Liam Norwell's 9/62 on the final day of the 2022 season was the 12th-best bowling analysis for Warwickshire in first class cricket.
But factor in conditions and match situation and a case could be made for it to be the best bowling performance ever for the Bears.
Jack Bannister v Combined Services (M&B Ground), 1959
The medium-pacer has the best analysis for the Bears but Bannister himself, a wise and honest critic as a journalist for many years after his playing career, would admit that it doesn’t rank as the best bowling display. The Combined Services XI equated to a good club side and the Portland Road pitch was wet and helpful to bowlers.
Still, Bannister bowled superbly to take the first seven on the first afternoon and the remaining three on the second morning. A historic all-ten was duly banked but the bowler was briskly brought down to earth. Bannister is perhaps the only man ever to take an all-ten and then be dropped…he made way in the next game when the senior bowlers returned!
Eric Hollies v Nottinghamshire (Edgbaston), 1946
This, from the great Hollies, is a real contender for best all-time bowling performance for the Bears. Nottinghamshire made untroubled progress to 47 without loss against the seamers then on came Hollies – and it was soon 62 for five. The master of metronomic accuracy and variation took all-ten…without the assistance of his colleagues. On a pitch which did not offer particular help to the spinners, seven of his victims were bowled and the other three were lbw.
A work of true genius delivered to great acclaim from spectators in the Rae Bank Stand, later to take his name.
Harry Howell v Yorkshire (Edgbaston), 1923
Howell’s all-ten, the first for Warwickshire, is another genuine contender for best ever because his wickets included some of the finest batters of the day. Yorkshire were a powerhouse at the time with a mighty batting line-up from legendary openers Percy Holmes and Bert Sutcliffe down. But Howell removed them both for single figures and kept going through a middle order which included the likes of Wilfred Rhodes, Roy Kilner and Morris Leyland.
Hockley-born Howell enjoyed the sort of support that bowlers love from behind the wicket as Jack Smart took three catches at slip and 37-year-old Tiger Smith four as keeper.
This was the first all-ten for the Bears.
Harry Howell v Hampshire (Edgbaston), 1925
Another real challenger here from Howell as he unpicked a strong Hampshire batting order on a pitch that was good for batting.
Bears totalled a solid 325 in reply to which Hampshire advanced to 89 without loss. Then spinner Billy Quaife broke through and the rest fell in a heap to Howell. The former Wolverhampton Wanderers striker took the last nine to rattle Hampshire out for 144 and set his side on their way to a 189-run victory.
Sam Hargreave v Surrey (The Oval), 1903
This may or may not be the best of the top 12 but it’s certainly the quirkiest. When the game (the opening match of the season) was due to begin, Hargreave was aboard a ship in the English Channel on his way home from Australia with the England squad. But rain washed out the first day, giving the slow-left-armer time to get to The Oval and make hay on the wet pitch.
Hargreave warmed up in the first innings with six for 41 to dismiss Surrey for 82. Then, after the Bears declared their second innings on 55 for four, setting a target of 196, he was even more potent second time round with nine for 35 as Surrey lost their last eight wickets for 26 to fold to 69 all out.
Harry Howell v Somerset (Taunton), 1924
Somerset were well aware of Howell’s abilities from six weeks earlier when he took seven wickets against them at Edgbaston. This time he inflicted even more damage with 14 in the match.
Howell and Bob Wyatt took five apiece first time round to bowl Somerset out for 99. Warwickshire replied with 137 (in 80.4 overs) in bowler-friendly conditions which Howell then exploited to the full. He dismissed numbers three, four, five and six for ducks and was on his way to a second career all-ten until Wyatt took the eighth wicket. Somerset were all out for 97 and the Bears completed a four-wicket win well inside two days,
Jack Bannister v Yorkshire (Sheffield), 1955
When fiery Fred Trueman got busy on a lively pitch to take five wickets to help bowl the Bears out for 148, the notoriously partisan Bramall Lane regulars were well-pleased. But Trueman was trumped by the milder medium-pace of Bannister.
Yorkshire were all out for 73 as Bannister took nine, only the wicket of Brian Close (lbw to Roly Thompson) eluding him. Victory was to elude the Bears, however. After 20 wickets fell on the first day, the wicket flattened out and Yorkshire, set 217 (much the biggest total of the match) to win, reached it for five wickets thanks to Willie Watson’s unbeaten 64 in 98 overs.
Chris Woakes v Durham (Edgbaston), 2016
“90 mile-an-hour leg-cutters” was how Durham captain Paul Collingwood described Woakes’ work on this grey afternoon in May.
After Andy Umeed’s century lifted the Bears to 313, Durham eased to 92 for one with only Olly Hannon-Dalby having broken through. Then Woakes hit Mark Stoneman’s stumps with a pretty much unplayable delivery to launch a spell of magnificent fast bowling which accounted for the other nine.
The Bears’ bowling attack in this match – Woakes, Hannon-Dalby, Chris Wright, Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel – is arguably the finest ever fielded by the club and Durham just happened to cop Woakes at his world-class best too.
Charlie Grove v Sussex (Edgbaston), 1952
On the morning of June 18th, 1952, Sussex skipper James Langridge chose to bat…bad idea. Thirty-nine overs later his side was 86 all out and Bears veteran Grove had a nine-for.
Fourteen years after his debut, the medium-pacer showed he could still swing it round corners when the clouds rolled in and a Sussex side including Bears legend-to-be Alan Oakman imploded in the face of his relentless accuracy. Grove shared the attack with two Bears greats – Tom Pritchard and Eric Hollies – but blew the Martlets away himself. He took the first eight before Hollies had Doug Wood caught at mid on to scupper the potential all-ten.
Harry Pallett v Essex (Leyton), 1894
Pallett’s off-spin was integral to Warwickshire being deemed good enough to receive first class status in 1894 and he wasted no time in showing his class when the Bears visited east London at the end of May.
Essex chose to bat but their batters were undone by Pallett’s flight and guile. He bowled James Burns in the first over and Henry Pickett in the last and, in between, took out seven others as Essex folded for 133. Aston-born Pallett added 30-11-45-5 in the second innings (match figures of 61-20-100-14) but Essex were saved from a heavy defeat by rain.
Eric Hollies v Northamptonshire (Edgbaston), 1950
After the Bears piled up 378 on a good batting pitch, Hollies set about showing that great bowlers don’t need conditions to be in their favour.
Brought on for the fifth over, he set about oppressing the life out Northamptonshire’s batting in tandem with Abdul Kardar. While the latter built pressure, Hollies feasted upon a string of batters who became as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs. The visitors were bundled out for 121 and the trueness of the pitch on which Hollies had just taken a nine-for was illustrated when, second time round, Northants batted out comfortably for a draw despite Hollies’ 51-20-89-3.
Liam Norwell v Hampshire (Edgbaston), 2022
The equation was simple and stark. Warwickshire had to take ten wickets in two sessions to avoid relegation at potentially the most damaging time with a rejig of the County Championship structure in the pipeline.
Fast bowler Norwell had not bowled in competitive cricket for months. At the end of an injury-plagued season, he was fit again but undercooked. But the Bears knew that if ‘Pasty’ blew hot, then he could blow Hampshire away.
And that’s what happened!
Olly Hannon-Dalby made the vital immediate breakthrough, then Norwell did the rest with brilliant, aggressive, focused pace bowling that sent stumps flying and Hampshire reeling. As wickets continues to tumble, the sense that something historic was happening spread round the world and Bears fans far and wide shared the thrills and incredulity at truly great bowling delivered when his team most needed.
The 12th-best analysis, but perhaps the best ever bowling performance for the Bears?
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