By Neil Fissler
Alan Smith admits that he has got no regrets about the declaration that cost Warwickshire the chance of winning the County Championship.
Early in the season Warwickshire played Surrey at The Oval and made 319 in their first innings but Surrey hit back on the second day declaring on 322-5.
Smith then declared Warwickshire’s second innings on the third and last afternoon on 259 leaving Surrey to chase down 256 which they managed with minutes to spare before the close.
Ultimately it was a result which cost Warwickshire their first Championship for 20 years but it underlined the positive cricket that they tried to play all season.
Smith said: “I declared and gave Surrey a target on the third day, which they got. I remember getting one or two letters afterwards telling me it was a splendid declaration.
“And that was the type of cricket that people wanted to see. If I hadn’t have made that declaration or even delayed it by an hour, we would have won the Championship.
“Whilst I made friends, it was a perfectly reasonable declaration at the time and you made them in the knowledge that you weren’t always going to win.
“If I say I wish that I hadn’t have done that nothing else occurred to me at the time and I don’t have any regrets about it.”
Warwickshire finished on the same points as Surrey 255 but the Championship pennant flew over The Oval for the next 12 months because Surrey won two more matches with 11.
Smith points out for a short time in September, Warwickshire believed that they had done enough to pip Surrey at the post.
They had beaten Yorkshire by 22 runs at Edgbaston and it looked as if Derbyshire who finished bottom of the table were going to hang on for a 20th draw in 24 matches.
But a late collapse handed Surrey the win and with two games in hand against Glamorgan and Hampshire they needed 14 points which they got to win their first Championship in 11 years.
Smith added: “We thought that we were going to win the Championship, because Derbyshire drew a many games that season but they contrived to lose at The Oval.
“We didn’t expect them to lose, we thought that it would be a draw. Meanwhile we had beaten Yorkshire in a game that was touch and go with about 20 minutes to spare.
“At the moment we took the last Yorkshire wicket there is a photo of us all jumping in the air because we thought that we had won the Championship.
“It was a blow to us that Derbyshire had buckled under at The Oval while we were out beating Yorkshire whereas at tea we fully thought that it was going to be a draw.”
Those two games in hand that Surrey had would not have mattered had Warwickshire not lost their penultimate game of the campaign to Gloucestershire by an innings.
Smith continued: “We lost the toss and Gloucestershire batted and got 335 and if I remember rightly it was a Saturday start and we went to Essex the following day for a Sunday League match.
“As we drove back it was into rain and pitches were uncovered and when we batted it was on a wet wicket which was drying out. It was a bowlers’ paradise.
“Had we won the toss we would not have lost the game and I am pretty sure we would have won. The following season when we won the Championship I never lost the toss.”
BACK ROW (left-right):
Alan Oakham: Former Sussex and England all-rounder who coached Warwickshire for 17 summers and also served county as cricket administrator until retiring. Played in Laker’s match against Australia in 1956.
Eddie Hemmings: England off-spinner, he ran a village shop in West Butterwick, North Lincs, and worked as a driver.
John Jameson: Bombay-born batsman who played for England was an umpire, pitch inspector, coached Taunton School, Sussex and Bangladesh and was the MCC assistant cricket secretary.
Graham Warner: Right handed batsman lives in Darlaston and went to work for Bernie Thomas at Edgbaston Heath Clinic.
Norman McVicker: Right-arm seamer who worked for Banbury Buildings before spending 25 years as general manager in the exhibition industry. Died in Cleethorpes in 2008, aged 68.
Neal Abberley: Opening batsman who joined Warwickshire coaching staff in 1981 as batting coach and was the mentor of Ian Bell. He died in 2011, aged 67.
Steve Rouse: Left-arm seamer. Started his own sports ground maintenance business before returning to Edgbaston as head groundsman.
Peter Lewington: Berkshire born spinner returned to his native county to become groundsman and cricket coach at Wellington College.
Alan Gordon: Batsman who ran the Black Horse pub in Exhall for 20 years until his early retirement. Died in 2007, aged 62.
Bill Blenkiron: Fast bowler who returned to his native North-east where he ran a Bishop Auckland sports shop for 35 years. His son Darren played for Durham.
Billy Ibadulla: Pakistan all-rounder became an umpire and now lives in Dunedin, New Zealand, where he has coached and worked as a TV commentator. Son Kassem played for Gloucestershire.
MJK Smith: Batsman who was England’s last double international (cricket and rugby union). Captained his country. Was the manager of grandstand company then set up a country club. Is Seb Coe’s father-in-law.
Alan Smith: Wicketkeeper. Played six England Tests. Director of an ad agency prior to becoming secretary of Warwickshire then TCCB chief executive.
Peter Cranmer: Former Warwickshire all-rounder and rugby union international. Became county chairman and was a journalist for the BBC. He died in 1994, aged 79.
David Brown: England seamer has run the Furnace Mill Stud Farm in the Wyre Forest since retiring from the game in 1976.
Warwick Tidy: Leg-break bowler moved to Yelverton, Devon and spent 36 years as a building society manager and running his own mortgage brokers. Is a services agent.
Barry Flick: Wicketkeeper who ran his own business Flick Supplies and is now retired living in Bournemouth. His brother Clayton was a victim of the Lockerbie bomb.
Brian Timms: A wicketkeeper who became a property developer and farmer in his native Hampshire.
This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper on Friday December 11 2015