Batsmen think about all sorts of things on their walk out to the middle. Many of those things are predictable. The stuff of routine. The bowlers, the field, the game plan, the weather, what's for dinner.
But Will Rhodes’ thoughts in the 60 seconds that it took him to walk from Edgbaston pavilion to crease on September 23, 2021, were far from routine.
Those thoughts, that minute, were seminal. They were to shape the title race and materially move the championship trophy within Warwickshire’s grasp.
The Bears, needing to beat Somerset to secure the title, trailed by 22 on first innings. Late on the third day, they were 119 for one in their second when Dom Sibley was out and Rhodes went in. It was a solid position but, less than 100 ahead with ten Somerset wickets still to find on a good batting track, and only just over a day to go, time was at a premium.
What followed was a dazzling cameo from the captain. A true match-shaper. At the close, just eight overs later, he was already 42 not out and the Bears’ victory bid had been flooded with impetus.
Rhodes did not have a great 2021 season with the bat (633 championship runs) but that innings alone – 62 from 44 balls – along with Rob Yates’ measured ton, paved the way to glory.
And it was all cooked up in that magnificent minute…
“When Sibs got out and I was putting my gloves on, I said to Robbo, ‘what’s the plan?'” Rhodes recalls. “He said to just bat normally and give myself a bit of time but, having thought about it in the minute I was walking to the crease, I said to Yatesy, ‘I’m going to give myself ten balls here and then swing.’
“I thought it was a no-lose situation – if I came off, then brilliant, but if I got out we still had some of the best strikers in the country – Sam Hain, Michael Burgess, Chris Woakes – to come.Will Rhodes
“It paid off…then the bowlers did brilliantly and the rest is history!”
Rhodes was soon lifting the championship trophy and, a week later, he had more to celebrate. He was hoisting aloft the Bob Willis Trophy at Lord’s after a thumping innings-and-199-runs win over Lancashire to which he contributed an elegant 156.
“I’ve been pretty disappointed with the way I’ve batted in red ball cricket this year, but I felt like I got some rhythm and form back against Somerset,” he said. “Then to follow up with a century at Lord’s was fantastic. I’ve been lucky enough to score a hundred at Lord’s before but the context of this game was far superior with a lot more riding on the game. To contribute to any team win is fantastic but to do it in a final was even more pleasing.
“Sometimes you get into a bit of form and the season ends. That’s happened to me a few times in the last few years and it did again this year. I’m probably one of the few people who wanted the 2021 season to keep going.”
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