Warwickshire County Cricket Club: A History
Cricket was first mentioned in Birmingham in the mid-18th century when the landlord of the Bell Inn, adjacent to the present day Smallbrook Queensway, advertised for matches for his team. Other sides played around the then villages of Washwood Heath and Erdington, but it is outside of the city that we must look for the first references to Warwickshire Cricket Club.
‘Warwickshire’, as we know it, was formed on 8 April 1882 in the Regent Hotel, Leamington, at the suggestion of William Ansell – the schoolmaster had previously been responsible for the formation of the Birmingham Association of Cricket Clubs. Prior to this date there is little known about cricket in Warwickshire as whole, but it appears a few teams were self-dubbed Warwickshire CC.
The most well known of these masqueraders is Wellbourne (now Wellesbourne) who, in 1826, played at a ground near Warwick Racecourse, on the land of Henry Richard Greville, the third Earl of Warwick. For reasons unknown, this venue was soon abandoned and the team moved back to Wellesbourne.
The first recording of a team styled as Warwickshire playing was at the Gosford Green ground against Leicestershire. The home team won by eight wickets and all that is known about the side is that it was compiled of players from Leamington, Nuneaton, Warwick and Coventry. Gosford Green still has sport played on its site to this day in the shape of Coventry City FC's Ricoh Arena.
Warwickshire started playing at Edgbaston, under lease from Lord Calthorpe, in 1886. The first match was against a wandering MCC XI. The ground was given Test status in 1902 and hosted England v Australia in May of that year. England all-rounder Wilfred Rhodes clearly approved of the ground claiming seven Aussie scalps for just 17 runs.
Another man who loved Edgbaston was West Indian Brian Lara, who in Warwickshire's treble winning season of 1994 topped off an amazing few months by hitting 501 not out against Durham. The innings surpassed Hanif Mohammad’s 499 to become the highest score in the history of first-class cricket and is a record that stands to this day.
Other notable players to have taken the field for WCCC are West Indians Rohan Kanhai and Alvin Kallicharran, Dennis Amiss, Bob Willis, Dermot Reeve and, of course, current director of cricket Ashley Giles. The West Indian duo and Amiss led Warwickshire to the 1972 County Championship title but it wasn’t until the 1990s that they reached such heights again. Under Reeve’s captaincy, Warwickshire won two County Championships and five-day one-day trophies.
The team enjoyed more success at the start of the new millennium, winning the last ever Benson & Hedges Cup, in 2002, and another County Championship in 2004 – Nick Knight’s side enjoyed an unbeaten season (drawing 11 and winning 5 of their 16 fixtures); the first time the feat had been achieved since the introduction of the two divisional format.
Despite having failed to lift the Twenty20 Cup in the competition’s seven seasons, the Bears have consistently shown their prowess in the shortest format of the game. Having claimed the runners-up spot in 2003’s inaugural staging and only once failed to make the quarter-finals, no side has progressed from the group stages as many times as Warwickshire. Last season, Bears and England batsman Jonathan Trott set a new record for the number of runs scored in a Twenty20 Cup season, smashing 525 runs in 11 innings.
The Bears won the CB40 Trophy in 2010 when beating Somerset in an exciting match at Lord's
With another strong squad, Jim Troughton’s team has every chance to add to the trophy cabinet and the Warwickshire CCC history books in 2012.