This week we turn the Greatest Ever Bears spotlight on to one of the greatest assets that any cricket team can have - a devastating new-ball attack.
Warwickshire have had many wonderful fast bowlers over the years…and sometimes have been extra fortunate that two have come together, sometimes so spectacularly that they have bowled the Bears to silverware almost on their own.
Please have a look at these five top-drawer new-ball partnerships and cast your vote for the Greatest Ever Bears New-ball attack.
Frank Field and Frank Foster 1908-1914
As blokes, Frank Field and Frank Foster could not have been more different.
Field, known as Honest Frank was a huge, bucolic fellow from deep in the Warwickshire countryside – a simple (in the most respectful sense of the word) man. Foster, from Birmingham’s heartland, was a deeply complex individual; creative and highly-strung, by turns inspiring and infuriating.
Together they tore up many a batting line-up, most spectacularly in 1911 when powering the Bears to their first championship title. Field, moving the ball both ways at searing pace, took 122 wickets at 19.48. Foster, with left-arm swing, took 116 at 19.15.
Despite being total opposites, their strengths suited each other perfectly, not least at Harrogate in 1911 when they needed to bowl Yorkshire out on the last day.
Foster, having richly enjoyed the hospitality of Harrogate the previous night, was barely able to stand until Field put him in a cold shower. Yorkshire were bowled out for 58: Field seven for 20, Foster two for 33.
Tom Pritchard and Charlie Grove 1946-1953
Tom Pritchard and Charlie Grove were two fine bowlers. That’s a great foundation for a new-ball pair but what made these two so potent was that they asked batsmen such different questions.
Pritchard, from Kaupokonui in New Zealand, was known as the Kaupokonui Terror. A lovely, kind man, on the field he blasted teams away with lightning pace, perhaps second only Allan Donald as the fastest bowler to play for Warwickshire.
While Pritchard tore in, at the other end, Yardley-born Charlie Grove provided the perfect foil with long spells of metronomic accuracy. His control was legendary, piling pressure on the batsmen by putting the ball on the spot time after time and moving it either way. West Indies found out how devastating he could be when, in 1950, his eight for 38 set up a famous Bears win.
Pritchard and Grove – tall, strapping Kiwi and balding, portly Brummie – made an unlikely pair, but a magnificent one.
Bob Willis and David Brown 1972-1982
Bob Willis and David Brown narrowly missed each other in Test cricket so never shared the new ball for England. Brown played the last of his 26 Tests in July 1969 and Willis the first of his 90 in January 1971.
But they came together at Edgbaston after Willis arrived from Surrey in 1972 and immediately helped their side to the championship title.
Injuries to both, and Willis’s international career, meant that they rarely shared the new ball for the Bears in many successive games but, when they did, opening batsmen were faced with a twin threat of the highest class.
Willis was the greatest English fast bowler of his generation with pace and hostility, fired by a legendary intensity. Brown, fast-medium but quick enough to hurry batsmen, moved the ball around and could prise lift from the flattest pitch.
The two became lifelong friends and, though the peaks of their playing careers did not overlap, are both unarguably among the greatest ever Bears, sharing 2,706 in all first-class and one-day cricket.
Allan Donald and Gladstone Small 1987-1997
Bowling is all about building pressure; offering the batsmen no let-up.
When you have got Allan Donald steaming in from one end sending down 90mph-plus missiles which pose a fizzing threat to your stumps, your outside-edge and your physical health, you could do with some respite at the other end.
So to be facing Gladstone Small at the other end, is definitely not what you want. No respite there.
Small was full of skill, moving the ball principally away from the bat at a pace which could also sting a few fingers. He was also capable of some truly devastating spells, including a masterclass seven for 16 to bowl out Nottinghamshire for 44 at Edgbaston in 1988.
From totally different backgrounds, in South Africa and the Caribbean, Donald and Small – A.D and Glad – were brought together by the Bears and became the firmest friends…and one hell of a new-ball attack.
Keith Barker and Chris Wright 2011-2017
Keith Barker and Chris Wright barely knew each other before Wright joined the Bears from Essex in August 2011. Rarely can a rapport have been struck up so perfectly so immediately.
On Wright’s debut, against Yorkshire at Headingley, the pair shared 15 wickets to bowl the Bears to an innings victory over a team including Joe Root, Jacques Rudolph and Gary Ballance.
A spectacular start – could they follow it up?
Emphatically, yes. In their first full season together, 2012, operating wonderfully in tandem, they bowled Warwickshire to the championship title. Wright, skilful, accurate, persistent, took 62 wickets at 24.06 apiece, Barker, his left-arm swing at times almost unplayable, took 56 at 20.82.
The brilliant season earned Wright a call-up to the England camp but injuries were to prevent his advance into Test cricket. Why Barker never received a Test call is a mystery that can only be explained by the selectors. Whatever their thinking, it left the Bears fans able to enjoy the work of two high-class bowlers at their peak.
Cast your vote
To vote for Warwickshire’s Greatest New Ball Pair, 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 30 June and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.