First-class cricket arrived in Guildford in 1938 but it took 54 years for the lovely Woodbridge Road venue to be blessed by a visit from Warwickshire.
When, at last, the moment arrived, Allan Donald left a big impression on the fixture – and on Neil Sargeant’s jaw.
Dominic Ostler was the first Bear to leave a pawprint on Woodbridge Road. When Warwickshire batted first, Ostler piled up 192, many of them bludgeoned in a fifth-wicket stand of 214 with Trevor Penney (70).
The match then became weather-affected, requiring collusion from captains Andy Lloyd and Alex Stewart to set up a contest on the final day. Stewart made the first positive move by declaring Surrey’s first innings at 341 for six, 31 behind, to which Lloyd reciprocated by declaring the Bears’ second dig at 198 for nine.
Donald top-scored in the second innings with an unbeaten 32 – and then, when the visitors set off in pursuit of a victory target of 230 in 54 overs, ‘White Lightning’ found his rhythm.
He tore out the first six wickets to leave Surrey 45 for six and terminated Sargeant’s resistance, retired hurt, with a rising delivery which thundered into the batsman’s jaw.
Sargeant’s plucky 19 had held the Bears up importantly, though, and Mark Feltham’s half-century saw his side to a draw at 131 for seven from 47.1 overs when hands were shaken.
Warwickshire won only five matches on the way to lifting the County Championship title in 2004. Their fifth victory, and the one which gave them enough breathing space to enable them to draw their way to the title from that point onward, arrived at Woodbridge Road and was built on a huge first-innings – a ground record 537.
That hefty total included three centuries – Ian Bell 144, Michael Powell 110 and Dougie Brown 106 – as well as a handy 67 from Brad Hogg, one of so many valuable late middle-order contributions made by the Aussie that season.
In reply, Surrey were bowled out for 331. Rikki Clarke, opening the batting, made 21 but after he was bowled by Brown, only Mark Ramprakash resisted at length, making 145, as Naqaash Tahir took four wickets (each of them, curiously, arriving in the first over of a spell) to enable the Bears to enforce the follow on.
Surrey battled hard, Ally Brown and Jon Batty scoring centuries, but three wickets apiece for Tahir, Brown and Dewald Pretorius left the Bears with a victory target of 207.
With time running out, the pursuit had to be well-paced – and Bell (96 not out) and Trott (61) paced it perfectly in a third-wicket partnership of 137.
Guildford will always hold special memories for Warwickshire director of cricket Dougie Brown – back in 1994 it was at that elegant, tree-lined venue that he made his championship debut for the Bears.
And Brown started strongly, making an important contribution to a 256-run victory which kept Warwickshire on course for their sensational treble that summer.
The Bears, very rarely for that season, hit trouble on the first day, lurching to 25 for four with Brian Lara among those dismissed, for two. The team was still struggling, on 131 for eight, when Brown went to the crease at number ten to join fellow emerging all-rounder Graeme Welch. The youngsters dug in to add 110 with Brown christening his championship career with a crucial half-century – 54.
The importance of those runs was brought into sharp focus when Surrey were rattled out for 143 by Roger Twose (six for 28) and Tim Munton (four for 41). Then the first-innings lead of 103 was relentlessly built upon by Andy Moles who unfurled one of the slowest championship double-centuries ever – an unbeaten 203 in nine hours, 22 minutes from 439 balls.
Warwickshire had showed the stuff of champions by shrugging off a shocking start to build a winning position – and they closed it out by bowling Surrey out for 246, Tim Munton taking five for 96.
A great win – with a slight quirk: the match contained 16 lbw dismissals.
Three years ago Warwickshire arrived at Woodbridge Road as welcome guests for the celebrations of the ground’s 75 years as a first-class venue. And Varun Chopra enjoyed the hospitality to the tune of 192 runs.
The Bears chose to take first use of a good batting track and used it well, amassing their biggest ever total against Surrey – 631 for nine. Chopra’s strokeplay drew favourable comparison from home supporters with any they had seen on the ground as he sent the crimson rambler skimming sublimely across the yellow-green turf with a string of perfectly-timed drives.
The opener was well-supported by Ian Westwood (71), Tim Ambrose (84) and Ateeq Javid (85) before Keith Barker took advantage of skipper Jim Troughton’s decision to allow the innings to stretch after tea on the second day to biff a brutal 125.
Barker then annoyed Ricky Ponting. When Surrey replied, the Aussie legend took exception to the left-armer making hand-movements with his non-bowling hand during his run-up and had a word with the umpires.
Easily rattled these Aussie legends!
Barker got his man though, as Ponting became one of his four victims, and after Boyd Rankin tore out three wickets in one of the fastest overs any of the spectators will ever see, Surrey were all out for 274 and sentenced to follow on.
Denied a crucial couple of hours by rain, the Bears were thwarted in their bid to force victory. At one stage Surrey were wobbling at 186 for four but Ponting steered them to safety at 254 for four with an unbeaten 38.