Next up in the Warwickshire's Greatest series is the search for the greatest ever Bears Opening Pair.
As always, the short-list is mighty strong, spanning formidable opening partnerships from the 1950s all the way through to the present day with Dom Sibley and Will Rhodes.
Will the great Dennis Amiss and John Jameson get your vote? Or will it go to the brief but world-record breaking alliance of two gentlemen in 1986? Please have a read and cast your vote.
Fred Gardner and Norman Horner 1951-1961
Fred Gardner and Norman Horner spent most of a decade opening for Warwickshire and were the perfect foil for each other.
Coventry-born Gardner was of the thou-shalt-not-pass school of batting. Solid and fearless, he could concentrate for hour after hour. He just hated getting out, always a decent attribute for an opener.
Fred’s 18,826 runs for the Bears included plenty of singles, though he could also force the pace when required. That was rarely equired when he was batting with Horner.
The proud Yorkshireman was always aggressive, eye-catchingly so in an era when much batting in county cricket was slow and ultra-careful. To have a Fred Gardner opening the batting was brilliant for the team – to have two might have led to rather slow going!
Horner piled up 18,217 runs, just shy of his long-time opening partner, and was a model of consistency, passing 1,000 runs every season from 1953 to 1964.
Dennis Amiss and John Jameson 1960-1976
Like many of the best opening pairs, Dennis Amiss and John Jameson were totally different as batsmen but dovetailed beautifully.
They were born in quite different places – Harborne and the Himalayas – but came together at Warwickshire to form an opening partnership that brought spectators enormous pleasure.
One of the finest batsmen of his generation, Amiss was the first Warwickshire player to score 100 centuries in first-class cricket. He had all the technique, temperament and courage required of a top-class opener.
Jameson had all the temperament and courage while his technique, and approach, was different – spectacularly so. If the first ball of a championship match invited hitting, he hit it. Some of his innings were truly memorable, not least his very last for the Bears, against Glamorgan at Edgbaston in 1976…he hit a century before lunch.
The consistency of Amiss and Jameson was never better illustrated than in 1974 on a sunny morning at Worcester where, in the same session, they became the first two players in the country to reach 1,000 runs for the season.
Paul Smith and Andy Moles 1986
Paul Smith and Andy Moles might seem strange candidates for Greatest Ever Bears Opening Pair, but while their tenure at the top of the Bears order was very brief, it was spectacularly productive.
With Andy Lloyd injured, an opening partner was needed for Moler in the championship. Smith, an aggressive batsman usually deployed the middle order, got the gig – and responded brilliantly.
The pair opened for the first time in a match that turned out to be historic, against Lancashire at Edgbaston, in which Dennis Amiss scored his 100th first-class century. They went on to register four century stands and four half-century stands in their first ten partnerships. Their eight successive opening partnerships of more than 50 set a new a world record for first-class cricket.
You might think that would be enough to keep the opening alliance together – but when Lloyd returned, back down the order went Smith. Tough old business, cricket.
Ian Westwood and Varun Chopra 2010-2016
Chalk and cheese spring to mind when you think of Ian Westwood and Varun Chopra but the opposites, both as blokes and batsmen, had plenty of attraction for the Bears.
The dogged, nuggety left-hander and the elegant, stroke-playing right-hander laid a succession of solid foundations, not least during the County Championship triumph in 2012 when they both averaged 40.
Apart from the right/left-hand combination, they asked bowlers a whole different set of other questions. Westy set out his stall with endless patience and challenged bowlers to find something different to uproot him. Chops could bat long too, as shown by his two early-season double-hundred in 2011, but also sought to punish. There have been few more elegant drivers to play for the Bears.
Both men have a huge stake in the 2012 championship triumph – not least in the title-clinching victory at New Road when they added 136 after Worcestershire had been bowled out for 60 (Chris Wright five for 24, Keith Barker five for 36).
Dominic Sibley and Will Rhodes 2017-present
Sometimes in sport, as in life, things just click into place. That was the case when Warwickshire signed Dom Sibley and Will Rhodes in quick succession.
Sibley arrived from Surrey and Rhodes from Yorkshire at a time when the Bears team was in deep transition. At such a time, more than any other, a reliably productive opening pair is a massive asset – and that’s what the newcomers provided.
Sibley’s credentials and promise as an opening batsman were well-known but Rhodes was still waiting for a sustained run in first-team cricket. The Bears astutely spotted that the latter was the stuff of a high-class opener.
Sibley’s powerhouse 2019 season forced him into England’s team where he soon flourished. Rhodes may well follow him into international cricket at some point in the future.
Cast your vote
To vote for Warwickshire’s Greatest Opening 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 9 June and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.