Captain Will Rhodes believes Warwickshire's performance in the crucial victory over Hampshire in the last game of the season must be the "benchmark" for the team next year.
Bears ended a difficult season with a stunning five-run win which preserved their Championship Division One status.
The 2021 champions will be in the top flight again, ready to challenge for another title, in 2023. Whether they can gather themselves to seriously do that remains to be seen – though don’t rule it out. In 1993, the year before the treble, the Bears finished 16th.
Certainly in the last game, with Rob Yates back in the runs and Liam Norwell back among the wickets, Rhodes’ side sent out a reminder of what they are capable of.
“We thoroughly outplayed the second best team in the country,” the captain said. “For four days we had probably the worst of the conditions and we came through it unbelievably well. We had to declare early and make up for time lost to the weather and I think the players should take a lot of praise for that.
“That has got to be the benchmark. People will forget that we came eighth this year if we can get back to where we want to be in the next couple of years. 2022 will remembered as a tough year but hopefully also as a year when a lot of young players did a lot of learning.
“Look at Dan Mousley who came in for the last game and the way he conducted himself was fantastic. He’s probably not had the opportunities he wanted this year but will have grown as a person, just like Jacob Bethell who was outstanding around the group for the last two games.
“Yatesy found it tough this year but the way he has opened up to people, to Tony Frost and a couple of the senior batting guys, and the way he wants to improve his game, mentally and tactically, is fantastic. He reaped his rewards in the last game with a special hundred against a very good attack under the lights and he should be very proud of that.
“Yatesy played a huge part in what was an amazing finale to the season. Liam Norwell was pretty much on one leg at the end but he kept going and it was one of the most unbelievable day’s cricket I’ve seen. I’ve been fortunate to play with some great players but that Liam’s performance is right up there as a very special moment.”
A special moment which met with huge acclaim from the Bears’ supporters who stuck with Rhodes’ side through a tough, injury-ravaged campaign.
“You’ve got to take your hat off to the crowd and the Members,” the skipper said. “They are the first to tell you when you are playing poorly but, on the flipside, as soon as you get a sniff of victory, and they get a sniff, they are the first ones to back you. Once they saw Liam was right on it, they really believed and that gives you, as players, extra motivation.
“Criticism is part and parcel of the job. You cop a bit of stick and, fair play, if you keep losing games you probably deserve it. It’s difficult when you know that with injuries and stuff you haven’t had all the personnel on the park that you’d like, but the supporters stick with us like they always do and the players stuck at it really well because they are great bunch who just want to give everything for the Bears.”
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