You won't meet a more modest, unassuming cricketer than Olly Hannon-Dalby but the leader of Warwickshire's seam attack admits that he is "really proud" of his 2022 season.
This time last year, the Bears’ talisman paceman was facing an uncertain future. A heel injury had kept him out of the closing weeks of the County Championship triumph and the complexity of the problem even raised questions about whether he would play first class cricket again.
It was a worrying time, but the Edgbaston medical team, led by Gerhard Mostert, worked their magic, ‘OHD’ did the requisite hard yards to regain fitness and come the 2022 season he was flying again. In the County Championship he bowled 472.3 overs (only Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones bowled more) and took 53 wickets at 23.69 apiece.
Liam Norwell was the last-day hero of the great escape but, make no mistake, without the superb work of OHD the Bears would have been in deep trouble long before that amazing denouement. The sustained excellence of Halifax’s finest held together a seam attack which was heavily depleted by injuries and international calls…and the significance of his 53rd wicket alone should not be under estimated. Norwell’s status-saving nine-for against Hampshire was brilliant but, faced with a tiny target to defend, OHD set the tone with a superb first over and the crucial first wicket.
“I was chuffed with the way I started that day,” he said. “I started with a good solid over and then managed to break through. In fact, I was disappointed that the headlines weren’t about my one-for, but I suppose Liam didn’t do too badly!
“Looking back, I am really proud of the season I had. I was very disappointed to miss the back end of last year and it was quite a worrying injury, but Mozzy and the medical team were brilliant. To come through a full season and bowl as many overs as I did was very pleasing. Roland-Jones just pipped me for most overs bowled in the championship, but I’m really chuffed to have stayed the course.
“It was a tough season for us as a side until in the last game we really showed what we are capable of. Hampshire are a fantastic cricket side and we beat them well. It was an incredible last day, one of the best I’ve been involved in, but we are all aware that it doesn’t hide what went before. We under-performed this year.
“We finished eighth and don’t want to congratulate ourselves too much for finishing eighth. That’s not good enough for the squad we have and the club Warwickshire is. Next year we’ve got to be looking to push on higher up the table and get in the top six, just in case the reforms mean that will be the First Division in 2024.”
OHD’s bowling, in an enticing-looking opening alliance with new signing Chris Rushworth will be integral to that ambition. It could be argued that his batting will be slightly less integral to the plan, but his work with the willow is becoming more and more effective. In the last couple of seasons, the 33-year-old’s dogged work at number 11 has escorted his team to several bonus points and several partners to milestones.
It has also provided some joyful entertainment, not least against Surrey at Edgbaston last season when he joined Michael Burgess at 409 for nine and was still there, unbeaten on 11, having taken 66 balls (94 minutes) to get off the mark, when the Bears were 531 all out.
With the most elegant leave in world cricket, OHD has become a batter to be reckoned with. So much so that when, late in the season, Mohammed Siraj was signed with a career batting average of seven, OHD could have been forgiven for being livid when Siraj went in at ten, leaving him at 11.
He wasn’t livid.
“Siraj plays a few shots so I think it was a wise decision to send him in first,” he said. “He could have his fun then I could hang around at number 11 if need be!
“I do love my batting and trying to hang around. If I can get one of the lads to a score or the team to a bonus point then great. Although my average might not be much, I’m really pleased with the number of balls I faced this summer.”
Hannon-Dalby’s increasingly broad bat and unflappable temperament, interspersed with the occasional dazzling cover drive, begs the intriguing question…what would happen if OHD, at his most dogged with the bat, faced OHD, at his best with the ball?
A duel to savour.
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