Michael Powell first visited Lord's as a cricket-mad nine-year-old to watch England take on the mighty West Indies in 1984. He was entranced by the occasion; the great players, the stately stadium, the vibrant atmosphere.
He travelled home to Rugby that evening dreaming of one day playing at Lord’s. It was not an unrealistic dream, bearing in mind he was already a talented youngster in the Warwickshire system…and it was to come true.
Powell went on to tread the Lord’s turf numerous times, but most memorably, on June 22, 2002. To play at Lord’s at all fulfilled his boyhood dream, but to captain his beloved Warwickshire to cup final glory inside a packed house there – beyond the stuff of dreams.
That’s what happened in ’02 when the Bears faced Essex in the last Benson & Hedges Cup final and, after a five-wicket victory, Powell lifted the trophy in front of thousands of jubilant Warwickshire supporters.
“It is a fantastic memory,” he said. “I first went to Lord’s in 1988 to watch England v West Indies and always dreamed of playing there after that. I had the pleasure of playing there several times across different formats, but that 2002 B&H final was the best.
“There is nothing more special than walking out for Warwickshire at Lord’s and to walk out as captain at the head of that fantastic side in a final was just amazing. I have many great memories of being a Bear, and playing with some wonderful people and wonderful cricketers, and that final is up there with the most special memories.”
Warwickshire ultimately lifted the trophy in fine style but their pathway to Lord’s had almost been closed off very early on. Just like 12 years later, when the Bears won the Blast, they had only just scraped through the group stages.
Powell’s side qualified from the Midlands/Wales/West group only as one of best third-placed teams. Of five games, they lost two and won three with a vital victory coming against Northamptonshire at Edgbaston thanks largely to Powell’s unbeaten 101.
“I remember that game because Mike Hussey was Northants captain and he was a man I admired greatly,” recalls Powell. “So it was nice to score runs n a vital win for us. I didn’t do it too often as captain.
“But once we were in the knockout stages, I always felt we had a really strong chance with the likes of Shaun Pollock and co in the side.”
Come the final, Pollock took only a matter of seconds to stamp his world class on the occasion. After Powell skilfully won the toss and put Essex in, the South African’s second ball took Nasser Hussain’s edge through to wicketkeeper Keith Piper. Essex 0/1.
The rest is history. Essex 181 for eight from 50 overs: (a fine collective effort from the bowlers; Pollock 10-1-32-1, Neil Carter 10-1-45-2, Dougie Brown 10-0-32-2, Ashley Giles 10-1-28-1, Neil Smith 10-0-40-1), Warwickshire 182 for 5 from 36.2: (Ian Bell 65 not out, Jim Troughton 37, Pollock 34).
“Polly was a world-class match-winner with ball and bat and he put down a marker right at the start,” Powell said. “Nasser had come into that final averaging 100-odd. He’d scored quite a few hundreds in the comp and had hardly been out and played superbly, but Polly took him down right at the start. I was stood at slip and it was a great moment to hear the roar from the Bears fans. We were on the way.
“All the bowlers bowled really well and then after we lost myself and Nick Knight quite quickly, up stepped Belly and Troughts. Belly played beautifully and saw the job through, though I think Troughts’ innings was a real momentum shift. He struck three or four fours in one over and the chase just took off from there.
“As quite a young captain, to lift a trophy at Lord’s in my second season as skipper was just amazing. The first year was all about winning promotion in the championship and we managed to scrape that with a last-game win at Derby that I ended up keeping wicket in! But then we signed Polly and, with a young Bell coming through, and Knighty and Gilo, we had wonderful side along with true Bears like Neil Smith and Dougie Brown.
“It was just a privilege to play with those guys and that day in 2002 was just a wonderful experience. A fantastic day for the Bears and great for me as captain that my family and friends could be there to share it.”