After coming so close to a memorable trophy-winning summer last season, Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club may find it hard to repeat such feats this coming year.
Going into the last round of County Championship and Pro40 matches last season, Notts were more than able to finish the season with two pieces of silverware. But losses to Hampshire and Sussex meant that the Outlaws (Notts limited overs team) ended 2008 empty handed.
England call-ups did not help Notts for the majority of last year, with both Stuart Broad and Ryan Sidebottom largely unavailable as they fought under the three lions. Furthermore, it seems as if the pair may be joined by Graeme Swann this summer after his wickets in the West Indies. Arguably being the pick of the England bowlers in the Caribbean, he is surely a shoe-in for the first of the return tests on the 6th May at Lord’s. Moreover, if Samit Patel continues his scintillating form of last year, topping the averages which saw him come second in the PCA County MVP rankings, more England caps are surely awaiting him: leaving Notts wanting with both bat and ball.
The news that Stuart Broad rejected to play in the lucrative IPL to continue to develop his game at home was a plus-point for the Outlaws, but they have also recruited experience. Ex-Surrey big-hitter Ali Brown and spinner Jason Brown have joined the club to cover for the England quartet, while Mick Newell and the rest of the coaching staff will have to look to academy players to bolster the side where necessary. Luke Fletcher and Andy Carter have already put their hands up to lead the seam-attack for the county. Fletcher has made four appearances for the first team, and along with Carter, the 20-year-old has the promise from coach Mick Newell that “opportunities will arise for these players if they prove that they’re worth it”.
Read admits that “last season was great but we’d love to go one better and win it,” with the full knowledge that Championships require six months of hard work and a fair helping of luck. Despite the confidence of both captain and coach, Nottinghamshire may find 2009 a long, difficult and ultimately transitional year in the ever competitive 1st Divisions.
By Will Gilgrass