Graeme Welch has saluted a bowling unit whose quality left Warwickshire as the only county in either division of the Specsavers County Championship to net full bowling points in 2018.
The Bears’ advance to the Division Two title was powered by bowlers who excelled consistently. The attack was led by the indefatigably excellent Jeetan Patel with 56 wickets at 22.79 runs apiece but three other bowlers passed 40: Olly Stone 43 from just nine games at a remarkable 12.21 apiece, Chris Wright 41 at 31.20 and Keith Barker 40 at 16.80.
"We have lost some guys who were brilliant for us but have signed Liam Norwell and Craig Miles and I’m really looking forward to working with them."
That quartet all played key roles but injuries caused disruption at times and that’s where strength-in-depth showed itself with Ryan Sidebottom, Henry Brookes and Olly Hannon-Dalby sharing 61 wickets at 23.54 in 18 games.
“Although we had a lot of injuries over the summer, the unit always worked really well and that was the most pleasing thing for me,” said bowling coach Welch. “Whenever we asked someone to come in they did a good job.
“We built pressure and that shows in the stats. We averaged 23 runs per wicket and took a wicket every seven and a half overs. That is top-end bowling. It was a really great effort from all the bowlers – led by Jeets who topped 50 wickets yet again and bowled with such skill and consistency.”
It was a satisfying return to Edgbaston for Welch, who was reappointed as bowling coach at the start of the year. But his brief is not just to deliver short-term results but also to create a conveyor-belt of bowling talent which will be needed with three experienced bowlers – Barker, Wright and Boyd Rankin – having just left the club.
“Times change and squads have to evolve, that’s the nature of sport,” Welch said. “We have lost some guys who were brilliant for us but have signed Liam Norwell and Craig Miles and I’m really looking forward to working with them. At their age, with the amount of first-class cricket they have already played, it’s exciting to think what they might achieve.
“There are also big opportunities now for our younger guys. It was disappointing to lose Henry Brookes halfway through the season but the way he bowled early on showed what a great prospect he is, probably not just for us but for England as well.
“I think Will Rhodes has real quality as a bowler and could at some stage be a third or fourth seamer for us. He’s come on a lot with the ball, as has Matt Lamb. I’m looking forward to working with them through the next few months and also with Aaron Thomason and George Panayi who are going to have a big winter. I’m going to do a lot of technical work with George and Aaron – they could be the next cabs off the rank. The next 18 months is a great opportunity for them to become part of the first-team attack.”