|LV= County Championship Division One, Edgbaston (day four)|
|Warwickshire 272-4 dec: Yates 104 & 177: Sibley 77; Fuller 4-34|
|Hampshire 311 & 133: Norwell 9-62|
|Warwickshire (21 pts) beat Hampshire (4 pts) by five runs|
Liam Norwell produced the performance of a lifetime with a stunning 9-62 as 2021 county champions Warwickshire miraculously stayed up – and relegated Yorkshire – with a five-run win over Hampshire at Edgbaston.
The injury-hit paceman bowled almost unchanged for 18.5 overs to inspire a breathtaking triumph and keep the Bears in Division One.
Set only 139 to win after bowling out Warwickshire for 177, Hampshire buckled to 133 all out.
After losing out on the title to Surrey last week, Hampshire’s second consecutive defeat cost them runners-up spot to Lancashire – and £145,000 in prize money – as they now only finish third.
It was an astonishing career-best bowling effort from Norwell and the equally tireless, but relatively unrewarded Oliver Hannon-Dalby.
The pair sent down 37 of the 44 overs in Hampshire’s second innings between them.
While Yorkshire were left cursing their first relegation in 11 years, the Bears’ unlikely escape in Birmingham, on a final day of the season when 18 wickets fell, was as well received as their eighth title triumph here at Edgbaston a year ago.
Warwickshire finish three points above Yorkshire, who lost to already-relegated Gloucestershire on Wednesday, which meant that survival was out of their hands.
Bears bowled out cheaply
After closing at 62-2 on Wednesday, with a lead of only 23, the main surprise given the overnight rain and overcast outlook in Birmingham was that they actually got started on time thanks to the hard work of Gary Barwell and his Edgbaston groundstaff.
That was pretty much the only thing that went right in the morning session for the Bears, despite a second half-century in the match for Surrey-bound Dom Sibley on his final appearance.
Brad Wheal, who had a game on loan for the Bears in July, struck in successive overs as both Alex Davies and skipper Will Rhodes holed out going for their shots.
James Fuller then took over as chief wicket taker, adding the scalps of Dan Mousley, Jacob Bethell, Danny Briggs and Norwell, with a run-out mix-up sandwiched in between.
Sam Hain, coming in number eight after injuring his hamstring while making an acrobatic boundary stop on Wednesday, was batting with a runner, Davies.
But, having already survived one run-out near-miss, Davies was this time left stranded by a direct hit from short mid-wicket from Hampshire skipper James Vince – and was forced to make the slow march back to the dressing room for the second time in an hour, this time accompanied by the limping Hain.
When Fuller then removed Briggs and Norwell in successive balls, Fuller had a chance to repeat his Bob Willis Trophy hat-trick against Surrey at Arundel in 2020.
But, although Hannon-Dalby survived the hat-trick ball, Sibley did not trust the survival skills of the Bears last man, despite several doughty OHD rearguard actions this season. And, in attempting to farm the strike, the discarded England opener himself perished for 77, missing out on a chance to carry his bat for the the third time this season.
… but Hants bowled out even cheaper still
That left Hampshire needing just 139 to win – but chasing small targets can so often be tricky. And this run chase certainly proved to be the case.
The Bears’ top wicket-taker Hannon-Dalby made the first breakthrough in the third over when he had Felix Organ caught behind, his 53rd scalp of the season.
And that opened the door for Norwell.
He quickly got rid of fellow opener Ian Holland – and, in only his fourth Championship appearance of an injury-plagued season, the wickets kept on coming.
A return of 3-16 from his first spell, then three overs off before returning for a second spell of 6-46, mostly after tea.
At 91-7, when former Bears all-rounder Keith Barker became his sixth victim, Nick Gubbins and Fuller then put on what seemed a crucial 33 for the eighth wicket.
But a ball change – the story of the 2022 summer – proved key.
With the next ball, Norwell won a generous lbw decision against Gubbins for 46 and, although the visitors got it down to within one blow of victory, the big paceman then struck twice more in four balls to finish it off.
First he bowled Fuller for 22 and then trapped Mohammad Abbas leg before to end with 13-100 in the match, also a career-best – to bring down the curtain on another climactic end to a domestic red-ball season.
Warwickshire match-winner Liam Norwell told BBC Radio WM:
“This morning didn’t go as planned. 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.
“Olly bowled an unbelievable spell to only get one wicket, but the crowd were behind us. Just like on the last day of last season, they kept us going.
“It’s a day that will live long in the memory. 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’ve let the lads down by being out injured so much this season, so I hope helping us stay up has repaid them a little. Now we have to push on and make sure we’re not in this position again.”
Hampshire captain James Vince told BBC Radio Solent:
“Liam Norwell has bowled an amazing spell. Having not played much cricket, he did really well to keep coming in like that.
“To finish with a couple of losses is disappointing, after all the hard work we did over the summer and staying so close to Surrey for so long, it’s a hard one to take when we lost last week.
“But you have to credit Warwickshire for the spirit they showed. It shows when you’re playing for something like staying in the division, you can find that extra level. Norwell got the most out of the pitch so credit to him.”