There was celebration and poignancy in the air as Warwickshire clinched their seventh County Championship and first since 2004 yesterday by completing a crushing victory over neighbours Worcestershire on a glorious afternoon quite out of keeping with a summer often characterised by wet days and frustrated players confined to gloomy dressing rooms.
Warwickshire suffered less than others, but taking the title with their sixth win with one round of matches to spare accurately reflects their status as the best team in this year's competition.
Ashley Giles, Warwickshire's director of cricket and twice a title winner as a player, said that winning the Championship as a coach compared with winning the Ashes as a player.
"As a player, the Ashes was the ultimate, but this is different in that you're largely responsible," he said. "Your head is on the block. For me, because it's a different career, it ranks alongside winning the Ashes."
He praised the leadership of his captain, Jim Troughton, before endorsing Troughton's view that their moment of triumph should be dedicated to Neal Abberley, an influential member of the coaching staff for more than 30 years, who died in August last year. He was seen as a mentor by both men and many members of the current playing staff and had a particularly close association with Ian Bell.
"I would like to dedicate this victory to Neal Abberley," Troughton said. "I hope he's looking down with a big smile on his face because a lot of what has been achieved is down to his work and it needs to be recognised."
"Abbers was the heart and soul of the club," Giles said. "I certainly wouldn't be here without him. He taught me a hell of a lot about myself and my game and was my mentor when I took over the job as coach." Giles has shown fortitude himself this year, having to cope with a serious illness affecting his wife, Stine.
Warwickshire's celebrations began 25 minutes after lunch yesterday when Chris Wright took the last Worcestershire wicket to wrap up victory by an innings and 202 runs with a day and a half to spare. Indeed, Wright, who joined the county initially on a month's loan from Essex last August, finished the job as spectacularly as a bowler can, taking all three remaining wickets after lunch, all clean bowled.
He had a match haul of nine wickets, with Keith Barker, the left-armer, taking eight. The two have 112 wickets between them for the season after becoming the county's new ball partnership by accident, following injuries to Boyd Rankin and Chris Woakes.
"We signed Barker primarily as a batsman and I had to be persuaded to sign Wright because the stats didn't really add up," Giles said. "But Pop [bowling coach Graeme Welch] had worked with Chris at Essex and has done a brilliant job with Keith and the way they responded to the responsibility they have had has been fantastic.
"A lot of credit must go to Jim [Troughton], too, for his leadership. He was always Mr Nice Guy and I didn't know if it would work with him as captain but he has been rock solid."
Warwickshire now aim to complete a double by winning the CB40 competition, in which they face Hampshire in the final a week tomorrow.Reuse content