There have been several Bears over the years who have knocked on the door of the England selectors, without response. Brian Halford puts together six of the greatest who wore the Bear & Ragged Staff, but never the three Lions. Make your choice below.
Percy Jeeves 1912-1914
First class: 49 matches; 1,193 runs (16.14); 194 wickets (20.30); 49 catches
The story of Percy Jeeves (pictured above) is perhaps the most remarkable of any cricketer to play for Warwickshire. Plucked from club cricket in Yorkshire, he spent a season with Moseley while qualifying, then burst into county cricket like a comet. Seaming and swinging the ball at fast-medium, Jeeves took 106 wickets at 20.88 in 1913 and followed that with 90 at 19.17 in 1914. Incredible figures for a newcomer at the height of the Golden Age.
He was also an explosive batsman, once cheered from the field in admiration by Yorkshire’s fans at Bramall Lane after striking Wilfred Rhodes for two sixes into the pavilion.
Had England played Tests in 1914, Jeeves would have been a shoo-in. Instead he represented the Players v Gents at The Oval and bowled them to victory. A glorious career beckoned.
Then war broke out and Percy signed up immediately. He disappeared without trace at High Wood during the Battle of the Somme on July 22, 1916.
Len Bates 1913-1935
First class: 444 matches; 19,380 runs (27.84); 9 wickets (52.33); 161 catches
Len Bates, son of the Warwickshire groundsman, was born in the pavilion at Edgbaston. He played seven championship matches before the First World War before joining the Royal Warwickshire Regiment with brother Harold and Bears team-mate Percy Jeeves.
Harold and Percy never came back from France. Len did – and somehow put four years of hell behind him to become a bedrock of the Bears’ batting.
Warwickshire struggled between the wars, but Bates was a reassuring presence at the top of the order. A polished, attractive batsman, he passed 1,000 runs in a season 12 times and on countless occasions held the side together.
For the first half of Bates’ career, the mighty Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe were fixtures as England’s openers but, later on, a strong case could be made for Bates’ inclusion ahead of the likes of Fred Bakewell, Ted Bowley and Charlie Hallows.
Jim Stewart 1955-1969
First class: 279 matches; 14,249 runs (34.08); 2 wickets (7.50); 128 catches
List A: 21 matches; 318 runs, average 19.87; 3 catches
The main reason Jim Stewart did not play Test cricket is he didn’t fit the mould. He played when much county cricket was excruciatingly dull with batsmen concerned only with crease occupation. Stewart was an opening batsman way ahead of his time.
If a bad ball came along in the first over, it would be dispatched. In the championship against Lancashire at Blackpool in 1959, he struck 17 sixes, then a world record. He possessed a power and timing, along with the necessary confidence and courage, to attack from the word go. Common currency now – very rare in the ’50s and ’60s.
Some of the England selectors were sniffy about his approach though. One of them, Wilf Wooller, was a fan but was told by chairman of selectors Gubby Allen: ‘He’s just a slogger.’ Wilf replied: “Well he’s slogged 2,000 runs this season.”
The selectors today would no doubt take a very different view to dear old Gubby.
Andy Moles 1986-1997
First class: 211 matches; 13,316 runs (38.59); 27 wickets (49.81); 128 catches
List A: 174 matches; 4,530 runs (28.67); 46 catches
Andy Moles was a linchpin of Warwickshire’s batting for a decade. Why an England call eluded him only the selectors of the time know.
Perhaps, he didn’t fit the mould. He was not a natural athlete, had no air and graces and was a late arrival in county cricket via the club game. But if the required mould is a rock-solid batsman with immense stamina and concentration who never gives his wicket away, then Solihull-born ‘Moler’ was your man.
Having averaged 64.16 for Griqualand West, in South Africa, alongside his 13,316 runs for the Bears, Moler ended his first-class career with an average over 40 (40.70) – a hallmark of a top-drawer batsman.
His peak years coincided with the presence of Graham Gooch and Michael Atherton at the top of England’s order and then, latterly, Alec Stewart. A good batsman, Stewie – but who would you rather have batting for your life – A.J Stewart or A.J Moles?
Keith Piper 1989-2005
First class: 193 matches; 4,474 runs (20.24); 477 catches, 36 stumpings
List A: 229 matches; 931 runs (14.10); 243 catches, 52 stumpings
T20: 6 matches, 1 run; 3 catches, 1 stumping
Perhaps the most naturally gifted wicketkeeper to play for Warwickshire, Piper was selected for two England A tours but never made the step up to Test level.
He was unfortunate to be competing for most of his peak years with Jack Russell, a keeper of almost comparable skills. Then the selectors began to look more for runs from their keeper and, though a capable batsman who scored two first-class centuries, ‘Pipes’ found himself overlooked in favour of others with a fraction of his keeping prowess.
A pillar of the Bears team which dominated county cricket in the mid-90s, Pipes made an at times very difficult job look ridiculously easy. Some catches he took off Allan Donald, steaming in at his peak in ’95, were truly memorable.
A.D was assisted by some great keepers during his long career at the top level, but is quite unequivocal about it – Pipes was the best.
Dominic Ostler 1990-2003
First class: 201 matches; 10,737 runs (35.31); 1 wicket; 254 catches
List A: 270 matches; 7,169 runs (32.58); 1 wicket (14.00); 97 catches
T20: 5 matches, 56 run (11.20); 3 catches
Dominic Ostler’s input, with the bat and in the field, was a huge component of Warwickshire’s unprecedented success in the mid-90s.
One of the finest slip-fielders to play for the Bears, his catches turned many an innings. Similarly, his assertive batting was often match-affecting, whether a big innings or a smaller one delivered selflessly for the team.
That team ethic perhaps counted against ‘Ossie’ at times in terms of a potential international call. Stats do not tell the tale of important cameos. He was selected for an England A tour to Pakistan in the winter of ’95/6 and did well but started the ’96 season slowly and his chance never came again.
Likeable and laid-back, he perhaps didn’t deliver the weight of runs to force his way into Test cricket but had a great case for inclusion in England’s one-day side as a player and character who rose to the challenge of big games.
Cast your vote
To vote for Warwickshire’s Greatest never to play for England, 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 12 May and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.