This week the Greatest Ever Bear series turns to one of the biggest accolades of them all... the Greatest Ever Bears Batsman.
Some wonderful batsmen have not even made the short-list, the five which have together scored the little matter of 148,267 runs for Warwickshire.
Who do you rate the Greatest Ever?
Billy Quaife 1894-1928
First class: 665 matches, 33,987 runs (36.27), 72 centuries
Billy Quaife’s Bears career began with a century. More than 30 years later, it ended with a century, in his last match, against Derbyshire at Edgabston…he was 56 years old! It’s pretty safe to say he will remain the oldest player to score a first-class century for Warwickshire.
Quaife glued together the Bears’ batting for decades on uncovered, often treacherous wickets. He took his time – once, against Surrey he ‘reached his half-century in four and a half hours and then became introspective’ – but was the ultimate linchpin and much the Bears’ record run -scorer until overhauled by Dennis Amiss.
A pocket of defiance, at 5ft 3in, Quaife was a master at frustrating opposing bowers and spectators alike. He loved the dab and cut shots, rarely bothering with boundaries. He probably ran more runs than any other first-class cricketer…and saved the Bears’ bacon many times.
MJK Smith 1956-1975
First class: 430 matches, 27,672 runs (43.10), 48 centuries
List A: 140 matches, 3,106 runs (27.48)
Mike Smith burst on to the Warwickshire scene with more than 2,000 runs in each of his first three seasons and would have certainly challenged Billy Quaife’s then record 33,987 runs for the Bears if his career had not been interrupted by England calls and a career-break following his long tenure as captain.
MJK’s high-class batting was all the more impressive as it was delivered alongside the responsibilities of captaincy. The former Oxford University student skippered the Bears in 327 matches over 11 seasons (as well as captaining England in 25 Tests).
To have averaged more than 40 from a career spent batting on uncovered wickets is testament to the highest levels of skills and technique. That average also vividly illustrates MJK’s consistency. His runs from the middle-order were almost taken for granted at a time in an often thin era for the team.
Dennis Amiss 1960-1987
First class: 547 matches, 35,146 runs (41.65), 78 centuries
List A: 378 matches, 11,254 runs (33.79), 9 centuries
Dennis Amiss’s Warwickshire career started quietly, with a ‘did not bat’ as the Bears made 377 without loss against Surrey at The Oval. The callow 17-year-old, down to bat at seven that day, was to become perhaps the greatest Bear of all.
Harborne-born Amiss soon showed an immense natural ability, powered by a constant desire to improve. “There’s always something to work on,” he would tell young players and that ethic underpinned an excellence which brought him 55,943 first-class and List A runs and a batting average of 46.30 from 50 Tests.
He was a Bears rock for decades, either up top or in the middle order, scoring more than 1,000 runs in a season 20 times. In 1984, he scored 2,239 runs at 55.97. Two years later, he became the first Bear to score 100 first-class centuries.
Ask the infinitely modest Amiss about most of his big innings and he will say, ‘oh, it was a flat track.’ Not so – much more to do with the batsman being from the very top drawer.
Ian Bell 1999-present
First class: 158 matches, 10,362 runs (44.09), 29 centuries
List A: 137 matches, 4,877 runs (44.33), 7 centuries
Twenty20: 78 matches, 2,111 runs (31.50), 1 century
If Ian Bell had played before the era of central contracts for international players, he would have challenged hard for every Warwickshire run-scoring record that exists.
An England career of 287 games across the formats prevented that, but the classy right-hander has played some of the greatest innings ever for the Bears.
In each format, his skills have towered, whether its scoring a glorious 121 in difficult conditions against Kent in the championship in 2004, or a perfectly-paced 107 to see side to Clydesdale 40 final victory over Somerset at Lords in 2010, or a brilliant 131 in the T20 against Northants Steelbacks in 2018.
With a new contract freshly-signed for 2021, ‘Belly’ has more Bears runs in his locker yet…and, as one of the great batsmen of his era, he will no doubt attract more than a few spectators who just want to able to say ‘I saw Ian Bell bat’.
Jonathan Trott 2003-2018
First class: 187 matches, 12,220 runs (44.76), 31 centuries
List A: 161 matches, 5,621 runs (48.04), 16 centuries
Twenty20: 67 matches, 1,911 runs (39.81)
In terms of batting averages, Jonathan Trott’s record stacks up the best of any other Warwickshire batsman. Is there anyone else you would rather have batting for your life?
For the moment he scored a double-century in a trial match for the Bears in 2002, it was clear that Trott had both an insatiable appetite for runs and the ability to deliver them. A supremely-skilled white-ball batsman, he was the backbone of the Bears batting in the championship for a decade before his England career took him away.
That England career started with a debut century in a deciding Ashes Test at The Oval…n ow that’s what you call mental strength.
Cast your vote
To vote for Warwickshire’s Greatest Batsman, 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 7 July and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.