Mark Robinson admits that Warwickshire are "blessed" with the support that roared them on to The Great Escape last week.
The Bears ended the season on a high as Liam Norwell’s stunning nine for 62 powered them to a crucial final-day victory over Hampshire which kept them in Division One of the Championship.
It was an astounding display of bowling and unfolded to a backdrop of increasing noise and fervour as the spectators sensed that something historic was happening and added their voices to the package of pressure on Hampshire’s batsmen.
“As the day went on, you felt there was something brewing and we love it when the members get involved and get vocal,” said Robinson. “We are blessed with that support here. There were a few games last season, not just the last one against Somerset, where that was the case. I vividly remember the Notts game last year and this year in the Royal London we had some great finishes and the crowd got involved and gave us great backing.
“We didn’t give our supporters the best red ball season by any stretch of the imagination so it was great to give them something like that to take into the winter. It was a special day. We have to keep it in perspective and remember we haven’t won anything, but we created some special memories.”
Robinson saluted the individual brilliance of Norwell but also paid tribute to the whole team’s refusal to buckle.
“It was incredible,” he said. “We needed snookers but we stayed alive and when you’ve got hope and some drive and excitement in the dressing room, you’ve always got a chance. We wanted to set them a few more than we did but then we took important early wickets and then every time it just looked like it was getting away from us, we got a wicket. And most importantly it was Liam who took it because that meant he had to have another over!
“It was a special story. Liam shouldn’t have played – he didn’t go into any competitive game last season with enough overs behind him. But we threw him in as the last throw of the dice, and he just got into that lovely place, that Bob Willis place against Australia in ’81, when you are almost on automatic pilot.
“It just showed again, bowlers win you games. This year we haven’t got things right and haven’t made some of the best decisions at times, but bowlers win you games and you are only ever as good as the team you can put out. In 2021 we got lucky when Chemar Holder wasn’t going well and England’s Test match was cancelled so suddenly we had Chris Woakes available for a must-win game at Leeds and then the last game. This time we got lucky because Liam was able to do something special, though you could say had precious little luck up to that point. We thought it was the last twist when Mohammad Siraj had to leave because his mum was poorly and then Jayant Yadav taps me on the shoulder and says he’s been called up by India! But the lads dug deep and found some magic and I am very proud of them for that.”
As a result, Warwickshire avoided relegation at the potentially most difficult time with a restructuring of county cricket planned for 2024. Among formats under consideration for that year is a First Division of just six, comprising the top six in Division One in 2023. If that gets the vote this winter, teams in Division Two next season will know they can’t be in the top tier in ’24.
“The benefits of staying up were twofold,” said Robinson. “First and foremost, you what to be in that division because, every time you are, you have a chance of winning the championship. But this time there’s also that chance that there will be no promotion or relegation at the end of next season and we might go into groups of six and, if that does happen, we would have had have no chance of being in Div One the following year.”
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