What is the greatest single innings that we have ever seen from a Warwickshire batsman? It's a great debate and Brian Halford puts forward six of the best for consideration.
Frank Foster – 305* v Worcestershire, Dudley, 1914
Just before lunch on the second day at Tipton Road, the Bears were 197 for three in reply to Worcestershire’s 188 when captain Frank Foster (pictured above) walked to the crease. When Foster returned to the pavilion at stumps, the Bears were 645 for seven and FRF was unbeaten on 305.
It was the first triple-century scored for Warwickshire and, at the time, as astonishing as Brian Lara’s 501 would be 80 years later.
Foster’s batting, always aggressive, could sometimes be violent but this was an innings of beauty. In 260 minutes he did not hit a single six but stroked the ball to all parts of Tipton Road. He did not loft a stroke until he was past 150, offered no chances and struck one five, 44 fours, 14 threes, 21 twos and 40 singles. It was a batting masterclass which set up victory by an innings and 321 runs.
Freddie Santall – 201* v Northants, Northampton, 1933
On July 21, 1933, the final day of a championship match at Northampton, the Bears resumed on 257 for three. Jack Smart then added just two to his overnight tally before falling lbw to Austin Matthews, so in went Freddie Santall.
Just under two hours later, Santall went into lunch…on 173. It remains the sixth-most runs scored by an individual before lunch, pipped into sixth by Brian Lara’s 174 against Durham in 1994.
Against a capable Northants attack led by the great Vallance Jupp, Acocks Green-born Santall peppered the Wantage Road boundaries with one of the great displays of hitting. He smashed his way to 50 in 45 minutes, 100 in 80 and 150 (out of 201) in 110 and was still going strong on 201 (four sixes, 24 fours) at the declaration.
Freddie’s pyrotechnics had given young spinner Eric Hollies, playing his 13th first-class match, something to bowl at.
Rohan Kanhai – 107 v Kent, Gravesend, 1970
Of all the challenges posed to batsmen in the history of first-class cricket, facing Derek Underwood on a bunsen ranks among the toughest. The Kent and England left-arm spinner was often virtually unplayable, as was the case in 1970 when the Bears visited Gravesend – for all except Rohan Kanhai.
Brought on for the tenth over, Underwood was soon spinning his web and quickly removed John Jameson. In went Kanhai and he put down an immediate marker by lifting his first ball for six.
A brilliant duel ensued between two masters of their craft as Kanhai met Underwood’s spitting, turning deliveries, fired down at near-medium pace, with polished aggression. On a pitch on which he would usually wrap up wickets for peanuts, Underwood’s seven cost him 103.
Kent great Les Ames said he had “never seen a better innings” than Kanhai’s brilliant 107 which set up a 93-run win for his team.
Brian Lara – 501* v Durham, Edgbaston, 1994
It was on a shirt-front, in a dead game and against an injury-hit bowling attack – but it is a world record and Brian Lara’s historic knock takes some beating for relentless, high-quality ruthlessness.
It wasn’t perfect. He was bowled by a no ball on 12 and dropped on 18, but after that it was a work of genius. His 501, reached from the last ball of thee match, came from 427 balls with 62 fours and ten sixes and he featured in two triple-century stands, with Trevor Penney (who contributed 44 to a stand of 314!) and Keith Piper.
Lara’s 501 crowned a scintillating sequence of seven centuries in eight first-class innings. He reached 100 from 138 balls, 200 from 220, 300 from 278, 400 from 398 and 500 from 427.
Without doubt, the most talked-about innings ever played for Warwickshire – but is it the greatest?
Kumar Sangakkara – 149 v Durham, Edgbaston, 2007
When Brian Lara faced Durham at Edgbaston in ’94, conditions were totally favourable to batsmen. The opposite was true when Kumar Sangakkara made his debut 13 years later – but the Sri Lankan rose to the challenge.
On a green pitch, against a potent attack, in moderate light, he walked out to start his first innings for the Bears at 1/1, which soon became 23 for four. Sanga responded with a series of luscious cover-drives of a timing and precision which, against a seaming ball, defied belief. It was literally as though he was batting on a different pitch to the rest.
His brilliance inspired Alex Loudon, who started his innings scratching about like a wet hen and ended it with a century of his own. The transforming impact of greatness!
Sanga finished with 149 from 230 balls with 22 fours; an innings of inexplicable finesse in the toughest possible conditions.
Ian Bell – 107 v Somerset, Lords, 2010
In the inaugural day/night Lord’s final, the Clydesdale Bank 40, Ian Bell’s first act as Bears captain was to win the toss and send Somerset into bat.
His bowlers, led by Imran Tahir’s five-for, then limited the westcountrymen to 199. It was a moderate target but far from a formality in helpful bowling conditions and when the Bears wobbled, and Jonathan Trott fell to make it 39 for three, it was game on.
But Bell unfurled a true captain’s innings. First, in alliance with Jim Troughton, he shored up his team’s reply and then, when wickets started to tumble again at the other end, he moved into a high-class counter-attack.
He paced the pursuit to perfect, crowning it with a flurry of fours which took him from 87 to 107 in six balls. The skipper perished with the scores level – and the job brilliantly done.
Cast your vote
To vote for Warwickshire’s Greatest innings, 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 21 April and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.