Olly Hannon-Dalby's superb season for Warwickshire culminated in a big personal target achieved with the awarding of his Bears cap - and the paceman admits the surprise presentation left him "a bit of a mess."
In a season which saw the Bears’ bowling attack decimated by injuries, the 6ft 8in seamer towered in every sense of the word.
He topped the averages with 44 wickets at 25.66 apiece and delivered 399 overs, more than a quarter of them maidens, of accurate, skilful, wholehearted bowling which contributed to countless wickets at the other end.
I was blubbering because for five years it has been one of my real career-goals to become a capped first-team Warwickshire player. It means so much to me. Plenty of times over the years I thought it was never going to happen, so it was really special.Olly Hannon-Dalby
Only the rain which wiped out the last three days of the final match against Yorkshire at Edgbaston denied ‘OHD’ a richly-deserved 50-wicket haul – but something else richly-deserved was coming down the track.
Hannon-Dalby, along with the other star of Warwickshire’s season, opening batsman Dominic Sibley, was capped.
“After the last game we had a team debrief in the dressing-room and Jeetan Patel gave Dom his cap which was great after Dom’s unbelievable year,” said Hannon-Dalby. “Then Jim Troughton spoke about the season and mentioned me, which was nice. Then he handed over to Keith Cook and Cookie gave me my cap. I had no idea it was coming!
“I admit by this time I was a bit of a mess. I was blubbering because for five years it has been one of my real career-goals to become a capped first-team Warwickshire player. It means so much to me. Plenty of times over the years I thought it was never going to happen, so it was really special.”
The accolade is totally merited, not just for Hannon-Dalby’s input on the field but also his wise and warm presence in the dressing-room. At 30, Hannon-Dalby still has plenty to give as a player, but it is already clear that many future cricketers will benefit from his coaching skills.
In 2020, though, his focus will be squarely on leading a Bears pace attack which will hopefully have Olly Stone, Liam Norwell and Ryan Sidebottom back fit again and challenging for places.
“If you look at our attack on paper and what we could have next year it’s pretty formidable and hopefully everyone will be fit and available,” said OHD. “But my plan is certainly not to relinquish my new-ball role. I want to keep opening the bowling for Warwickshire for as long as possible.
“I started the 2019 season not really knowing how much cricket I’d be playing, certainly in red-ball cricket. Some of the guys who were injured got freakish, long-term injuries which is really sad, but that gave me opportunities and I was really grateful to be able to lead the attack and take the new ball.
“I have never taken that many wickets in the championship, so that was great. In previous years I have been more of a back-up bowler, but I have worked hard with Graeme Welch because, while I have always had an away-swinger to the right-hander, I worked a lot last winter on getting one going away from left-handers. That helped a lot. To be able to go both ways with the ball has made me a bit more tricky to face.”
The next batsmen to face that tricky challenge will do so in one of the cricket world’s more remote outposts – Nepal. In November, Hannon-Dalby will join an MCC squad including former Bears team-mate Chris Wright on a two week tour of the Asian country as part of MCC’s Legacy Tour Programme.
“That will be fascinating,” he said. “It will be amazing to play in those conditions with the Himalayas in the background. I don’t think I will get up Everest but just to say I’ve seen it will be special!
“We’ll play one four-day game and some T20s and it will be good to catch up with Wrighty and help the MCC with the great work they do to support the emerging cricket nations. I’m really looking forward to it.”