Trevor Penney speaks from experience when he asserts that "retaining a Championship title is the most difficult thing to do."
Warwickshire legend Penney was an integral member of the side which won the treble in 1994 and followed up with a double in ’95. Each of those sensational years included the biggest prize of all, the County Championship.
In 1994, the Bears won 11 of their 17 games to finish top, 42 points ahead of runners-up Leicestershire. Impressive stuff, which brought with it the pressure of ‘follow that.’
They did so even more impressively, winning 14 of 17 (the highest victory percentage ever in the Championship) to retain the crown, 32 points ahead of second-placed Middlesex.
Penney and his team-mates embraced the pressure. They simply resumed the collective skills, rhythms and resilience which had done the job the previous year. When they had finally finished celebrating, that is.
“Before the 1995 season we went to Cape Town for the pre-season trip. We were still celebrating ’94. It was pretty much a party and I think we celebrated a bit too much. When we got back to the UK we kicked off with a friendly against England A at Edgbaston and lost by an innings.Trevor Penney
“But then we got back into it and started the season well with a couple of home wins against strong teams. Poor Phil Neale had come in as coach and had to follow a treble-winning season which is a pretty tall order, but we soon recaptured the rhythm from the previous season.
“It was a real collective effort, just like it was by the Bears in 2021, with lots of guys contributing at important times, even if it was an important couple of wickets here or 40 runs there.
“Retaining a championship title is the most difficult thing to do. It is hard enough to win one in the first place because you have to play well over such long period of time but then when you are defending a title there is a lot of pressure because everybody is trying to knock you off your perch.
“The County Championship is the biggest prize in county cricket and the hardest one to win. It is a great achievement. Retaining it is an even bigger one.
“I was so pleased for Will Rhodes and his team. I am in the WhatsApp group for former Bears players that Allan Donald started and it’s always busy but it was in overdrive last September. We all keep in touch regularly and follow the Bears closely but in the last couple of games, as the lads closed in on the title, messages were landing every few seconds. I think from our locations all round the world, we helped to will them over the line on that final day against Somerset!”
That magical day – September 24th, 2021 – is one of several generated by the title charge which will live long in the hearts of all Bears. The’95 triumph left a similar legacy of memories…and a standout one for Penney arrived on June 24th – the day of the Rugby World Cup final.
South Africa v New Zealand was due to kick off late in the afternoon, UK time. This was a match that A.D was keen to watch but the Bears had some unfinished business at Edgbaston where Yorkshire, trailing by 353 on first innings had closed the third day on 115 without loss.
“The cup final kicked off at something like 5pm, UK time,” recalls Penney. “A.D said ‘don’t worry fellas, this will be over in time.’
“He had blown them away in the first innings and sure enough he got straight into them again and we rolled them. Just like A.D said, how cool was it for him to do that?”
A fired up Donald struck the first blow right at the start when he forced Martyn Moxon to retired hurt on his overnight 36. He then had David Byas snaffled by Dominic Ostler in the slips before Tim Munton and Dougie Brown widened the breach. The White Rose hurtled from 179 for two to 185 all out. The final wicket, Mark Robinson bowled by Brown for nought.
Further good news for Donald followed from Johannesburg: South Africa 15 New Zealand 12.
“A.D was brilliant that year,” said Penney. “He was delighted we had done so well the previous season but, of course, wasn’t involved so he was determined to make up for lost time. He was phenomenal – 89 championship wickets.
“Gosh he was so quick. Fielding in the covers to A.D was like fielding in the slips because you were on the alert for opportunities every ball. Batsmen were always trying to steal a single to get off strike.”
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