Two of the great pillars of English cricket will meet when Warwickshire welcome Surrey to Edgbaston in the Specsavers County Championship on Saturday.
The fixture’s history is littered with great games – and great names from Jack Hobbs to Ashley Giles and Frank Foster to Chris Woakes.
Brian Halford reflects upon four chapters of the ongoing epic that is Warwickshire v Surrey.
John Jameson, Dennis Amiss, Rohan Kanhai, Mike Smith, Alvin Kallicharran, Deryck Murray – has there ever been a better top six in county cricket?
Probably not. That was the powerhouse top-order which drove Warwickshire to the County Championship title in 1972, a triumph which included a crucial mid-August, nine-wicket win over reigning champions Surrey at Edgbaston.
The victory had extra spice for the Bears as they had been pipped to the title by Surrey the previous year on number of games won, having finished level on points. In ’72, Surrey fell away to finish in mid-table but Warwickshire went from strength to strength and took the title for only the third time.
That vaunted top-order was powerless while the other team was batting, of course, and it was the Bears’ seam-attack that put them in control on the opening morning against Surrey. David Brown, at his quickest, delivered a burst of three for eight, including the prize scalps of John Edrich and Younis Ahmed, and, after Norman McVicker followed up with three wickets, the visitors were all out for 143.
Against a high-class bowling attack of Geoff Arnold, Robin Jackman, Pat Pocock, Intikhab Alam and Graham Roope, Kallicharran then played gloriously for 149, with a six and 26 fours, and, supported by Smith (71), lifted Warwickshire to 344 – a lead of 201.
Surrey were making a good fist of their rearguard action when their second innings reached 137 for one but then Lance Gibbs took four wickets in 19 balls and Brown added four more wickets to dismiss them for 237 and leave a victory target of 37. The title was heading to Edgbaston.
The title was also heading Edgbaston way in 2004 after a sensational last day saw Surrey beaten by seven-wickets in early May.
Batting first, the Bears piled up 546, not bad from the uncertain foundation of 71 for three. The revival was begun by Jonathan Trott (61) and Jim Troughton (77) and turned into a position of command by a seventh-wicket stand of 191 between Brad Hogg (158) and Ashley Giles (70).
Giles, playing his only championship match that season, and Hogg then shared five wickets to dismiss Surrey for 302 but the visitors had some high class in their top order. When they reached 364 for two on the last afternoon, with Mark Butcher (184) and Graham Thorpe (89) apparently unmoveable, a draw deemed certain.
But Dewald Pretorius broke through to trigger a collapse of the last eight wickets in 23.3 overs, Pretorius and Neil Carter taking three wickets apiece, and leave a victory target of 171. Launched by Carter’s pinch-hit 24, the Bears paced their pursuit perfectly as Nick Knight saw them home with an unbeaten 62.
The last day of Warwickshire v Surrey in 1914 also saw the Bears hurry to a victory – in what was perhaps the most poignant day in the club’s history.
The final match of the season, against glamorous opposition already crowned county champions, would normally have attracted a five-figure crowd to Edgbaston in that era, but not this time – the country was in a state of war.
Despite the declaration of war, three weeks earlier, the MCC and the counties had decided to complete the season’s fixtures, though the cricket was inevitably surreal and distracted. Many amateur players were called away, sometimes during games, for military duty.
The final day of the season, a Saturday, dawned bright and sunny at Edgbaston with the Bears in a promising position. Requiring 211 for victory, Surrey resumed on 81 for three, having lost the esteemed opening pair Jack Hobbs and Tom Hayward the previous evening. For the remaining wickets, Warwickshire would look principally to two great all-rounders; Frank Foster and Percy Jeeves.
Foster, having led Warwickshire to the championship in 1911 and powered England to the Ashes in Australia the following winter, was great already. Jeeves, two brilliant seasons behind him after his late entry into county cricket, was the stuff of greatness.
Together, they took the last seven Surrey wickets for just 46 runs in an hour. Foster completed the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets for the season in the process. Jeeves was, Wisden reflected, “perhaps one of the great bowlers of the future.”
As the two men passed, to loud cheers, through the pavilion gate, they departed first-class cricket forever.
Jim Troughton and Chris Woakes led the way when Warwickshire piled up 571 against Surrey at Edgbaston in 2012.
Troughton and Woakes went into the match in excellent nick, fresh from hitting centuries in the previous game against Somerset at Taunton. They made it back-to-backs as part of a collective batting effort which set up a victory bid that was to be ultimately thwarted – with a little controversy thrown in.
The Bears’ innings was assertively launched by an opening stand of 130 between Varun Chopra (60) and Ian Westwood (67), then built upon by Troughton (119) and Richard Johnson (49) before a tiring attack was exploited in a ninth-wicket stand of 127 between Woakes (118 not out) and Jeetan Patel (76).
Rikki Clarke then took four for 46 to help dismiss his former team-mates for 286 and, late on the third day, Surrey followed on, requiring 285 to avoid an innings defeat. Then came the controversy as Zafar Ansari edged Patel to William Porterfield at second slip but refused to accept the fielder’s claim to have caught the ball.
Ansari stayed – and he stayed all the way through a rain-affected final day too to finish unbeaten on 85 and see his side to a draw.