As the incredible climax to the 2022 season unfolded at Edgbaston and news spread around the cricket world, Tim Ambrose, as Amby invariably did, put it perfectly in a nutshell.
Spot on, Amby. And as the dust settles on Warwickshire’s ‘Great Escape,’ the full perspective of Liam Norwell’s stunning nine for 62 becomes clear.
Statistically, it was the 12th best analysis in first class cricket for Warwickshire (behind Charlie Grove, Harry Pallett, Chris Woakes, Sam Hargreave, two of Jack Bannister, two of Eric Hollies and three of Harry Howell) but, in terms of importance to the team, it tops the lot. It saved the Bears from a relegation which could potentially have kept them out of Division One for at least two years.
On a day when the stakes and the pressure could not have been higher, Norwell delivered one of the finest, most focused spells of straight, fast bowling ever seen at Edgbaston. This from a player who had not bowled competitively for weeks and had endured a season plagued by injury misfortunes, including a horrible blow to the head from a lifting delivery while batting.
At the end of a season which was extremely difficult for both Norwell and the team came a day as dazzling and memorable, in different ways, as the one 370 days earlier when Warwickshire bowled out Somerset to clinch the championship.
The two days were similar in that the Bears needed to take ten wickets sharpish to get where they needed to be. But whereas the final day in 2021 was a brilliant collective effort, in 2022 it was all down, pretty much, to one man.
Not that ‘Big Liam’ saw it that way, of course. His first thoughts were for the input of new ball partner Olly Hannon-Dalby who took the first wicket (to ultimately deny Norwell an all-ten just as he denied Woakes one against Durham in 2016).
“Olly bowled an unbelievable spell to only get one wicket,” Norwell said. “He deserved so much more in the game and was just amazing as he has been for us for years.
“The morning session didn’t go as planned. We wanted to set them much more towards 200, but we just had to keep believing and were backed up brilliantly by the fielders. The crowd got behind us and it was reminiscent of the last day of last season.
“The crowd kept us going and the lads kept me going. You have to give credit to Will Rhodes. I tried to take myself off after the Keith Barker wicket because I was cramping – I won’t use the language he used, but the gist of it was ‘you’re bowling until the end of the game’. Rhodesy and Dom Sibley just kept getting round me and pumping me up. They kept me going and luckily it worked out. It’s a day that will live long in the memory.
“I don’t know what I was thinking at the end – I just went a bit mad. All the emotions came out and I was nearly in tears. It means a lot to me because I feel I have let everyone down this year by not playing. Now we have got to push on and make sure we are not in that position again.”
Much thought and work in the months ahead will go into trying to ensure the team is not in such a position again but, at the end of a tough season at Edgbaston, it’s important to first celebrate the brilliant feat which preserved the Bears’ Division One status.
Norwell’s magnificent fast bowling was a timely reminder of talents that, less than a year ago, were impressing with England Lions in Australia. With the Ashes looming next year, England’s selectors will have watched the footage of flying stumps and floundering batsmen last Thursday with interest.
Liam Norwell is back! In a season which saw a first class cricket ground charge an incredible £6.20 – yes, £6,20! – for a sausage roll, Pasty proved himself priceless. Roll on 2023.
“I’m as frustrated as anyone by how this season went, the back issues and concussion. then tearing my elbow,” he said. “It has been so frustrating because I believe if I had played more, we would not have been in the position we were in. That is not arrogance but I have that confidence in myself and I hope I have proved that on Thursday.
“I do feel I have let the lads down quite a bit. During the season we were on top in games but not quite closed the door on teams and maybe I could have helped us do that. That’s what we need to work on for next year but I hope that putting in that performance at the end and helping us stay up had repaid the guys a little bit.”
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