As always, competition was fierce to even get on to the short-list with fine cricketers like Billy Quaife, Bob Wyatt, Shaun Pollock, Paul Smith, Rikki Clarke and Keith Barker missing out. The '90s alone could have provided a formidable short-list: Dermot Reeve, Dougie Brown, Paul Smith, Neil Smith, Graeme Welch, Ashley Giles.
But the Greatest Bear bar is set very high – as shown by those to have won the polls so far: Allan Donald (overseas player), Dermot Reeve (captain), Eric Hollies (spinner and individual bowling performance), Brian Lara (individual innings), Keith Piper (wicketkeeper), Andy Moles (non-Test player) and Trevor Penney (fielder).
That’s quite a team coming together – one which could happily take on the Greatest from any other county!
It’s a series which has got Bears fans – and former Bears players across the world – talking. Thank you to all who have joined in and voted…please cast your vote for one of these five Great Bears All-rounders…
Frank Foster 1908-1914
First class: 5,436 runs (27.04) and 587 wickets (20.56)
If an all-rounder’s value is judged by his impact on the team’s fortunes, Frank Foster’s (pictured above) claim to be Bears Greatest takes some beating.
In 1908, aged 19, he entered an ageing, under-performing side which had drifted along for years. In 1911 he led them to a first championship triumph which stunned the cricket world – and he led them in the truest sense of the word, as captain.
Appointed skipper, aged just 22, FRF took over after the first match, in which he did not play and was lost by an innings – and transformed a dissolute rabble into champions. He was a brilliant motivator and innovative, always positive captain, but also an inspiring cricketer in his own right; a skilful left-arm swing bowler and thrilling attacking batsman.
In 1911 alone he scored 1,383 runs (at 44.61) and took 116 wickets (at 19.15) before heading off to Australia and, along with Smethwick-born, Sidney Barnes, bowling England to Ashes victory.
A truly dynamic cricketer.
Tom Cartwright 1952-1967
First class: 10,781 runs (22.09) and 1,058 wickets (18.75)
List A: 250 runs (12.50) and 48 wickets (17.66)
Coventry-born Tom Cartwright started his career, aged 17, with a composed 82 against Nottinghamshire, the first of more than 10,000 runs he would score for the Bears – but his true genius lay in bowling.
For much of the 1950s and 1960s, Tom’s medium-pace swing left batsmen up and down the country trussed up and tormented. Delivered from a basis of relentless accuracy, it was bowling of high intelligence with copious clever variations.
Tom peaked in 1962 with 1,176 runs and 106 wickets, becoming only the second Bear (after Frank Foster) to do the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets. Those hauls included an unbeaten 210 against Middlesex at Nuneaton and 15 for 89 in the match against Glamorgan at Swansea.
Tom often carried an, at times, threadbare Bears attack before joining Somerset where he became a highly-respected coach. Ian Botham is among those to count him as a major influence.
Dermot Reeve 1988-1996
First class: 6,484 runs (39.06) and 209 wickets (24.77)
List A: 3,394 runs (30.57) and 167 wickets (27.22)
Dermot Reeve was not the most naturally gifted cricketer but, judged purely in terms of impact on the Bears team, ranks up there with Frank Foster. Both led Warwickshire to the championship, not only with inspiring leadership, but also runs and wickets. True leaders from the front.
Any perception that Reeve was a ‘bits-and-pieces’ cricketer is blown apart by his first-class stats for the Bears. An average touching 40 is testament to how many games he shaped with the bat. A bowling average of 27 is decent enough but does not factor in how many wickets he took at important times.
Quite apart from his cricket skills, there was his dynamic leadership: innovative, inspiring and tailored to get the very best out of each player. All this, as well as a unique and precious ability, honed by years of practice, to get right up the opposition’s noses.
A real irritation to play against – a great man to have on your side.
Dougie Brown 1992-2006
First class: 8,066 runs (30.90) and 515 wickets (29.79)
List A: 4,096 runs (23.54) and 309 wickets (26.35)
T20: 243 runs (12.78) and 23 wickets (26.56)
All the players short-listed for Greatest Ever Bears All-rounder are true Warwickshire legends, but none is closer to the hearts of the club and its supporters than Dougie Brown. More than 12,000 runs and 800 wickets across the formats reflect his input on the field but, as always, the stats don’t tell the full story.
With bat or ball, Dougie was the epitome of a team player. He contributed much to the lifting of many trophies, including three county championships in 1994, 1995 and 2004, but was also the most dogged of fighters when his side was under pressure.
When the going was tough, he dug in deep with the bat. When bowling was a thankless task, the pitch giving the bowlers nothing, he always still wanted the ball.
Just as the great Willie Crilley once lit up Alloa Athletic’s team, Dougie Brown adorned Warwickshire’s… he could truly be labelled the Bears’ own Willie Crilley.
Chris Woakes 2006-present
First class: 3,719 runs (35.75) and 342 wickets (24.28)
List A: 553 runs (20.48) and 62 wickets (35.24)
T20: 579 runs (26.31) and 75 wickets (25.00)
Chris Woakes’s figures for the Bears are highly impressive. If he played in a different era, when England players were not so detached from their county teams by central contracts, his stats would be heading for all-time record territory.
Woakesey hit the ground running in 2008, his first full season, when he bowled the Bears to championship promotion with 42 wickets at 20.57 apiece. Blessed with a great natural action and a perfect temperament, he quickly developed into a seam-bowler from the very top drawer.
Alongside that, his batting blossomed to a degree whereby he could justify his place in the team as a specialist batsman. He has ten first-class centuries under his belt, including one in Test cricket.
Woakesy’s place in England’s team across the formats since 2011 has reduced his input to the Bears, but that input remains colossal with, no doubt, plenty more to come.
Cast your vote
To vote for Warwickshire’s Greatest All Rounder, simply complete the below form. Everyone who submits their vote will be entered into a prize draw to win a signed Warwickshire shirt.
Voting closes at 5pm on Tuesday 26 May and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.