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Brilliant Liam Norwell leads Warwickshire's great escape

Liam Norwell powered Warwickshire to an incredible escape from relegation in the LV=Insurance County Championship as his career-best 9-62 sealed a five-run win over Hampshire on a thrilling final day of the season.

Warwickshire Liam Norwell
Warwickshire Liam Norwell

Set a target of 139 to secure runners up spot (and condemn the 2021 champions to the drop), Hampshire were blown away for 133 as Norwell, returning at the end of an injury-ravaged season, bowled magnificently in several spells from the Pavilion End.

His excellence lifted Warwickshire above the relegation trapdoor in the final moments of the season and dumped Yorkshire into Division Two instead.

Norwell admitted he struggled to contain his emotions at the end of a thrilling day.

“We wanted to set them much more towards 200 but we just had to keep believing and we were backed up brilliantly by the fielders,” said Norwell.

“Olly bowled an unbelievable spell to only get one wicket and it was just amazing.

“The crowd were behind us and I’m not sure how to describe it. Just like on the last day of last season, the crowd kept us going and it’s a day that will live long in the memory and now we have got to push on and make sure we are not in this position again.

“I don’t know what I was thinking at the end. I just went mad. All the emotions came out and I was nearly in tears.

“It means a lot to me because I feel I have let the lads down by being out injured so much this season so I hope that helping us stay up has repaid the guys a little bit.”

After resuming in the morning on 62-2, the Bears appeared to have relinquished their survival hopes when they collapsed to 177 all out. Dom Sibley, in his last game for the Bears before rejoining Surrey, made 77 but James Fuller (4-34) and Brad Wheal (3-68) exploited the desperate quest for quick runs.

Hampshire needed 139 in 72 overs but slumped to 91-7 and, despite Nick Gubbins’s steadfast 46 (104 balls), they fell just short to suffer an agonising defeat and slip to third place in the table.

Hannon-Dalby struck first with a beauty which took Felix Organ’s edge...Norwell did the rest. He bowled Holland, trapped Joe Weatherley lbw and had Vince caught at long leg. At 49 for four, it was very much game on.

He returned just before tea to pin Ben Brown lbw and completed his five-for when Nye Donald chipped to extra cover. He then castled Keith Barker but Gubbins and Fuller added 33 to take their side to the brink of victory.

The admirable Norwell had the last say though. He trapped Gubbins lbw, ripped out Fuller’s middle stump and, to enormous cheers from the crowd, won an lbw decision against Mohammed Abbas to complete a true ‘I was there’ day for Warwickshire’s supporters.

Yorkshire’s fans are unlikely to forget it in a hurry either!

For the victors, joy. For the defeated, angst. And for the countless spectators monitoring from around the world, brilliant entertainment which again underlined the ability of both red ball cricket and county cricket to deliver a memorable entertainment.

With all the pressure on the home side, Hampshire set defensive fields in the morning and bowled well to them. Wheal was first to benefit as Alex Davies (32, 47 balls) and Will Rhodes sent up catches. Fuller then capitalised when Dan Mousley and Jake Bethell perished on the ultra-offensive.

Sam Hain’s runner was then run out by James Vince’s direct hit. Danny Briggs clouted his first ball for six but found deep mid-wicket with another attempt, Fuller yorked Norwell and Sibley was last to go, lbw to Ian Holland, before walking off to a fond valedictory ovation.

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