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Notts CCC: End-Of-Season Report

4 October 11 words: Scott Oliver
Mick Newell and Chris Read pick over the bones of the 2011 season
Notts CCC shirt - illustration by Adam Poole

Notts CCC shirt - illustration by Adam Poole

 
Despite the glorious, balmy, record-breaking weather, last week saw the official close of the English domestic cricket season. Having come into it with hopes as high as the County Championship pennant fluttering proudly atop the old pavilion at Trent Bridge, how was the trophyless campaign being evaluated by the men with their hands on the rudder of the Good Ship Notts: Director of Cricket, Mick Newell, and first team skipper, Chris Read?
 
I’ve had a look at your sixteen County Championship results and it seems to me there are four distinct phases: a great start (three wins and a draw), a car crash (four straight defeats), some scrapping performances (four draws and two wins, including a crucial, relegation-averting win at eventual champions, Lancashire) and a bit of a whimper to finish (back-to-back innings defeats). Is that fair? And how do you account for the fluctuations in form?
 
Mick: Yeah, I would agree with that. I think if you look at the personnel that we’ve lost over the course of the season – Mark Wagh and Alistair Brown in particular, not having David Hussey for the games we thought we would have him for – then I’m not disappointed with a finish of sixth. I think, at best, we could have finished fourth, but we’re certainly no better a team than that. And we need to improve on that for next year.
 
Chris: Yeah, I think the season divided up as you say, although, if I’m totally honest, we weren’t playing wonderful cricket at the start. We deserved to lose a game at Yorkshire which we miraculously won, coming from a position of certain defeat to scrape a 130 lead and bowl them out for 85. So, despite the three early wins I could see we weren’t playing our best cricket and we were shown up, really, getting hammered by Sussex and Warwickshire, who’ve hammered us again in the last two matches! So, in general, the middle period before Twenty20 wasn’t great. Although one of the losses was down to a declaration, where we risked losing a game in order to try and win it, because four wins at that stage would have kept us in contention for the title. We didn’t, so we suffered four losses on the bounce, which put us in a pressurised situation. But the way the boys came back in the second half was a fantastic effort.
 
Did the representative call-ups hurt you – not so much Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad, which you’d expect, but the likes of Alex Hales and Samit Patel?
 
Not overly, no. We don’t expect to see much of Broady and Swanny – that’s a given. We’ve lost Hales and Samit Patel for a few games, which hit us reasonably hard but we’ve also been able to win games without them, which is pleasing.
 
Mick: Yeah, I think the game up at Durham that we drew without Hales and Patel, we should be pretty pleased to have done that and I think we’ve missed Samit a lot these last three games (while he has been playing for the England One Day International team). But, having said that, we turned Durham over at Trent Bridge without Samit and that’s probably one of the best results we’ve had in my ten years in the job. So, yeah, it makes a difference when you don’t expect to lose players.
 
Chris: From my point of view there have been a lot of changes over the year to the XI. Many have been forced. Some have been through poor form, or whatever, but the guys who’ve come in have proven worthy replacements. Take Karl Turner: to come in and open the batting on the back of some fantastic performances in our Second Team – no-one had heard of the bloke before June and all of a sudden he makes a big hit and deserved his place in our side. Whilst he hasn’t got the really big score for us yet, I think he’s shown in the innings he’s played that he’s a quality player and has helped to shore up our top order.
 
Moving on to Twenty20, it looks like a bittersweet campaign: you were very dominant at home, winning all your group games to finish first, but then had the dubious ‘reward’ of playing the powerful Somerset side in the quarter-final here, which you lost. Was that the low point of the season?
 
Mick: Yeah, definitely. If you win that game you get to finals day and that’s a huge opportunity. It’s a real shame, because for large parts of the game I thought we were going to win. But Twenty20 more than any other form of cricket can be decided by one bloke’s brilliance and that’s what happened on that day.
 
Chris: I thought we played beautifully in the Twenty20, all told. At the end of the day it always comes down to a knockout game in the quarter-final and we drew probably the strongest side in the competition on paper. We knew we had to play at 100% in that game. I don’t think we did that, and we were punished for it.
 
Where do you think you fell short?
 
I think we were maybe ten runs short of where we wanted to be, but having said that, I still think we were in pole position until Buttler and Pollard came together with five or six overs to go in their innings. Whilst it’s very hard to combat such clean hitting and touch play, I don’t think we bowled as well as we could have done.
 
