Liam Norwell’s brilliance ensured that Warwickshire’s 2022 season ended with one of the Club’s greatest ever last days of a season. But was it the greatest?
Club journalist Brian Halford describes the candidates.
FOSTER’S FAIRY TALE
1911 v Northamptonshire at Northampton
Having started the season a shambles, thrashed by Surrey inside two days, Warwickshire ended it going into last morning at Northampton needing three wickets to clinch a victory which would secure their first Championship title. A sporting miracle was within reach, but there was rain around.
Unable to sleep on the cusp of history, skipper Frank Foster and his team stayed up all night. They played cards and billiards. A certain amount of beer was imbibed for relaxation purposes. Would the Bears be robbed by the weather?
Further rain fell during the night but at dawn the sun came out. Foster and giant paceman Frank Field, both comfortably past 100 wickets for the season, breakfasted confidently. Play began on time, Northants resumed on 137 for seven and added just 38 before Foster destroyed James Ryan’s stumps to bring English cricket’s most prestigious prize to Birmingham for the first time.
EVERYTHING CAME TOGETHER
2021 v Somerset at Edgbaston
The equation was simple. Win and the Bears were champions, but they began the last day with much to do. Will Rhodes’s side was 179/1 – 157 ahead – so needed rapid runs then ten rapid wickets.
There was no margin for error, everything had to be spot on: runs, wickets, catches.
Rob Yates (132, 168 balls), Rhodes (62, 44) and Matt Lamb (27, 20) did their bit perfectly to allow the skipper to set Somerset 273. When the visitors moved to 31 without loss, the legions of Bears ex-players and fans monitoring around the world, were growing concerned, but then Danny Briggs broke through. Chris Woakes and Craig Miles took three apiece and Liam Norwell added two as all ten wickets fell for 123 runs.
When Rhodes pouched a slip catch off Norwell to dispatch Jack Brooks, the Bears were champs and the celebrations started across the world.
A.D FINISHES WHAT HE STARTED
1995 v Kent at Canterbury
After a brilliant season, the Bears just needed to apply the final touch, beating Kent, to retain the title. They had thundered through the campaign, winning 13 of 16 games. Victory at Canterbury would secure the title and also the highest win percentage of any County Champions.
They dominated from ball one, amassing 468 for six then bowling out Kent for 239. After Kent resumed on the third morning on eight without loss second time around, Bears skipper Dermot Reeve surprisingly threw the ball to Ashley Giles and the spinner quickly reduced Kent to 33 for three. Then Allan Donald took over.
All summer, A.D powered the title push with bowling of high skill, huge heart and blistering pace. Now he dismantled one last opposition and when Min Patel edged to Neil Smith in the cordon, the title was Warwickshire’s again and A.D had finished with 88 wickets at 15.48 apiece
THE GREAT CHASE
2002 v Sussex at Hove
Bob Woolmer’s final day as Bears coach dawned with his team facing a mountainous run-chase. Facing a target of 401, they were 103 for three with Mark Waugh, Tony Frost and Ian Bell already out. The great man appeared to be leaving with a defeat.
The players who owed him so much thought otherwise.
Overnight pair Michael Powell (103) and Dom Ostler (90) provided the perfect springboard by batting fluently through the morning. They added 152 to stir hopes of something special among the many visiting supporters.
Mo Sheikh kept the momentum going perfectly with 43 from 37 balls and then Dougie Brown saw the chase perfectly to its conclusion with an unbeaten 79 from 91 balls with five fours and five sixes. The Bears reached 405 for seven from 96.2 overs and the legendary Woolmer’s great Edgbaston career had ended with one last great performance.
A DAMP DAY AT CLACTON
1960 v Essex at Clacton
Warwickshire’s 1960 season was not much to write home about – they finished 15th after winning only four of 32 championship matches. The colourless campaign concluded in appropriately downbeat style with a dour rearguard action as the final match and the season petered out on a wet afternoon at Clacton.
After Essex made 248 and the Bears replied with 11 for one on the first day, rain washed out the second. The third was grey and claggy, but dry and, after play started on time, the Bears were bowled out for 81. When they hit four for two in their second innings, there was only one thing to do, block it out.
Jim Stewart, defying his attacking instincts, and Mike Smith did that for the rest of the day to take the Bears to 91 for two in front of a handful of shivering spectators beneath a canopy of unbroken grey at Vista Road.
2022 v Hampshire at Edgbaston
It was starting to look bleak at Edgbaston. The Bears needed a good win against Championship chasing Hampshire, whilst hoping Yorkshire fell short at home to Gloucestershire.
There was no margin for error either with Mark Robinson’s side doing everything in their power to get a result. But after declaring on 227/4 and dismissing the hosts for 311, time was running out. Chasing runs for a defendable total, Warwickshire slumped to 177, leaving the south coast outfit needing just 139.
Relegation looked inevitable before news filtered through that Yorkshire had lost. Was there hope? Definitely. Oliver Hannon-Dalby took the first wicket before handing over the baton to Liam Norwell who did the unthinkable.
Hampshire were blown away for 133 as Norwell, returning at the end of an injury-ravaged season, bowled magnificently in several spells from the Pavilion End. The Bears stayed up, whilst the Cornish pacer finished with nine for 62 from 18.5 overs. Incredible.
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