April 2006

County Cult Heroes - Warwickshire

Paul Bolton
Paul Bolton chooses his cult heroes from Warwickshire

Andy Moles was a roly-poly athelete, but surprisingly agile in the field. © Getty Images

Andy Moles
The former toolmaker from Birmingham began his county career late but quickly established himself as a favourite with supporters. Moles' liking for good beer and late-night curries was apparent in a roly-poly figure, although he displayed surprising agility in the field and had a safe pair of hands, as well as proving a courageous and consistent opening batsman. By the time an Achilles tendon injury forced his retirement in 1998 he had the highest career batting average - 38.59 - of a Warwickshire player never to have won representative honours. He gave the county outstanding service during a 13-year career in which he secured his fi rst professional contract after giving up his trade and spending two years on the dole so that he was always available to play. Gregarious and entertaining off the pitch, Moles could be stubborn and defensive on it. He made a double-century in nine and a half hours against Surrey at Guildford in 1994, but his 28-minute fi fty against Kent in 1996 was the quickest at Edgbaston since 1914.

John Shilton
(Warwickshire career 1885-95)
Shilton played 132 consecutive matches for Warwickshire between 1885 and 1895 (the year after they turned first-class), a sequence fi nally broken when he missed a game because he was in a debtors' prison. Financial and drink problems bedevilled his career: he was landlord at pubs in Batley, Dudley and Birmingham and his liking for the produce and generosity as a host led to diffi culties. Though a popular and regular visitor to the members' bar at Edgbaston, sometimes at lunchtime on match days, his performances did not appear to suffer. In 147 matches for Warwickshire, Shilton, a slow left-armer, took 675 wickets including 8 for 55 in a day against the 1886 Australians, after which he was carried from the fi eld by jubilant spectators. Shilton was a Yorkshireman who used the birth certificate of a Coventry-born cousin to ensure he did not have to qualify to play for Warwickshire. He was only 37 when he died from kidney and liver failure in 1899.

Tom Pritchard
Pritchard played first-class cricket for Wellington before the Second World War and was spotted playing services matches in the Middle East by Tom Dollery, who brought him to Warwickshire. He became eligible for Championship games in 1947 and proved a natural entertainer who lightened post-war austerity. He was arguably the quickest bowler of his era, generating pace from a fast arm action from a surprisingly short run-up. Like most fast bowlers he fancied himself as a batsman but his modest career average - 13.34 - reflects an impulse to hit every ball for six. A cheerful and popular member of the 1951 Championshipwinning squad, he took 36 wickets in four mid-season matches, including his third Warwickshire hat-trick, still a club record. After retirement in 1955 he returned to New Zealand and was still riding horses on his daughter's farm until a couple of years ago.

Anton Ferreira
Ferreira's career record may be inferior to those of many of the county's overseas players but only Allan Donald of their international superstars can rival the South African allrounder for popularity with the supporters. A bear-like man - hence his nickname `Yogi' - he made lots of friends and no enemies during his eight-year stint at Edgbaston. Modest and friendly, he had people skills that treated gatemen, supporters, team-mates and opponents equally. His fi rst season at Edgbaston was injury-plagued and unimpressive. But Ferreira developed into a reliable and hard-working player, scoring quick middle-order runs and bowling accurate medium pace. In 1984 he made 777 runs, took 79 wickets and became the first Warwickshire player to perform the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in the old Sunday League. Ferreira said a tearful farewell in 1986 with an impromptu party in the members' bar.

Dougie Brown's 'popularity can also be attributed to his readiness to share a drink and chat with those who pay his wages' © Getty Images

Dougie Brown
The current darling of the Edgbaston crowd, Brown has endeared himself through his wholehearted efforts since his arrival from Alloa in 1990. Warwickshire may have had more gifted allrounders but few have matched his commitment to fi tness and refusal to accept defeat. His popularity can also be attributed to his readiness to share a drink and chat with those who pay his wages. He remains an old-fashioned professional; in an era of isotonic drinks and fi ve-a-side football at close of play Brown will head to the Members' Bar for a couple of lagers no matter how bad a day his side have had. He played seven one-day internationals for England in 1997 and 1998 and has since played for Scotland; with an extra yard of pace he might have played Tests. But his aggressive and uncomplicated middleorder batting, persistent swing bowling and enthusiastic fi elding have served Warwickshire well. His career-best 203 against Sussex at Hove in 2000 was the highest score by a Warwickshire No. 7.

Paul Bolton writes on cricket for the Daily Telegraph