Andy Moles has described his accolade as the Greatest Bear Never To Play Test Cricket as "very humbling" and "the cherry on the top" of his Warwickshire career.
Moles came out on top in a vote by Bears supporters which saw him beat off a strong short-list which also included Percy Jeeves, Len Bates, Jim Stewart, Keith Piper and Dominic Ostler.
The Bears fans recalled the excellence of Moles’ batting at the top of the order between 1986 and 1997. He scored 13,316 first-class and 4,530 List A runs, shoring up the batting at times and helping it to glory, not least in 1994 and 1995, at others.
Solid, brave and implacable, he was an opening batsman from the very top-drawer, as shown by his career first-class average of over 40. Why an England Test call eluded him remains a mystery, but that is something he has long accepted without the slightest bitterness
No-one ever wore a Warwickshire shirt with greater pride – and Moles is his thrilled by his latest honour.
“I did hear on the grapevine that I was very close at one point when West Indies were touring and Robin Smith was opening the batting and not comfortable. I was top run-scorer in the country at the time, but then I snapped my achilles.”Andy Moles
“It is very humbling,” he said from his home in South Africa. “When I think of the path I took, having to write to all the counties to ask for a chance, and then being lucky enough to get that chance at Warwickshire and play with, and be coached by, such brilliant people – now this is just the cherry top. Thank you to everyone who voted for me.
“Over 125 years so many fine Warwickshire players never received a Test call for one reason or another, so it is such an honour. I’ve been following the Greatest Bear series closely, it’s been great, and this means so much, just like it did to A.D when he was voted Greatest Overseas Bear. Warwickshire is tattooed on all our hearts.
“Of course, I would have loved to play Test cricket. I did hear on the grapevine that I was very close at one point when West Indies were touring and Robin Smith was opening the batting and not comfortable. I was top run-scorer in the country at the time, but then I snapped my achilles.
“It wasn’t to be but these things happen. I can’t complain – I had a fantastic career and played under some wonderful coaches and with some fabulous players at a great club.”
Moles’s input to the 1995 championship triumph was truncated by an injury which finished his season in mid-June. By then, however, he had already helped lay the foundation for the title-retention with batting as consistent as ever.
He was averaging over 40, his runs including a memorable match-winning century against Somerset at Edgbaston in which he saw off the great Mushtaq Ahmed on a turning wicket.
“I couldn’t read Mushy at all,” he admitted. “But I worked out a way, which is what you have to do as a batsman.
“I swept a lot, always getting my pad outside the line, and went back and cut occasionally. He did get a bit frustrated. If I had a pound for every appeal that day I would be a wealthy man.
“Mushy was a very fine bowler but he hated not getting wickets and the longer he went without getting one the more investigative he became, so he would sometimes slip in the odd bad ball.”
The 1995 season saw Moles partnered up top for the first time by new signing Nick Knight and the pair dovetailed immediately with productive stands include 172 against Durham in the championship at Chester-le-Street and 178 against Somerset in the NatWest Bank Trophy first round at Edgbaston.
“I was very lucky to open with so many good players at Warwickshire,” he said. “Nick was elegant and stylish and Roger Twose was a fine player. Paul Smith and I had a very productive spell as openers and Paul was unlucky that he had to go back down the order when Andy Lloyd came back in. Then there were Jason Ratcliffe, Wasim Khan, Michael Powell – really good players.
“I always liked opening because you were straight in there and there was no time to get nervous. It was a great challenge because, in those days, there were a lot of very fine fast bowlers in county cricket.
“Sometimes I’d be back in the pavilion and say ‘blimey, the keeper and slips are a long way back’ and someone would ‘well, they were even further back when you were out there facing the new ball!”