Giles hails Warwickshire effort
Director of cricket Ashley Giles expressed his pride in Warwickshire’s players after they fell short in their bid to claim the LV= County Championship title.
The Bears, needing to match Lancashire’s result against Somerset at Taunton in the final round of fixtures, could only muster a draw as already relegated Hampshire exhibited admirable resolve to bat through day four.
Less than 15 minutes after the two teams had shaken hands at the Rose Bowl, Lancashire completed a thrilling pursuit of 211 to secure the championship crown outright for the first time in 77 years.
Warwickshire appeared firm favourites to secure top spot when play resumed this morning with Hampshire on 43 for three in their second innings, still 126 in arrears.
However, Michael Carberry and Neil McKenzie wrested the momentum from the visitors by extending their fourth-wicket stand to 182 and there was to be no way back, the latter finishing unbeaten on 115 in a score of 327 for seven.
After seeing his side fall agonisingly short, Giles told ecb.co.uk: “It would have been amazing to finish the season as champions and reward for all the hard work, but that’s fallen to Lancashire and good luck to them.
“It’s been a great achievement by this side. We’ve played some really good cricket and what I consider a Test match form of cricket. We’ve gone for big scores, we’ve looked to bowl sides out twice and win games.
“We just fell short in the end. This wicket was a flat wicket and I can only thank the bowlers. I’ve given them a lot of praise in there because it was a real lionhearted performance over the last two days.
“I don’t know whether they ran out of steam or the wicket did, there wasn’t a lot there.
“It turned a little bit for Chris (Metters, who finished with five wickets in the second innings), but for the seamers, we thought if anything it might start to go down if not up and down, but it didn’t really do a lot.
“It’s been a long day, everyone is tired and we just want to have a couple of days off now.”
Although understandably disappointed at coming so close to glory, only to fall at the final hurdle, Giles feels there is reason for optimism at Edgbaston.
“Looking round the county sides I think we’ve got a squad of players who have still got a lot of growth in them,” he explained.
“We have recruited quite well I think. We’ve got a good squad, a lot of guys have played a part this year and there’s a good mix between experience and youth, so it bodes well for the future.”
At the beginning of the season, many pundits believed Warwickshire would struggle in the four-day arena.
When reminded that his side had been tipped for relegation, Giles replied: “Yes, and I think a lot of the Lancashire faithful were tipping them to go down as well. It’s a big turnaround.
"We’re a long way now, for me, from a side who is going to fight relegation battles and we should be because we’ve got a lot of ability in our team.
“Ultimately it’s my responsibility to improve the cricket of this club and I think we’re doing that. We’ve won the Second XI Championship this year, we were second in the First XI Championship, so things are going pretty well.”
While also paying tribute to his own side, Warwickshire captain Jim Troughton acknowledged the efforts of Hampshire, who refused to buckle despite having nothing more than pride to play for.
"It's disappointing to see these guys go down with the team that they've got and the strength in depth that they've got - it's a surprise,” Troughton told Sky Sports.
"But they stayed professional until the very end and made it very difficult for us. We threw everything at them but they played fantastically well.”
Despite a frustrating final day, Troughton took the positives from a season which exceeded all expectations.
“If you’d said to us at the beginning of the season we’d win nine games, you’d think that would be enough to win the championship,” he said. “Congratulations go to Lancashire, with 10 wins they're deservedly winners this year.
“But I always think that we’re not the finished article as a side. We’ve got a lot of growth and other than Shivnarine (Chanderpaul) in this game, I’m the only only over-30 playing in the team and it’s been a fantastic squad effort all the way through the season.
“That strength in depth and that growth that we’ve got will make sure we’re a force to be reckoned with in years to come.”
In the end, Giles was left to reflect on his side’s inferior head-to-head record against Lancashire, which saw the Red Rose record a 147-run victory at Edgbaston in May prior to a drawn encounter at Aigburth last month.
“Lancashire will be enjoying it tonight and well done to them because they have played some good cricket,” the former England spinner said.
“Out of the two games we played, they beat us once and we drew once, so ultimately they won.”