This latest discussion takes into account who has led the way for the Bears in fielding. Make your choice below.
Tom Fishwick 1896-1909
First-class: 206 matches; 230 catches, 2 stumpings
In an era when fielding was a largely leisurely business, often a case of retrieving the ball rather than chasing it, Staffordshire-born Fishwick (pictured above) stood out a mile.
The proud son of Stone was an attractive batsman and a dazzling fielder, most of all in the slips. In 100 Greats of Warwickshire County Cricket Club, Robert Brooke described him as “arguably the most brilliant of all Warwickshire’s slip fielders.”
In 1905, not a golden season for the Bears’ bowlers, Tom took 40 catches, which suggests he snaffled pretty much everything that came his way. It was a Bears record which stood until 1951 when broken by another man on this short-list, Alan Townsend.
Against South Africa in June 16 1904, the tourists’ first five wickets fell to catches by Tom, raising the prospect of a truly remarkable ‘all ten’. That wasn’t to be after Bert Whittle pouched Charlie Llewellyn, but Fishwick’s fielding was a towering talent, way ahead of its time.
Alan Townsend 1948-1960
First-class: 340 matches; 408 catches
Durham-born Alan Townsend’s input to Warwickshire was immense as an all-rounder (11,965 runs, 323 wickets) and then a coach whose patient mentoring was key to many a young player’s development. His greatest asset, though, was his brilliance in the slips.
Alan did what all the great exponents of an art do – made the very difficult look easy. High or low, fast or slow, he accepted catches with the minimum of fuss. He dived only when necessary, his need to dive minimised by his amazing anticipation.
Towny’s skills were never greater than in the 1951 title-winning season, when he took a record 41 catches, and the following year when he beat that with 42. Whether close-up, reading Eric Hollies’ subtle changes of pace, or way back to the lightning pace of Tom Pritchard, Alan was, as well as a true gentleman, the epitome of a safe pair of hands.
MJK Smith 1956-1975
First-class: 430 matches; 422 catches
List A: 140 matches; 40 catches.
MJK heads the all-time Bears list for catches by a non-wicketkeeper, an achievement built on safe hands, quick reactions and serious courage with many of his catches taken at ‘Boot Hill.’
Often the preserve of a junior player these days, it was never the case in MJK’s side when he happily went in at short leg and made sure he got as close as possible. That was even without helmets in those days, of course…and he wore glasses! That’s some bottle.
During six seasons from 1957 to 1962, MJK took 207 catches for the Bears including a county record 52 in 1961.
Alongside the immense concentration required by close fielders, he also skippered the team.
A remarkable man and a brilliant fielder, the last of his incredible 422 catches came at Old Trafford on August 2, 1975, off Eddie Hemmings, appropriately to send old adversary Clive Lloyd on his way.
Trevor Penney 1991-2002
First-class: 146 matches; 87 catches, 2 stumpings
List A: 284 matches; 113 catches, 2 stumpings
Twenty20: 15 matches, 6 catches
Cricket-lovers are sometimes drawn to games solely by the prospect of getting a look at an individual player and glimpsing their greatness.
Usually, the player in question is a batsman or bowler. Very few have fielding skills so sublime and exciting they are worth the admission money alone: Trevor Penney was one.
T.P’s speed and athleticism in the covers is the stuff of legend. He saved countless runs but was far from just a defensive force – he was a potent predator. His direct-hit ratio, throwing from the infield, was ridiculously high.
Opposing batsmen knew and feared him – but that still couldn’t protect them. Ahead of the 1995 NatWest Bank Trophy semi-final at Cardiff, Glamorgan held a team-meeting at which batsman David Hemp warned his team-mates: “Don’t take Penney on…”
Next morning, direct hits from the Zimbabwean flyer accounted for two of the top order…including Hemp!
A genius at work.
Rikki Clarke 2008-2017
First-class: 131 matches; 222 catches
List A: 93 matches; 46 catches
Twenty20: 98 matches, 48 catches
Slip-fielders come in various categories. When an edge comes along, there are those you hope might take it and those who you think will probably take it. Then there are those who you pretty much know will take it – Rikki Clarke falls into that rare and precious category.
He swallowed regulation ones, made tricky ones look absurdly simple and pulled off some truly stunning grabs, whether off speed, spin or medium-pace. In the seasons 2008 to 2012 he took 144 catches in the championship alone, including seven in one innings, equalling the world record for a non-wicketkeeper, against Lancashire at Aigburth in 2011.
Anywhere in the field, Clarkey was that most precious of assets in a fielding side: rock-solid, as suggested by footage from one one-day-game at Edgbaston when the opposition’s last man sends up a skier. Rikki is waiting under it at long on…Tim Ambrose is heading for the pavilion long before it lands. Total faith.
Cast your vote
To vote for Warwickshire’s Greatest Fielder, 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 19 May and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.