Tim Ambrose has lifted every trophy with Warwickshire and loved doing it, but his favourite memories of his time at the club run far deeper than winning on the field.
Those memories flow from the camaraderie and sense of belonging to a team and a club whose players, staff and supporters have always shared a very special bond.
“Winning trophies is what you play for, but it’s as much the tough days that I’ve enjoyed,” Ambrose said. “The days when you just think you’re bloody lucky to be doing this for a living. My favourite memories are, at the end of whatever kind of day’s play, always sitting down with my mates, who I’ve been out there slogging it out with, win, lose or draw, and having a beer and a chat.
“That’s something maybe I took for granted early in my career. It was only later on when I really got to appreciate how lucky I was to do it every day. I remember winning trophies as a young player at Sussex and the older players saying to me and Matty Prior, ‘you guys just think this is what cricket is, that winning is easy – you have no idea how hard this is.’ I think, as a youngster coming in, you do think that way. Only later on do you realise how lucky you are.”
Ambrose loved the sense of togetherness and the heat of battle, even in adversity…but the successes were special.
“Of course, winning trophies is what all your work is geared towards,” he said. “I loved every one we won.
“The Lord’s final in 2016 was really pleasing. In 2010, I had watched it from the crowd and then against Durham in 2014 we messed it up, so I was thinking, ‘I’m just not going to win this one’ so that was big for me. But they were all special. I really enjoyed winning the Second Division in 2017.Tim Ambrose
“I love four-day cricket and any time you need to bowl a team out on the last day, the buzz of that is tremendous. You have Jeetan Patel in the team and I have the best seat in the house…I absolutely loved those last days.
“In terms of individual innings, one that stands out was up on a beautiful sunny day at Scarborough when I’d had a rough trot and was trying to sort a few things out. I played as well as I could ask for about 120 and that was personally pleasing because it had been hard work to get there. But any innings where you have contributed to a win are the ones you remember.”
Ambrose’s contribution to many a Bears win is way under-played by the record books. Wicketkeepers’ catches are recorded, of course, but scorecards do not record byes saved and advice given. Most significantly, nowhere is it recorded how much better the bowlers performed for having a keeper in whom they had total trust and confidence.
Ambrose was always quite happy to be unsung, though there was one was occasion when he couldn’t resist sharing with his colleagues his pride in his day’s work…
“There was a game at Durham,” he recalls. “The wicket was fast with a bit of grass on it but the ball was gripping and the odd one was sliding. I think I got five in an innings, quite a lot slid off the outside edge and a couple went through the gate, stumped, and I remember coming off and saying to Pop Welch and a few other people: ‘I really kept well there’ which is not something I’d usually say. I was really pleased with that and for some reason I wanted to make a point that I felt that way!”
Those five dismissals are in there among 1,017 across the formats in a wonderful career which Ambrose decided to end at the close of the 2020 season. It is a decision with which he is very comfortable.
“I wouldn’t say it was an easy decision,” he said. “It’s something that you start to contemplate and once it gets in your head it can be a little bit distracting. I was pretty confident I was going to finish playing this season and then circumstances changed for everyone. The club was talking about looking in another direction and looking to play Michael Burgess more and I realised that I would have to battle for my place. I took a step back and asked myself ‘do you have the energy?…is your body up to it…is your game up to it?’
“Once I stepped away from that competitive bubble, it was quite an easy decision after I’d sat down with the family and looked at it through the right lens. I felt comfortable with it quite quickly.”
So what does the future hold?
“I’ve not much of an idea, to be honest. The immediate plan is to go to Australia and spend some more time with my family who I’ve seen very limited amounts of in the last two decades. With a young family, we are going to relocate there and hopefully spend some good years with them and see what happens.Tim Ambrose
“I want to give myself some time away from the game to think about different careers. I never really did that while I was playing because I didn’t want to distract myself from what I did and I always felt that I would be risking not giving enough to the cricket. So I’m hoping to explore some options over the next years…who knows what they will be.
“I don’t think I’ll be playing cricket any time soon. My feeling right now is that I’ll be happy to not pick a bat up for a while. You never know what kind of itch you might get but, at the moment, I’ll just relax!”