At the beginning of the season in my preview piece for the LV= County Championship, I predicted that Warwickshire would finish a lowly sixth in Division One. I backed up my prediction with the observation that their batting looked “a little fragile, especially after they chose a bowler to fill the overseas spot” and that the “loss of Chris Woakes early in the season (through injury) is also a big blow.” While I was proved right to some degree with regards to the first statement – three of their first choice top six averaged less than 40, with two of those averaging less than 25 – I could not have been wider of the mark with the second point.
When Woakes played after recovering from his injury and in between call ups by England, he did extremely well – averaging an astonishing 87.75 with the bat and 23.32 with the ball – but it was the previously pretty much unheralded pairing of Keith Barker and Chris Wright who led the bowling attack. Both men passed 50 Championship wickets and averaged less than 25, complementing each other perfectly. Barker, a left-arm seamer, found swing, while Wright, backed up to an extent by Boyd Rankin towards the end of the season, provided the pace and hostility. When you add Jeetan Patel (46 wickets at an average of 22.02) – who looked like a mediocre overseas signing at the start of the year – Rikki Clarke (18 at 26.5) and Darren Maddy (11 at 29.27) to those four then you have a pretty potent bowling attack.
Another key ingredient of Warwickshire’s success was their excellent lower-order batting which made up for the frailty of the middle-order. While Maddy and William Porterfield endured poor seasons and Troughton was virtually runless for the first half, the likes of Clarke, Barker, Woakes and even Patel and Wright would regularly do more than just chip in. Clarke ended with an average of more than 45, while Barker, Patel and Wright all hovered around the 20 mark and made at least one important contribution each.
The opening match of the season against Somerset was a case in point. The excellence of Peter Trego had reduced them to 207 for eight in pursuit of 259 to win, but Patel hit an unbeaten 43 off only 36 balls and they won by two wickets. Indeed, Somerset were the only team that seemed to cause them any problems all season – their only loss came in the reverse fixture against them later in the season.
Lastly, a tribute to Warwickshire’s success wouldn’t be complete without mentioning their superb coaching and administrative staff – past and present. Ashley Giles has steadily rebuilt the club on the field since taking over at the end of 2007, while chief executive Colin Povey has done likewise off it since taking over the reins from Dennis Amiss in 2005. Giles has admitted that he was helped both in his playing and coaching career by Warwickshire stalwart Neal Abberley, who died in August last year, and has dedicated the win to his memory.
Warwickshire’s current coaching set-up is, besides Giles, led by former Derbyshire and Warwickshire seamer Graeme Welch, who has coaxed the best out of talents that were discarded by other counties – Keith Barker was turned down by Lancashire, while Chris Wright was released by Essex at the end of last season. As well as him there are Dougie Brown, the assistant coach and Tony Frost, the batting coach, who has helped the development of another Essex reject, Varun Chopra, who reflected on his and Wright’s sudden change in fortune, saying, “maybe a change is all me and Chris needed."
Warwickshire will be hoping that one thing that doesn’t change next season is the name on the winner’s trophy.
© Cricket World 2012