At the end of the game Samit Patel said to BBC Radio Nottingham that he thought you had enough runs on the board to defend [169] but the bowlers hadn’t quite executed their skills…
 
Mick: I have no interest in Samit’s opinion on the team, so don’t even ask me... 
 
There was a bit of a kerfuffle near the end between a showboating Keiron Pollard and Luke Fletcher. What are your thoughts on that?
 
Well, Twenty20 evokes similar passions to football and rugby. It’s not something I want to see, particularly, but they shook hands and I had a phone call after the game, so it was quickly forgotten.
 
Chris: Yeah, I hardly noticed what was going on to be fair until Fletch gave him a nudge. Proper storm in a teacup.   
 
The CB40 is probably the lesser of the three competitions but you did pretty well: second out of seven in the group, just missing out on the semi-finals. But do you not use it more to blood youngsters?
 
Up to a point. While it is seen as the poor relation – among players and spectators alike, I believe – to us it’s still a trophy to win and we set out to win that competition. It’s a Lord’s final. We got off to a pretty ordinary start, losing three out of our first five, but our squad was slightly different and we did involve young players – the likes of Sam Wood, Jake Ball, Brett Hutton. I thought we did well second half of the season, beating Somerset at Taunton, for instance, who were the best team in our division. Great scenes. It meant a lot because we still had a sniff at that point, and the way we came back in that competition was really, really positive.
 
So, how can you improve for next year, particularly in the Championship?
 
Mick: Well, we need to score more runs. We need to get a better team. We need to work harder with the players we’ve currently got. And we need to be much stronger in four-day cricket. But, you know, people need to understand that you can’t win it every year.
 
You’ve already signed a couple of players for next season, a senior opening batsman in Michael Lumb from Hampshire and a youngish pace bowler in Harry Gurney from Leicestershire, as well as giving a full contract to triallist Karl Turner. Do you see Lumb as the answer to your much-discussed top-order problems?
No, not really. It’s got to be a combined effort: Hales, Turner, Lumb, Patel – they’ve all got to stand up and do a bit better. If we all do better then we can improve as a team.
 
Chris: Lumb is the big signing. He’s an international player, albeit in Twenty20. For me, he’s been a very strong top-order batsman in all forms of the game for a long time now. With Ali Brown and Mark Wagh both retiring, we’re losing quite a lot of experience in that top six and he’ll replace that.
 
What about Gurney – 24 but still fairly inexperienced – do you see him as making an immediate impact?
 
Mick: I think it’ll be interesting to see how he goes with the red ball. White ball cricket, I’d expect him to feature a lot straight away. Four-day cricket, it might take us bit of time to bring him in, but by releasing Charlie Shreck we’re trying to get the age profile of the squad down.
 
Chris: He’s less well known but he joins our young group of seam bowlers, which is developing quite nicely – Carter, Fletcher, Hutton, Ball – and the guys have been quite impressed by him when we’ve played against him in Twenty20 cricket. I’d say initially look out for him in one-day cricket but don’t rule anything out. We said the same with Steve Mullaney and Graeme White two years ago and they broke in pretty quickly.
 
You’ve also got three academy boys graduating…
 
Mick: Yeah, Hutton, Wood and Sam Kelsall all come on to the staff but we’re probably not going to see an awful lot of them next summer because of their international commitments.
 
Chris: That’s right. They’ve got a big twelve months coming up, culminating in a World Cup next year, and whilst we’d love to see them pushing and developing here at Trent Bridge, I think they’ll be doing it on TV with England under-19s at first. Hopefully they’ll come back from that stronger, better players.
 
What about the overseas player? I heard a rumour it might be Shane Watson.
 
Mick: No, no. Look, they’re going to be in the IPL [Indian Premier League]. People like him are not going to get out of bed for what Notts are paying.
 
Lastly, Mick, what are you going to do this winter?
 
Rest.
 
So no England Lions stuff, like last year…
 
Not that I know of. We need to take a bit of time to re-assess and then start to work hard. We’ve got lots of improvement to make.
 

 

MICK NEWELL

CHRIS READ

Championship:

B

C–

Twenty20:

B+

A

CB40:

B

B

Overall batting:

C

B

Overall bowling:

B

B

Overall fielding:

B+

B

 

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