As happened in 2021, Warwickshire ended their campaign on a high note. Whereas last year, the highlights were winning the Championship and the Bob Willis Trophy, this time it was an extremely unlikely last-ditch win over Hampshire that saved the Bears from relegation.
Only two wins and six defeats in the four day game told their own story. Sam Hain, the departing Dom Sibley and Michael Burgess aside, the batting was frail. Until Liam Norwell’s magnificent last day 9-62, it was Oliver Hannon-Dalby who carried the bowling. His 53 wickets were more than the combined haul of the next two (a disappointing Danny Briggs and a hard working but only occasionally effective overseas player Nathan McAndrew).
Young Rob Yates, who performed so well last year, struggled to re-produce that form. Despite a last match hundred, he averaged well under 20. The decision at the start of the season to promote Lancastrian import Alex Davies above him in the batting order looks, in hindsight, to have been a bad mistake. Davies averaged under 30 and frequently annoyed supporters with his apparently limitless range of extravagant ways to get out when supposedly well set.
In the Vitality Blast the Bears (who seem to have quietly dropped the Birmingham name from their title) did well to top their group, with nine wins in their 14 games. Adam Hose, Sam Hain and Chris Benjamin scored well. Paul Stirling, though inconsistent, did strike one stunning hundred in just 46 balls against Northants Steelbacks that won him the Walter Lawrence Trophy for the season’s fastest century. Jake Lintott’s spin was still enough of a mystery to opposing batsmen to claim 22 wickets. Carlos Brathwaite, as captain and all-rounder, disappointed, however. And when it came to the key quarter final match against Hampshire, a defeat by 104 runs brought the campaign to a miserable end.
As for most counties, the Royal London One Day Cup gave the Bears the chance to blood some young players. But it was left to the more experienced batters such as Sibley, Yates and skipper Will Rhodes to carry the side. With four wins and a tie, to qualify for the knockout stages, the team came to their final group match needing only to beat Somerset who had lost all seven of their games so far. That’s right, Somerset won!
The Bears had their usual quota of injuries, especially to their pace bowlers. Olly Stone, Liam Norwell and Craig Miles all were out at different stages; and Chris Woakes failed to play a single game.
LV= CC: eighth in Division One
Vitality Blast: Quarter finalists
RLODC: sixth in group
LV= CC: Sam Hain – 1137 runs at 63.16
Vitality Blast: Adam Hose – 557 runs at 55.70, strike rate 160.98
RLODC: Rob Yates, 412 runs at 51.50.
LV= CC: Oliver Hannon-Dalby, 53 wickets at 23.69
Vitality Blast: Jake Lintott: 22 wickets at 20.90, economy rate 8.44
RLODC: Oliver Hannon-Dalby, 16 wickets at 27.75
Player of the season:
It’s a close run thing between batter Sam Hain (more than 1500 runs in the season) and Oliver Hannon-Dalby (69 wickets) so the result is a tie! They both win!
The honest answer is – no-one, which tells its own story. A whole batch of young players – Yates, Jacob Bethell, Chris Benjamin, George Garrett, Dan Mousley, the Brookes brothers – made little progress and could be turning from being full of promise to full of promises.
Could have done better:
The coaching team of Paul Farbrace and Mark Robinson quite rightly received praise last year when the Bears were County Champions. So they must take some blame this year, especially in their choices of overseas players. Nathan McAndrew, Paul Stirling and Carlos Brathwaite hardly enhanced their reputations; and the late signing of Mohammed Siraj and Jayant Yadav backfired when they both returned early to India. Only Krunal Pandya, in the Royal London, came anywhere near justifying his badging as an overseas “star”.
Need to work on
There have been departures on and off the field that have left gaps to be filled. Paul Farbrace is moving on and the earlier loss of bowling coach Graeme Welch to Hampshire may well have halted the progress of some of the young bowlers. Matt Mason, who replaced Welch, has a good track record but seems to have struggled to make an impact so far.
Dom Sibley is moving back to Surrey, Matt Lamb, a Bear since he was in the Under-9s, is going to Derbyshire. The injury troubled Olly Stone departs to Notts and Adam Hose to Worcestershire. Australian Ryan Sidebottom’s contract has ended.
That’s quite an outflow so thought needs to be given as to whether any of these losses could have been prevented. The departures are only partly off-set by the arrival of Ed Barnard from Worcestershire and the return, from the same county, of prodigal son Moeen Ali. A couple of further recruits may well be needed if results are to improve next year.
Whoever takes over as Director of Cricket will be hoping that the batch of youngsters mentioned above have a successful winter – several are playing club cricket abroad – and come back ready to fulfil their undoubted potential. Otherwise that last day miracle may merely be delaying the drop.
Underperforming in the Championship, failing to reach T20 Finals Day or to qualify for the Royal London knock-outs makes it a poor season for the Bears. Because they did top their Vitality Blast group and pulled off that relegation escape and because I am full of the milk of human kindness – Mark: 4/10