Match-turning late-order runs have been a benchmark of Warwickshire’s cricket in the modern era – never more vividly illustrated than when Hampshire visited Edgbaston six years ago.
Despite fielding a top six five of whom had played for England, the Bears hit 98 for seven in their first innings and, replying to 283, were in serious danger of following on – only for the last three wickets to add…284!
Chris Woakes, a pretty handy chap to have at number nine, underpinned the recovery. He started it with a partnership of 77 with Tim Ambrose (54) then added 104 for the ninth wicket with Neil Carter (62) and even when Carter perished, Hampshire’s suffering wasn’t over.
Number eleven Imran Tahir went in to have a swing in characteristic style and contributed 40 to a tenth-wicket stand of 103 against his former (and future) team-mates. Woakes ended with an unbeaten 136, his second first-class century (the first had also arrived against Hampshire) and the Bears totalled 382 – a lead of 99.
Woakes then got busy with the ball, taking four for 75 which, alongside Carter’s five for 71, rattled the visitors our for 176. Carter’s pinch-hit 24 gave the Bears a springboard to their pursuit of a target of 80 which was reached for the loss of two wickets. A thumping victory, courtesy of some spectacular tail-wagging!
One of the joys of the County Championship has long been the input of top-class players from around the world.
That overseas influence was at its height in the 1970s and 1980s with pretty much all the top stars figuring on the county scene. That meant even the most mundane, rain-affected match could be illuminated by cricket of coruscating brilliance and so it was when Hampshire visited Edgbaston in 1985. During a damp, grey week the match was drawn but not before West Indies legends Gordon Greenidge and Malcolm Marshall lit up the occasion.
Batting first, Warwickshire were soon nought for two: Robin Dyer lbw Marshall 0, Alvin Kallicharran lbw Marshall 0. That became 38 for four: David Smith lbw Marshall 16, Dennis Amiss lbw Marshall 15.
Four lbws sum up the accurate, skidding menace of Marshall’s fast-bowling. Other members of that great West indies pace dynasty were more dangerous to the batsman’s health but arguably Marshall posed the biggest threat to the batsman’s wicket.
The Barbadian powerhouse added the tail-end scalps of Dean Hoffman and Norman Gifford to end with six for 50, mightily impressive figures on a slowish pitch.
Greenidge then took over, smashing his fifth double-century for Hampshire – 204 with two sixes and 26 fours, many crunched through the off-side. Only Gifford was able to impose any degree of control in a bowling attack also comprising Hoffman, Gladstone Small, Steven Wall, Anton Ferreira and Paul Smith.
Three more wickets for Marshall then had the Bears in trouble at 189 for seven, still 108 away from avoiding an innings defeat, when the last three hours were wiped out by rain. Even the brilliant West Indies stars couldn’t do anything about that!
In the distant days of uncovered wickets, the cricket was often fascinating as spinners held sway, weaving their webs and making the batsmen earn every run.
Such a contest evolved when Hampshire arrived at Edgbaston in 1937. A quartet of twirlers – Eric Hollies and George Paine for the Bears and Gerry Hill and Stuart Boyes for Hampshire – took 35 of the 40 wickets in the match, having delivered the little matter of 226.1 overs.
Hill was the first to cause trouble as he took six for 89 when Warwickshire batted first and made 214 thanks largely to a skilful 87 from Freddie Santall. Hollies and Paine then harvested five wickets apiece when Hampshire replied with 200.
Batting became increasingly difficult as the pitch wore and second time around, with the ball spitting off a length, the Bears found themselves confronted by Hill and Boyes from the start. The spinners took the new ball and continued to wield it for 82 overs as the former delivered 41-12-71-7 and the latter 41-19-63-2. When, for the 83rd over, paceman Lofty Herman was at last deployed, he wasted no time in polishing off innings at 144 all out, ending with figures of 0.1-0-0-1.
A victory target of 159 looked difficult for Hampshire on a final-day track and Hollies duly spun the Bears to victory with six for 36 – six of the 103 wickets he was to take against Hampshire in his career and the 2,323 he was to net in total between 1932 and 1957.
One of the great fascinations of cricket in the Victorian era was the many characters who popped up in first-class cricket then disappeared almost straight away. Among them was William Ward.
When Hampshire visited Edgbaston in 1895 they were surprised to be confronted by Smethwick-born Ward, a 21-year-old slow-left-armer who played for Kings Heath. He started in style with a five-for – and it was to prove the zenith of his very brief first-class career.
Ward was very much the junior member of a bowling attack including the legendary Knack Pallett, Sydney Santall and Alf Glover, but it was the youngster who shone. All the wickets in his five for 61 were authentic spinner’s scalps – two bowled, one lbw, one caught-behind and one stumped.
Those wickets helped dismiss Hampshire for 151 and set Warwickshire on the way to a five-wicket victory, but though Ward’s career had begun spectacularly, it was not to stretch far.
He played just one more championship match that season, strangely also against Hampshire down at Northlands Road. Then, after playing eight matches in 1896 (including the infamous game in which Yorkshire piled up 887 at Edgbaston), he was to wait eight years for his 11th and final first-class appearance, against Cambridge University at Edgbaston in 1904.
That was far from his final visit to Edgbaston, however, where he continued to attend regularly as a spectator for more than half a century until shortly before his death in 1962.