The County Championship delivers last day thrills at Edgbaston
On a tension-filled last day of the season, the oft-maligned County Championship brought us an enthralling end that determined destinies at the top and bottom of the Division One table. Warwickshire needed to win to avoid relegation and send Yorkshire down. For Hampshire, a win or a draw would give them the runners-up spot behind Champions Surrey.
At 4.51 precisely, after a prolonged period of growing drama during which Steve McQueen was constantly revving up his motorbike and the lady of ample proportions was nervously gargling, Liam Norwell trapped Hampshire’s last man, Mohammad Abbas plumb lbw to give the Bears the win they needed by just five runs.
Norwell was the hero of the day, ending yet another season disrupted by injury with a match-winning 9-62, his career best, off 18.5 overs of sustained fast-medium hostility.
To be sure, Warwickshire did not make it easy for themselves. Starting the day at 62-2, just 23 ahead, they regularly lost wickets in the pursuit of the quick runs that were intended to lead to a declaration. James Fuller and Brad Wheal were the main beneficiaries of the batters’ efforts to push the score along; and it was no help to the Bears’ cause when the injured Sam Hain’s runner was run out.
It was Dom Sibley who held things together, reaching his second half century of the match in his final appearance for the Bears before re-joining Surrey. He had scored 77 when he was last man out.
Needing 139 to win, Hampshire lost Felix Organ to a peach of a delivery from Oliver Hannon-Dalby. After that, it was over to Norwell who bowled in several spells from the pavilion end throughout the afternoon. Such was his accuracy that seven of his victims were either bowled or lbw, though the top-edged skier that saw James Vince caught at long leg was a crucial moment.
Nick Gubbins held firm for 35 overs for his 46 before he was eighth out at 120. James Fuller threatened to take Hampshire home with some sensible aggression that brought him three boundaries, so that at the start of the 44th over, Hampshire needed just six more to win with two wickets in hand. Norwell’s first delivery of the over scattered Fuller’s stumps and his fifth took the vital final wicket that guaranteed top flight cricket for the Bears next season and sent Yorkshire supporters into despair.