Having clinched the County Championship title in a thrilling win against Somerset last Friday, Warwickshire have to gear themselves up to climb a new mountain when they take on second placed Lancashire over five days at Lord’s for the Bob Willis Trophy.
Can Warwickshire respond to this new challenge or will there be a sense of anti-climax after the high of the Championship win?
From his own experience, Warwickshire captain Will Rhodes recognises that he and his players have been on a high following their win against Somerset:
“It’s been surreal. I’ve woken up for the last two mornings with my winner’s medal round my neck.”
Even so, he doesn’t think it will be a problem for the players to lift themselves again.
“On Friday night” [after the Somerset game] “there were a few complaints from players that we had to play a new game and that it might tarnish what we had achieved. But once we got to Lord’s, we had all the motivation that we needed – to play in a final and potentially to get two trophies in the cabinet.”
As Rhodes pointed out, for some players in particular, the Bob Willis final offers opportunities to impress:
“It’s a chance for players such as Dom Sibley and Rob Yates to put themselves in the shop window, with selections for winter tours coming up.”
Even so, there are some tired bodies amongst the Warwickshire bowlers.
“We’ll have to see how Liam Norwell and Craig Miles pull up on the morning of the game,” says Rhodes. “We’ve got Manraj Johal, Ryan Sidebottom and George Garrett in the squad on standby, one of whom will replace Chris Woakes who’s not available.”
Rhodes recognises that Mark Robinson, in his first year as Warwickshire coach, has played a major role in the Bears’ success:
“He’s made a huge impact. It happens when a new coach comes in that players who may have felt unappreciated in the old regime get a new lease of life.”
Rhodes does not mention what he himself brings to the side in terms of leadership and motivation. When Robinson spoke immediately after the Somerset game,he had no doubts about what Rhodes contributes:
“Will is a young captain who is a clear leader on the pitch. He has a calmness but he’s also an alpha male. He leads by example with an energy and an aggression; but he can smile as well.”
What are the qualities that Rhodes and Robinson have managed to instil into the Warwickshire side? Robinson is clear:
“We aren’t the most perfect team but we are resilient and we have character. We are great at keeping games alive and finding ways to turn them around. We have managed to create a sense of calmness and belief.”
Back to Rhodes again to sum up what will motivate his team over the next five days:
“With Warwickshire’s connection to Bob Willis, winning the trophy named after him would be really appropriate.
“It would top off a great season. And to lift that trophy at Lord’s, of all places, would be fantastic.”
Whether it will be Rhodes or his opposite number Dane Vilas to do the trophy lifting, let us hope that an exciting contest is in store.