Ask Jeetan Patel to select the most memorable match of his magnificent Warwickshire career and the right-arm spinner goes left field.
He cites not a cup final, or a game which clinched a trophy or contained or a big personal wicket-haul…but a county championship draw!
Bears legend Patel loved winning and he loved taking wickets, 1,420 of them across all formats, starting with Ian Ward (New Zealand Academy v England A at Lincoln on November 11, 1999) and ending with Jack Haynes (Bears v Rapids in the Vitality Blast on September 18, 2020).
But among all the things he loved about playing the great game of cricket, most of all, it was the team dynamic. The collective. The bond of being all in this together. Win, lose or draw.
It’s always great to win, of course, but sometimes in cricket, when the cards are stacked against you, a draw can mean just as much. In July last year, when Warwickshire visited Hampshire in the county championship, the cards were well and truly stacked up against them.
It was the Bears’ fourth successive away game of a gruelling road trip. The squad and the bowling resources in particular, were ravaged by injuries.
Hampshire piled up 539, bowled the Bears out for 307, declined to enforce the follow on and finally set a victory target of 404. Half an hour into the final day, the chase didn’t look good at 52 for five against an attack including Fidel Edwards, Kyle Abbott and Keith Barker.
Five hours later, it was match drawn. The Bears closed on 347 for eight after a glorious rearguard action by Sam Hain (104, 276 minutes) ,Tim Ambrose (14, 66), Ben Mike (72, 147), Henry Brookes (36 not out, 125) and Patel (70 not out, 114).
They had fought like tigers for the Bear…and Patel was as proud that day as he was of any victory.
“That was very special. We were under the cosh with so many injuries and had hardly any bowlers and had been on the road for weeks so, we really had to dig deep. I was so proud of the guys. I remember walking off the ground and waving to the supporters because they had backed us all the way and clapped every dot ball.Jeetan Patel
“The elation when Brookesy and I walked off and were punching the air…it felt as if we’d won the World Cup. Moments like that are really cool because it is the group feeling from the guys that gets me.
“For me, it’s not the five-fors and hundreds that mean the most. It’s those moments when you just feel part of something very special. They are what I will always carry with me from my time with the Bears.”
If Jeets harvested many special memories from his time with Warwickshire, he provided even more for those around him. Every Bears player and fan has their own fond recollections of this special cricketer: The bowling skills; the unquenchable spirit; the late-order hitting; the encouragement in the field; the fire and passion. The spin bowler with a fast bowler’s aggression.
Rarely in sport do you find a perfect fit. Patel and Warwickshire were one, as quickly became clear after he returned to Edgbaston in 2011, injury having truncated his first spell in 2009.
“I played a couple of championship games in 2011 and I believe, to this day, that my main claim to fame is keeping Shivnarine Chanderpaul out of the side!” he said. “Then as soon as I arrived in 2012, I could see a real desire among the group to go one better than 2011, when they finished second in the championship, and win it.
“It was an amazing year and it all gelled for us on the pitch. So many people contributed at the right times. Just in the bowling group alone we had Keith Barker, Chris Wright, Boyd Rankin, Rikki Clarke. It was a privilege to be part of a group that really knew where they wanted to go and back then, as is still the case now, there were so any good blokes around the club, that made my job easy.
“I just wanted to be part of the team. I hadn’t arrived at the club with a great record, I wasn’t a ‘big gun’ by any means, but was here to do my best and have some fun. And that’s what happened. Everyone made me so welcome and 2011 onwards was fun.
“2014 was very special. We won the T20 and to be out there at Edgbaston inside a full stadium on Finals Day and take the final down to the last ball and then win on your home ground…well, there are no words. It was a really exhausting, really special day.
“Successes like that mean a lot, but when you talk of ‘fondest memories’, I think that means the ones that you think of the most – and they are not always the wins. I loved winning games and trophies but my fondest memories of Warwickshire are of the people that work in the place.
“I played with Jim Troughton and Ian Westwood, who went on to become my coaches. Pop Welch who coached me when I was 16. Dougie Brown coached me. Ashley Giles – Ashes hero and, for me, legend of my career.
“Keith Cook…you just don’t meet people like that – people who will just drop everything to help you. Probably the most special relationship I had in cricket was with Tim Ambrose.Jeetan Patel
“The list goes on. That is my most special memory of Edgbaston and the Bears…the amazing people.”
* In Part Three, on Thursday, Jeets considers the future and sends a heartfelt message to all the Bears’ members and supporters… “I wish I could have walked off Edgbaston and shaken every single one by the hand.”