Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club have made what can only be described as a faultless start to the 2016/17 season. They sit top of the County Championship Division Two and have won the Royal London Cup. En route to the final, Notts broke the record for the highest chase in a List A match in England against Essex Eagles.
After a bitterly disappointing campaign saw them slip down to the second tier of the Championship, Notts have made an encouraging start to the season and look odds on favourites to seal the title and promotion back to Division One.
The signing of Australian quick James Pattinson, along with a longer than usual stint in Notts colours for England’s Stuart Broad, has given them the firepower to skittle batting line ups. There are still some lingering concerns in the batting line up that they will have to address if they are indeed back in the top division next season, where better bowling attacks make light work of brittle batting line ups.
The first two games of the season saw Notts hammer Leicestershire and Durham by ten and nine wickets respectively, and then Sussex by an innings and plenty. A disappointing draw against Glamorgan in a game Notts looked to have wrapped was swiftly forgotten as they made it four out of five, producing another stellar performance to brush Gloucestershire out of the way by an innings, with Broad and Pattinson seemingly having far too much pace and guile for batters in the second tier.
While Notts have since been forced to settle for three draws and just the one win, they look firmly in poll position to take the title with relative comfort, but will be mindful that Broad will heading off to represent England soon.
It’s been in the Royal London One Day Cup, however, where Notts have been most impressive, especially with bat in hand. Though qualifying for the quarters proved to be far from easy, and they were certainly helped by incremental weather affecting games in the last round of fixtures, Notts blitzed their way to a Lords final through a couple of astonishing batting displays.
Tuesday 13th saw Notts travel to Taunton to face Somerset in what proved to be one of the best games in England’s List A history. Notts batted first and stacked up 429-9 from their twenty overs, with Zimbabwean Brendan Taylor scoring a dazzling 154, helped by contributions from the ever-green Riki Wessels and Samit Patel.
If Notts thought it’d be a walk in the park from then on, and you could forgive them if they did, they were badly mistaken. In a brilliant run chase, Somerset fell just 24 runs of their improbable target – a great game.
Onto the semi-final against Essex on Saturday, and it was this time the Outlaws’ turn to be facing up to an intimidating target. Essex piled on 370, with former England captain Alistair Cook showing his class with a century, and then Ryan Ten Doeschate his power with one off just sixty balls. Notts, however, are noted for their batting strength, and quickly got themselves above the required run rate.
The imposing total was seemingly taking its toll as Notts lost three crucial wickets in the form of Alex Hales, Wessels and Michael Lumb. As it looked like the chances of a Lords final were fading, enter Samit Patel and Steven Mullaney. Patel and Mullaney took the game away with an astonishing partnership worth well over two hundred, Mullaney playing the innings of his life and Patel once again showing why it has perhaps been wrong for the ECB to overlook him countless times throughout his career. In the end Notts almost cruised to their target, winning with three balls and five wickets to spare to set up a mouth-watering clash with the equally impressive Surrey.
Alex Hales provided a heroic 187 not out to secure the cup for Notts, a record that will come to define memories of this particular final. Save a dramatic collapse in form, fans will be confident that this win will be the icing on the cake in a season that sees Notts pull off a comfortable return to the top division.
Featured image courtesy of ‘Dun.can’ via Flickr. License here.