Bears inspired by 2011 heartache
Warwickshire entered the final day of the 2011 LV= County Championship season needing seven wickets for victory against an already relegated Hampshire side as they closed in on a seventh domestic title.
But centuries from Michael Carberry and Neil McKenzie secured an unlikely draw for the Royals, breaking the hearts of every player in the Bears’ dressing room as they were denied their first championship crown since 2004.
Some clubs might have crumbled under the weight of such disappointment, but almost a year on a defiant Warwickshire outfit are again sitting top of the pile and hoping that the pain of 2011 will inspire them as the current campaign approaches its closing stages.
All-rounder Rikki Clarke has been an integral part of their four-day success, compiling three hundreds and claiming 12 wickets to help Jim Troughton’s side move one point clear at the summit with a game in hand after nine matches.
Warwickshire suffered a recent setback, falling to their first defeat of the year against Somerset last week, but Clarke is adamant the team's character will help them prevail as they aim to reverse a disappointment that still burns.
“We are not going to shy away from it, last year hurt,” Clarke told ecb.co.uk. “To get to the last day of the championship on top of the table, and to still not quite get over the line is always going to hurt a lot.
“Down at the Ageas Bowl at the end of the last game we remember saying that we should remember this sort of feeling and get back in the nets in the winter and work even harder and we have come back stronger in pretty much all forms.”
The Bears narrowly missed out on qualification in the Friends Life t20 and are currently well placed in the Clydesdale Bank 40, sitting second in Group C, but the county's main focus all season has always been on the longer format.
Warwickshire's players have taken a new approach to the way they play cricket this term, approaching games with more freedom in a relaxed environment which Clarke believes has allowed results to take care of themselves.
“We have had that freedom, that ability and the mood in the camp at the minute is brilliant.” he added.
“We all get on really well, we enjoy each other's success and a happy dressing room is always going to be a successful dressing room.
“Hopefully we can continue the good work and not get ahead of ourselves as there is still a lot of cricket to come, but of course we hope to be up there at the end of the season.
"Every game is important. Division One has a lot of good teams and a lot of good cricketers. Every ball you concentrate on and you don’t look much further than that.”
The disappointment of last season may feel a long way away, but its impact has left a lasting impression on a side desperate to claim a title they feel is overdue.