A force in all formats
Challenging on all three fronts is not an unrealistic target for Notts in 2013. The depth of the squad and continuity of leadership provide a very stable base.
Last season was a disappointment. After dominating for much of the Twenty20 campaign they were swept away by Hampshire's Neil McKenzie; the Championship campaign, despite a good start, fell away.
This year, the Championship side has enough quality to mount a serious challenge, but it is in one-day cricket that Notts look particularly strong. It remains a surprise that Notts have not lifted a limited-overs trophy since 1991; the squad of 2013 looks to have all the requisite talent to set this right.
Chris Read will once again be pivotal to Notts' success, as both captain and wicketkeeper-batsman. While his glove work has always been international standard, it is only in recent years that his batting has flourished. His leadership is also significant. Much like Alastair Cook, he is a quiet, unassuming character who leads by example and commands respect within the dressing room. He has formed a strong relationship with the coach, Mick Newell, and together they have brought a tough, uncompromising brand of cricket to Notts. Newell's decision to bar his players from the IPL has sent out a strong message.
The batting line-up looks strong, unlike in previous years, and there will be a solid opening pair of Ed Cowan and Alex Hales. Cowan's obdurate batting and keen intellect should complement the natural attacking instinct of the hugely talented Hales. Neither will be available for the whole season but they should provide the starts that have been conspicuous in their absence in recent times.
The middle order should also provide consistent runs. Michael Lumb will look to build on a very positive 2012, where he formed the basis of many of the more substantial totals. James Taylor showed glimpses of his undoubted potential, the best of which was his CB40 hundred at the Rose Bowl. But his inconsistencies in the longer format did not do justice to his talent - his failure to rotate the strike put undue pressure on him to score in boundaries. Taylor has been in good touch coming into the season, though. While many of his fellow Lions had a torrid time in Australia, he averaged over 50. Add to this allrounders Samit Patel, Steven Mullaney and Paul Franks and the batting looks to have the right blend.
Ajmal Shahzad's winter move from Yorkshire, should prove beneficial to both parties. His assertion that he is here to attack will add an extra dimension to an already impressive bowling line-up. Shahzad has drifted out of England contention since the 2011 World Cup and endured a fractious relationship with the coaching staff at Yorkshire. Notts will present him with a new challenge: unburdened by his workhorse role he should be used as a strike bowler if the club is to get the best out of him. The seemingly ageless Andre Adams, who has taken 50 wickets in each of the last three seasons will provide stout support and, alongside Harry Gurney, will form a well-balanced attack. Luke Fletcher will look to put a difficult 2012 season behind him and prove that he is capable of pushing for higher honours.
Notts remain one of the best-run clubs in the country, as shown at the recent AGM. The club posted a record turnover and small profit in what was a challenging 2012 for county cricket. The decision not to sell the Trent Bridge naming rights has been met with a positive response by the members and will ensure that the club retains it identity in the future. All this bodes well for the season to come.
Likely Championship side
What I love Trent Bridge is a superb ground with facilities second to none. Each new development has enhanced the viewing experience, making it one of the best places to watch cricket in the country.
What I'd change This Nottinghamshire squad is one of the most talented in the county game but has largely been harvested from other counties. With the resources available to the club, this year represents a great opportunity to bring in some of the academy cricketers who will form the core of the team in years to come.
Ben Custance first went to Trent Bridge because Stephen Fleming was playing. He has been supporting Notts ever since