With the 2020 cricket season about to start, we take a look at how Nottinghamshire are shaping up to take on the COVID-impacted schedule.
To say that last season was a disappointment for the team from Trent Bridge is a bit of an understatement. Not only did Nottinghamshire not win a single game in the County Championship, they ended the season on a mere 67 points, a record low since the introduction of two divisions in 2000. Especially disappointing was the fact that they could only manage to claim 16 batting bonus points, bearing in mind the signings of batters Ben Slater, Ben Duckett and Joe Clarke.
Nottinghamshire did fare better in the limited overs competitions in 2019, reaching the semi-finals in both the T20 and 50-over competitions. In fact, they really should have gone at least one better in the T20, failing to score the six runs needed to beat Worcestershire.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has seen the 2020 County Championship competition undergo a major rejig. Instead of starting in Division 2 following their relegation, Notts find themselves in the Northern section, along with Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire, Leicestershire and Yorkshire. There are two other groups, Central and South. Each team will play five games against the teams in their group and then the two group winners with the most points will meet in a final at Lords.
Notts have been lucky with the draw, playing three games at home, while visiting Leicestershire and Lancashire. Given that the games are due to be played behind closed doors, Nottinghamshire will be streaming their games live on their website. There is also going to be a cut-down T20 competition, with fixtures still set to be announced.
Transfers - In
The big signing over the close season is Haseeb Hameed. He made his international debut four years ago as a 19-year old, scoring two fifties on England's tour of India. Unfortunately, his tour was cut short with a broken finger and he's not been able to buy a run in the meantime. Hopefully, a change of scenery will rekindle some form and he can start pushing for a place back in the England side.
Notts have also brought in Peter Trego, the allrounder and Somerset legend. He's been one of the most consistent players in domestic cricket for more than a decade and if you ask any Somerset fan over a glass of cider about him, they'll say it's a travesty that he never played for England. He should add some experience and steel to the Nottinghamshire middle order.
Notts have also added the former England U-19 fast bowler Tom Barber to their squad, formerly of Middlesex but a bigger signing is that of coach Kevin Shine. After spending 14 years as the England fast bowling coach, he joins up once again with head coach Peter Moores. Hopefully, he'll be able to get the most out of Luke Fletcher and Jake Ball.
Transfers - Out
Jake Libby was a decent enough opener for Notts but with Hameed signing, he was going to struggle to play many games this season and so he's moved to Worcestershire. Bowler Luke Wood has moved to Lancashire. He ended last season in some really good form and took 86 first-class wickets for Notts during his time there but he was a player that hadn't quite managed to make himself a permanent fixture in the first team. Paul Coughlin has returned to Durham after two injury-hit seasons. When he signed, there was hope that the allrounder would prove to be a key player for Notts. Sadly, he only managed ten games across all three formats for Nottinghamshire and he'll hopefully be able to get his career back on track at his home county.
It's a Big Season For
Jake Ball. It feels like a long time since the quick bowler was playing international cricket. While he's unlikely to get back into the test team in the short term, Notts could do with him hitting those heights again. With Stuart Broad likely to on England duty all summer, it's finally time for Jake Ball to step up to become the attack leader.
Joe Clarke. Scored three of Nottinghamshire's six centuries in the County Championship last year but will probably have been disappointed to only average 31.05 in the four-day game. He definitely has the ability to play test cricket for England one day and with the Alex Hepburn trial behind him now, he should be able to focus on his cricket and make that next step up.
Tom Moores. Replacing Chris Read behind the stumps was never going to be easy. Moores has shown the occasional flashes of brilliance in the white-ball game but averaging a little over 14 in the County Championship last year made it look a little bit like he was only playing because his dad is the head coach. That's fine for a village cricket side but a professional team needs more runs from its wicketkeeper.
On paper, Notts have a very impressive-looking (and expensively-assembled) squad and they really should be challenging Yorkshire and Lancashire at the top of the North group in the County Championship. However, it would have been easy to say something similar at the start of last season. In this strangest of years, it's time for the players to step up and show what they can do.
We have a favour to ask
LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?