Sam Hain sits in the Bears Den TV studio and takes a deep breath.
Sitting casually with his left arm over the sofa, he looks away from the camera gathering his thoughts.
“I mean Division One is tough,” Hain starts. “From where we were last year, just scraping through, top four is an OK year. It’s a decent year.
“Do I think we have more? Of course, I do.”
Hain has been tasked to evaluate and reflect on the Bears’ County Championship campaign, just a few days after the season came to a close.
Debriefs and appraisals were in full flow and questions such as the one asked above were common, but still difficult to answer. The batter, amongst nine other senior players, each gave up their spare time to take part in our new In Their Words series.
Episode one talks about the red ball season with two others to follow on the Vitality Blast and Metro Bank One Day Cup.
But self-reflection is never easy. So, credit to those who participated and answered so honestly. The overall view is the above. Plenty of good but drops of disappointment that came at just the wrong time.
“We struggled last year and scraped through with some Liam Norwell brilliance,” added Danny Briggs – a senior figure within the dressing room.
“We had a chance to come third (during the final game) and we were still in a position heading into the final block of four games to mathematically win it all.”
Will Rhodes, the Captain, added: “We’ve taken last year’s disappointment into consideration and to win six games (this year) compared to two (last year) was fantastic and the losses have gone down as well.
“There are a lot of positives. We’ve looked at the games we’ve lost (Surrey home and away and Essex) and if you’re going to lose to teams then lose to the teams above you.
“Yes, we lost to Middlesex, but we rolled the dice on a wicket we wanted to play on. We thought we could get a win on that pitch and it ultimately backfired on us.”
So yes, positive, but everyone knows there’s more to do across the board.
As part of the 12-minute feature, the players were asked to dissect the season into batting and bowling groups, plus the campaign overall. The answers vary with each player giving a little insight into their season and as a collective.
“In the first few games I looked round and there were Woakes, Rushworth, Hassan Ali, Barnard and then myself,” said leading wicket-taker Oliver Hannon-Dalby.
“I was thinking ‘Jeez this a serious bowling attack and if I bowl ten overs, I’ll be lucky in this game or two’ but we’ve got a brilliant attack, a lot of bases covered and it’s special to be a part of.”
Chris Rushworth agreed: “Myself and OHD played 13 out of 14 games and for me to bowl the other end to him after watching him from afar for so many years I realised how good he is.”
The batting unit was equally supportive.
“It was a tough year to bat, but I think we scrapped well at times,” said Alex Davies. “We had a lot of important partnerships in the middle order to get us extra batting points.
“Sam Hain is always a mainstay, but the likes of Barney and Burgy pushing us on and batting with the tail towards those totals we got was impressive.”
Michael Burgess added further: “We would have liked to put the bowlers in winning positions more times than not, but as a team this year we’ve probably not done that as much as we’d have liked.”
All-rounder Dan Mousley quipped: “Hopefully, we can go another step further in the red ball stuff because we’ve got an exciting group of young players.
“The standouts were Hainy, Rushy and OHD and the message next year is to go as deep and as high up the table as we possibly can.”
As the players return for winter testing on Friday, 10 November, all thoughts will turn to how the Bears can build on 2023 and improve for ’24.
Since the conclusion, Hassan Ali has signed up for another spell at Edgbaston, while Dan Mousley has been included in an England Lions red ball training camp this winter.
His development, plus the other younger players within the squad, could be the difference as the Bears look to close that narrow gap at the top of the table.
It will be a big ask during another gruelling season, but Hain is confident that he and his teammates can do it.
“I firmly believe in the coming years this Club will bring home another Championship for sure.”
Bring on 2024.
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