Injury-hit Liam Norwell takes NINE wickets on final day as Warwickshire beat Hampshire by five runs to avoid relegation from County Championship Division One and send Yorkshire down
- Liam Norwell took a remarkable nine for 62 in an unbroken spell of 18.5 overs
- Hampshire were dismissed six runs short of their modest victory target of 139
- Warwickshire secured status and sentenced Yorkshire to last-gasp relegation
The last day of the County Championship season provided extraordinary drama as Warwickshire secured First Division status by the skin of their teeth and sentenced Yorkshire to last-gasp relegation.
Liam Norwell, who began the outgoing champions final match under an injury cloud, took a remarkable nine for 62 and 13 wickets in the game as Hampshire were dismissed six runs short of their modest victory target of 139.
That meant Warwickshire avoided the ignominy of relegation just a year after clinching the Championship and Bob Willis Trophy double and provided more misery for Yorkshire at the end of their tumultuous year trying to put right the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal.
Liam Norwell produced a stunning performance as Warwickshire miraculously stayed up
It was a thrilling end to the domestic campaign and one that provided huge ammunition for counties fighting the proposal by Sir Andrew Strauss in his High Performance Review to reduce the Championship by four matches per season.
The grand old competition looked very much fit for purpose during a final day when all eyes – almost 18,000 pairs of them on the Edgbaston YouTube feed alone by the climax of the drama – were on Warwickshire’s battle for survival.
They looked certain to join Gloucestershire in being relegated at a particularly inopportune time, with Strauss proposing a six-team first division in 2024, when they were dismissed for 177 to leave Hampshire what seemed a routine target.
But Norwell, who has played just four Championship matches in an injury ravaged season, produced the performance of his life to send Hampshire reeling and deny them the runners-up spot that seemed certain at the start of the final round.
Warwickshire avoided the ignominy of relegation just a year after clinching the Championship and Bob Willis Trophy double
Norwell, an England Lions bowler last winter, bowled almost unchanged for 18.5 overs, taking the last nine wickets to fall after the equally lionhearted Oliver Hannon-Dalby had made the initial breakthrough in dismissing Felix Organ.
It did seem Hampshire, who were competing for the title until two defeats in their last two games, would deny Warwickshire and save Yorkshire when, after they had been reduced to 91 for seven, Nick Gubbins and James Fuller put on 33 for the eighth wicket.
But a ball change, one of the stories of the summer, proved crucial as Norwell trapped Gubbins with a questionable lbw decision before taking the last two wickets in four balls.
Cue pandemonium and a welcome shot in the arm for English red-ball cricket at a time when it is under threat like rarely before to follow England’s Test transformation this summer.