[illustration: Adam Poole]
The 286* people who read (or mistakenly clicked on the link for) last month’s column would have noted that LL&L took a distinctly stern and severe tone with the Outlaws, like some elaborately moustachioed Victorian father taking the belt to his son for not breaking the British egg and spoon record despite him winning the race by a comfortable six or seven metres.
[* …and rising]
I suspect Mick Newell – an avid reader of this column, a Club Insider tells me – promptly printed off several copies of the webpage and started to pin them to the dressing room walls as a motivating tool. Anyway, far be it from me to take the credit – in anything other than monetary terms, I mean; you can keep your words – for Notts' resurgence this last month, which they have managed to negotiate unbeaten. Here's how:
Championship: bread and butter
Their four Championship fixtures – the tournament that the players most want to win – began with a comprehensive home victory over big-spending Surrey, a team that has since gone on, fitba-stylee, to sack their coach, Chris Adams, mid-season. Under chill aluminium skies, Notts grafted hard for a total of 274 with the unsung Steve Mullaney top-scoring with 68, one more than the first innings lead that was secured as five bowlers bagged a brace of wickets apiece. In touch batting conditions, Notts could only muster 191 second time out but it was 114 too many for the brown caps who capitulated to the bowling of Harry Gurney and a rejuvenated Paul Franks.
Hove, by jove
It was off to the seaside next, a trip to the delightful Hove ground to play Championship leaders Sussex. Notts’ first innings score of 356 was hugely indebted to Samit Patel’s 157 and some excellent lower-support from Franks (36) and Ajmal Shahzad (56), as they recovered from a precarious 112 for 6 on the first afternoon. Thereafter, the visitors would make the running, first securing a 50-run lead thanks to the increasingly impressive Harry Gurney’s 4 for 69, including a hat-trick.
Second time round, Notts were able to set Sussex a stiff fourth innings chase of 381 thanks to James Taylor (97), Ed Cowan (81) and Paul Franks (78) making almost 80% of their total. It could be argued that Chris Read might have declared rather than waiting to be bowled out, but the fact is the pitch didn’t really deteriorate (Monty Panesar was only able to take a solitary wicket in 24 second innings overs) and the Notts squad’s main weakness – the lack of a frontline spinner, excluding the world-class though almost-never-available Graeme Swann – was evident as Samit Patel toiled through 33 wicketless overs as Sussex saw out the game 6 wickets down. Still, a good performance against a good side.
Next stop in the Champo was another party conference seaside town, Scarborough, to again take on a top-of-the-table side, (Democratic People’s Republic of) Yorkshire. Thankfully, the schedulers had allowed Notts a whole day to get up there, which – given that Trent Bridge has been forced to sell its fleet of light aircraft – is, on English roads, just about enough. Close shave, mind, as Alex Hales bundled through the gate still getting his whites on in the back of his mate’s car and duly batted that way, being dismissed without scoring in the first over to continue a horror sequence of four-day scores that, after 108 runs in his first three outings, reads like a telephone number: 4, 2, 0, 4, 17, 2, 0, 0.
Marine Road, Scarborough -- smell the fish and chips
Nevertheless, Notts were able to post a commanding 443. Franks again chipped in with 70 lower-order runs, Mullaney made 79, but the main contribution was 135 from the Matty Hayden-esque Michael Lumb. Still, Yorkshire are not only good at being cantankerous boasters (and Geoff Boycott would probably tell you they were the best at it), they’re also half-decent at t’game o’ crickeeet and a partnership of 297 over 82 overs between Andrew Gale (272) and Gary Balance (141) took them to a mammoth 572 for 8 declared. Notts just had time to close out the game with 105 for 1, Hales’ contribution of 5 seeing him dropped for the following fixture – not ideal for the England T20 opener with a trio of internationals against New Zealand coming up.
The most recent LV= Championship game was a damp affair at Derby. With only 81.5 overs possible on the opening two days, in which time Derbyshire reached 306 for 6, and two hours lost on the third, they were never going to be able to force a, um, derby victory over ovinophiles from the other end of the Brian Clough Way. A major positive for Notts was the return of star seamer, Andre Adams [interviewed in the latest issue of the magazine], who bagged 4 for 69, and the continuing good form of Lumb, who scored over half Notts 436 with an unbeaten 221, giving him a 693 runs at 69.3 with less than half the games played.
YB40: bread and butter pudding
In white-ball, coloured-clothed cricket, Notts’ form remained 100% immaculate as they added three more comprehensive victories in the YB40 to the three they already had, all but guaranteeing a quarter-final berth as they seek to end their 24-year limited-over trophy drought.
Frankly, Notts were glad to get away from the seaside...
First up was a rain-affected game at Edgbaston against a powerful Warwickshire side who were runners-up last year in agonising fashion after Neil Carter was unable to score a single from the final ball, leaving the scores tied and giving Hampshire victory. Notts won an important toss and automatically inserted, realizing that Duckworth-Lewis-influenced games are difficult manage when batting first. With two interruptions skimming ten overs off their innings, the Bears managed a creditable 186 from 30 overs. In reply, Notts had reached 112 for 3 from 17.4 overs when the heavens opened again and, being ahead on the D/L score a revised target of 133 from 21 was a formality, Lumb’s 57 the major contribution.
to be crushed under the wheels of the Outlaws’ remorseless machine up were Netherlands, a team that beat England in the 2009 World T20, lest it be forgotten. One famous son of Nottinghamshire may not have liked orange very much, but this batch of cricketers is not spooked by Total Football, Cruyff turns… [it was cricket, not football – Ed.] …or tons of South Africans with European passports – after all, they regularly beat Northamptonshire in the noughties. Thus, Taylor (75), Patel (61) and Lumb (54) helped the home side post 264. You’d have though the visitors would be well used to going about their business on flat surfaces, but in reply they could only muster 174.
Warwickshire visited Trent Bridge last week and were again seen off thanks to a brilliant century from Samit Patel. The Bears wee men in the middle order, Darren Maddy and Tim Ambrose, chipped in with half-centuries as the visitors made 238 and Notts timed their chase expertly, with Patel’s unbeaten 129 confirming that he may still have something to offer at international level.
Amsterdam: decent nightlife; shame Netherlands play in Truro
The Outlaws’ next YB40 fixture is today, away to Netherlands. But where the hardcore fanbase might have hoped to take in an Amsterdam coffee shop or two, maybe even a spot of window shopping in a different part of town, the game is being played in Truro, Cornwall. After that there’s more YB40 action against Sussex (for which Notts offered £1 tickets in a great promotional offer), a home four-dayer against the same team, and then we’re into the wham-bam-thank-you-mam of T20.
Notts are looking strong contenders for the short-form stuff this year and if they could only find a touch more penetration with the ball – and, especially, a tweaker – to turn Championship draws into wins, we could be talking about a treble.
In the meantime, rumour has it there's a game against Australia to be played...