from AC Smith, the secretary, offering me terms for three years – summer contracts to cover my college holidays in the next two years and a full year on the staff in the third. It wasn’t a lot of money but I showed the letter to my father and he said: ‘I don’t give a monkey’s what Bob Willis said – write back and say thank you very much, I accept!’ I did, of course.

“The following Easter the first time I saw Bob at Edgbaston he said: ‘I bet you accepted the first terms they offered?’ and I said ‘Yes!’

Willis’s advice was well-intentioned but there was no hesitation from the cricket-loving Shropshire lad – and a career which was to shape Warwickshire’s history was launched.

It started with a blob – c Sarfraz Nawaz b Hodgson 0 at Northampton on July 6, 1977, but in the next game, against Somerset at Edgbaston, Lloyd scored 70 not out and 27 not out against Ian Botham in his prime – and he was up and running.

“My first knock ended early via a catch in the gully,” said Lloyd. “But I settled quickly in the first team, mainly, I think, because I was very lucky to go into a team that had some fantastic batsmen. At that time Warwickshire weren’t doing particularly well as a side because the bowling wasn’t as effective as they would have wanted, but we had two fantastic batsmen in Dennis Amiss and Alvin Kallicharran. They made the life of a young guy going into the side so much easier. Dennis was very helpful in all aspects, Alvin out in the middle more, and they really took the pressure off a young kid trying to learn the trade.

“They shaped my early years. I was capped in 1980 and that year we won the Sunday League and I played well in all cricket and realised: ‘I can do this.’ Then it was just a matter of moving forward.”

That 1980 Sunday League triumph, an isolated trophy amid an otherwise barren era, came right out of the blue. The Bears had finished rock bottom the previous year, having won just two of 16 games.

But under Willis their Sunday cricket was transformed and, with the sort of innovation which was to be spectacularly emulated a decade later, Warwickshire found a crucial way to get ahead of the game. In an era when much fielding was still pretty leisurely, they spotted that ones and twos saved in the field mounted up – and often meant the difference between victory and defeat.

“It was Bob’s first year as captain and we trained very hard and practised very hard on fielding,” Lloyd recalls. “We had Phil Oliver, John Claughton and myself in the cover area and we were young and fit and threw ourselves around. We did stand out.

“Olly had a great talent and was a fantastic natural ball-player. John was incredibly fit and made a big impact that year. We won the first eight games. Dilip Doshi played and was real quality, an eight-overs-for-16 guy – it was the first time I had played with a top-class spin bowler. Bob didn’t play all the time but was a big influence and then John Snow came in for the last eight games.”

The Bears lifted the trophy with a match to spare – though not every game went to plan. When Kent visited Edgbaston, the Bears, chasing 180, began the last over 179 for five with Lloyd 89 not out. The match ended in a tie with the Bears 180 for seven.

“I had batted through and we wanted two to win off the last over and I made a complete Horlicks of it. John Shepherd was bowling and I let one go – that’s how confident I was! I was run out going for a bye off the last ball.”

Lloyd was now firmly established though and when, in 1983 he piled up 1,659 championship runs at 47.40, the England selectors began to take note.

“I got a lot of runs in ’83 and was called up,” he said. “Chris Tavare was opening the batting for England and he got injured. I played for Warwickshire against Surrey at The Oval on the Saturday before the Lord’s Test match against New Zealand. I scored a hundred and carried my bat against Sylvester Clarke who was pretty potent and I remember Mihir Bose, a very respected journalist, writing: ‘Lloyd carried his bat but did nothing to enhance his Test match claims as it was a real struggle’. Well, for anyone playing against Clarkey in those days it was a struggle!

“I was in the squad at Lord’s and didn’t make the final 11 but I was in the England scene and everybody – Bob, who was captain, Lamby, Beefy and David Gower – made me very welcome in the fold.

“That winter England toured New Zealand and Pakistan. It was the sex, drugs and rock and roll tour and I did well not to go on it – it was a turbulent tour and instead I went and played grade cricket in Sydney knowing I was next in line.

“I came back to England that spring and was picked for the MCC against the champion county, Essex, at Lord’s. I was on about 20 when Neil Foster, bowling from the Pavilion End slanted one away from me and I edged it. Graham Gooch, at second slip, was probably the best catcher around at the time, but it hit the deck – and I went on to get a hundred. That’s what a bit of luck can do. Every successful guy, whatever they do, at some stage needs a certain amount of luck – that was mine.

“Maybe I would have got the call-up anyway but a century in a showpiece game like that certainly helped.”

And when England’s squad for the three-match ODI series against mighty West Indies was announced, Lloyd’s name was in it…

Part two continues next Thursday.