On April 30, 1991, only 48 overs were possible on the third day of Warwickshire's championship match with Lancashire at Edgbaston. The Bears, in Bob Woolmer's first match as director of coaching, took their first innings to 123 for three. Andy Moles scored 51.
It eluded everyone at Edgbaston that day that, 162 miles away on the Isle of Wight, a happy event had occurred. Danny Briggs entered the world.
Twenty-nine years on, Briggs, now an accomplished left-arm spinner, is looking forward to having Edgbaston as his office for the foreseeable future, having signed a three-year deal with the Bears. It is a new phase for a career which has delivered much already, with plenty more to come. And it is a career which reflects Briggs, owes much to his beloved first club on the Isle of Wight.
Like Bears team-mate Adam Hose, Briggs cut his cricketing teeth at Ventnor CC – and will be forever grateful for that.
“Ventnor was key to getting me where I am today,” he said. “The club was brilliant to me. It’s a real community club with lots of colts and lots of adult teams and I was very fortunate to have that around basically from day one of my cricket development. They gave me exposure to adult cricket at a young age and got me over to Hampshire when I was ten years old. I made lifelong friends there and still know and admire people who are still there and just want to help. It’s a fantastic club.
“Hosey was there, a couple of years younger than me, so I’ve known him since I was six or seven. We came through the same way and have had slightly different journeys since, but now will be working together again at the Bears which is great.”Danny Briggs
After that excellent schooling, Briggs’ cricket journey began in earnest at Hampshire from the age of ten. He travelled quickly, making his first-team debut two weeks after his 18th birthday, collecting a T20 Blast winner’s medal at 19 and making his England ODI debut at 20. Each time he handled the step up adroitly, adding a first class debut, at home to Somerset, in which he scored 36 in a tenth-wicket partnership of 80 with Imran Tahir and took three second innings wickets including Marcus Trescothick.
“From aged ten I played for Hampshire so was travelling across from the island all the time,” Briggs said. “I played all the way through to the academy and a pro contract and then was really lucky to get an early go in the first team. Imran Tahir had signed but couldn’t get over in time which gave me two 50-over games early in 2009. I did okay and played a few first class games at the end of that season.
“Then in 2010 I played pretty much a full season. I was very fortunate that year to play in the first team with a lot of other youngsters and they were great years, playing with the mates who you grew up with. To be successful with them was even better.”
It was a happy time for Hampshire, though one of their less happy days in 2010 arrived when they visited Edgbaston in the championship. There was some spectacular tail-wagging as, for the only time in the Bears’ history, the last two wickets each put on more than 100. Chris Woakes (136 not out) added 104 with Neil Carter (62) and 103 with Imran Tahir (40).
“That was my first championship game at Edgbaston,” recalls Briggs. “We had Warwickshire something like 90 for seven and then all of a sudden it’s up near 400…yeah, it was a tough day!”
Within two years came a very special day for Briggs, his ODI debut for England, against Pakistan in Dubai. He acquitted himself well with 10-3-39-2 in a four-wicket victory, yet that remains his only ODI to date, along with seven T20I appearances.
At 29, with his best spin-bowling days still ahead, he would love to return to the England side and believes he is better-equipped for international cricket now then when his very early chances arrived.
“My ODI debut came really quickly and it’s something I’m very proud of, though sometimes I think perhaps it came too quickly,” he said. “At that age, your career is on an upward curve to that point and you haven’t experienced much failure. It was fairly hard when my Twenty20s for England didn’t go to plan. I was very inexperienced. Even though people say ‘oh yes, but he’s a good thinker’ and things like that, you haven’t had those experiences to stand you in good stead.”
“I would love that opportunity to come again. Hopefully it would go a lot differently. You just keep learning, mentally and technically, as the seasons pass and, as a spinner, you should really keep getting better. Most of it is in the head so, as long as you can execute, you should be in a good place.”
After seven years with Hampshire, Briggs spent three seasons at Sussex before joining the Bears. Sussex were keen to keep him – “We are all disappointed that Danny will not be signing the multi-year contract extension that was offered to him,” said performance director Keith Greenfield. But Briggs was attracted by the mighty challenge of filling the shoes off Bears legend Jeetan Patel…and the prospect of playing a big role in all formats.
“That’s probably the biggest reason for me signing,” he said. “My red-ball opportunities at Sussex had dwindled away. They went in a different direction and I didn’t feel I did much wrong to be in that situation, but now I have been afforded a fantastic opportunity at Warwickshire.
“I know I have huge boots to fill after Jeets but it’s great to know I have the opportunity to play a lot of games. To know you have backing from the club, which I have received already, is really important, so I will just do it my way and perform as well as I can.Danny Briggs
“Now it’s on me. I have been given the opportunity – it’s up to me to take it. I believe I have got everything I need to succeed in four-day cricket.
“First and foremost, I’ve got to do my job in the team, but I also want to help others. I’ve played under a lot of great coaches and with some fantastic spinners so hopefully have learned a lot. With my own experiences as well, I think that puts me in a position to help younger players and that is something I want to do. I’ve got to the stage of my career where I have played a fair few games and am counted as a senior player, so I am really keen to contribute in that way too.”